Adam Kotsko

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Adam Kotsko
Adam Kotsko reception 2011.jpg
Born (1980-07-19) July 19, 1980 (age 38)
Flint, Michigan, US
Academic background
Alma mater
Thesis Atonement and Ontology (2009)
Doctoral advisor Ted Jennings
Academic work
Sub-discipline Political theology

Adam Kotsko (born July 19, 1980) is an American writer, theologian, religious scholar, and translator, working chiefly in the field of political theology. He served as an Assistant Professor of Humanities at Shimer College in Chicago, which was absorbed into North Central College in 2017. He is especially known for his interpretative work on Slavoj Žižek and Giorgio Agamben, as well as his writing on American popular culture.

Kotsko's better-known works include Why We Love Sociopaths (2012), Awkwardness (2010), and Žižek and Theology (2008). He has published three translations of works by the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben. Kotsko is also known for his blogging, now in its second decade. He posts chiefly on a group blog titled An und für sich, but continues to maintain his original blog, titled The Weblog.[2] Prior to the rise of blogging, he had maintained a blog-like website titled The Homepage.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Adam Kotsko was born in Flint, Michigan, and grew up in nearby Davison.[3][4] He has credited his school experiences in Davison with giving him a love of literature.[3]

Kotsko earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, in 2002.[3][5] From there, he went on to the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS), where he completed a Master of Arts degree in religious studies in 2005, with a thesis in the form of a translation and commentary on Jacques Derrida's essay "Literature in Secret: An Impossible Filiation".[6]

Kotsko completed his Doctor of Philosophy degree in theology, ethics, and culture at CTS in 2009.[5] His doctoral dissertation was titled Atonement and Ontology[7] and argued that an understanding of atonement theory requires a social-relational ontology.[8] A modified version of his dissertation was published by Continuum International Publishing Group in 2010 under the title of The Politics of Redemption: The Social Logic of Salvation.[9]

Intellectual and teaching career[edit]

Shimer’s approach admittedly may seem unrealistic. I believe, however, that it’s not a matter of “cost” in an abstract sense, but rather a matter of priorities. At Shimer, the priority is classroom instruction, and everything else takes a back seat to that.
—Adam Kotsko, 2012[10]

Soon after completing his doctorate in 2009, Kotsko began teaching at Kalamazoo College, a liberal arts college in Michigan.[11] Initially a one-year appointment, it was subsequently extended to two.[12]

Kotsko at the Shimer College commencement ceremony in Chicago in May 2012

In 2011, Kotsko was hired by Shimer College, a very small great-books college in Chicago. He was one of three new Shimer professors hired that year, the school's largest intake of new faculty in more than a decade.[13] In his first year, he participated in a major reworking of the school's upper-level core Humanities courses. He also served on numerous committees in Shimer's unusual self-governance body, the Shimer College Assembly; in April 2013 he was additionally elected parliamentarian of the assembly.[11] In 2016, after years of declining enrollment and financial difficulties, Shimer was acquired by North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, with plans to integrate it as the "Shimer Great Books School" within the college's academic structure.[14]

Kotsko is known for his writings on the interpretation of the philosopher Slavoj Žižek, whom he has credited for causing him to "break out of one particular intellectual ghetto and into another" by changing his self-identification from "non-Republican" to leftist.[3] His first published book was on Žižek, titled Žižek and Theology (the first volume of T&T Clark's "Philosophy and Theology" series).[15] In a somewhat unusual circumstance for academic writers, it was published in 2008, before he had completed his dissertation.[2] In 2012, Kotsko published a more popular article on "How to Read Žižek" in the Los Angeles Review of Books,[16] which was republished in Italian by Internazionale.[17]

Kotsko has also published three book-length translations of works by Italian theologian Giorgio Agamben. He has also published and delivered a number of papers on Agamben. He has argued that Agamben's Highest Poverty, his translation of which was published in 2013, is "ultimately about confronting neoliberalism."[18]

At its best, awkward humour is more than entertainment – it is a lesson in solidarity.
—Adam Kotsko, 2010[19]

Kotsko has published three short books on popular culture, Awkwardness: An Essay (2010), Why We Love Sociopaths: A Guide to Late Capitalist Television (2012), and Creepiness (2015). Each book draws out a specific theme found in contemporary U.S. TV shows; Awkwardness addressing the curious rise of "awkward humor" in the 21st century, Why We Love Sociopaths addressing the trend toward a certain type of deeply antisocial protagonist, and Creepiness uses a Freudian lens to distinguish a discomfiting strain of popular culture from the topic of the first book. The trilogy was greeted with general acclaim, with the Oxonian Review declaring that "Awkwardness is just what a work of philosophy should be",[20] and Scott Berkun describing Why We Love Sociopaths as "a second cousin to Postman’s classic Amusing Ourselves to Death."[21] Why We Love Sociopaths, however, also drew criticism for its admittedly[22] non-technical use of the term sociopathy.[23]

The success of Awkwardness has led to Kotsko being cited as an authority on awkwardness in the press, including by US News and World Report.[24]

In 2015, Kotsko caused a firestorm of controversy when he tweeted that all white people, regardless of their ancestry or whether their ancestors owned slaves, are "complicit" in slavery.[25] While the tweets were later deleted, Kotsko has said he stands by his statements.[25] Due to this controversy, Kotsko has been named in an online "watch list" of college professors who discriminate against conservative students.[26]

In 2016, Kotsko published a book about the figure of the Devil in Christianity, The Prince of This World.[27] He had previously presented a paper before the American Academy of Religion on the influence of Agamben's writing on his thinking about the devil.[28]


  • Žižek and Theology (2008). ISBN 0567032442.
  • Politics of Redemption: The Social Logic of Salvation (2010). ISBN 0567185664.
  • Awkwardness: An Essay (2010). ISBN 1846943914.
  • Why We Love Sociopaths: A Guide to Late Capitalist Television (2012). ISBN 178099091X.
  • Creepiness (2015). ISBN 9781782798460.
  • Agamben's Coming Philosophy, co-author with Colby Dickinson. (2015). ISBN 9781782798460.
  • The Prince of This World (2016). ISBN 9780804799683.



  1. ^ a b c d Kotsko, Adam (April 26, 2009). "Narrative CV: Adam Kotsko". An und für sich. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Adam Robinson (2009-06-15). "Another long interview (this time with Žižek brain Adam Kotsko)". HTML Giant. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  3. ^ a b c d Norman Geras (2004-08-06). "The normblog profile 46: Adam Kotsko". Normblog. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  4. ^ Adam Kotsko (2010-03-19). "Red Toryism: The British Invasion". An und für sich. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  5. ^ a b "Adam Kotsko". Shimer College. Archived from the original on 2012-07-08. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  6. ^ "An Impossible Filiation by Jacques Derrida: Translation and Commentary". Worldcat. Retrieved 2013-05-24.. Text of translation.
  7. ^ Kotsko, Adam (2009). Atonement and Ontology (PhD thesis). Chicago: Chicago Theological Seminary. OCLC 456250141.
  8. ^ Adam Kotsko (2009-02-11). "My Dissertation: "Atonement and Ontology"". An und für sich. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  9. ^ Adam Kotsko (2010). The Politics of Redemption: The Social Logic of Salvation. p. vii. ISBN 0567185664.
  10. ^ Adam Kotsko (2012-05-03). "The Immersion Method -- I". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  11. ^ a b Adam Kotsko. "CVs: Adam Kotsko". An und für sich. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  12. ^ Adam Kotsko (2011-04-25). "An announcement". An und für sich. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  13. ^ "Shimer Hires Three New Faculty Members" (PDF). Shimer College. 2011-06-01. Retrieved 2013-05-24.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "North Central College successfully acquires Shimer Great Books program". 2017-06-02. Retrieved 2017-09-04.
  15. ^ "New Release: Zizek and Theology". T&T Clark. 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  16. ^ Adam Kotsko (2012-09-02). "How to Read Žižek". Los Angeles Review of Books. Archived from the original on 2012-09-05. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  17. ^ "Internazionale: Sommario 985". February 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  18. ^ Adam Kotsko (2013-05-21). "What St. Paul and the Franciscans Can Tell Us About Neoliberalism: On Agamben's The Highest Poverty" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  19. ^ Adam Kotsko (2010-12-31). "The bond of the awkward". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  20. ^ Tom Cutterham (2011-02-28). "Awkwardness". Oxonian Review. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  21. ^ Scott Berkun (2013-03-16). "Why We Love Sociopaths: Book Review". Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  22. ^ Adam Kotsko (2012). Why We Love Sociopaths: A Guide to Late Capitalist Television. p. 2. ISBN 178099091X.
  23. ^ "Why We Love Sociopaths". The Last Psychiatrist. 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  24. ^ Aaron Guerrero (2013-05-01). "How to Deal with an Awkward Co-Worker". US News and World Report. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  25. ^ a b, The Washington Times. "Adam Kotsko, white Shimer College professor: All whites 'complicit' in slavery". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2017-11-02.
  26. ^ Hern, Thomas. "Adam Kotsko". Retrieved 2017-11-02.
  27. ^ Press, Stanford University. "The Prince of This World - Adam Kotsko".
  28. ^ Adam Kotsko (2012-11-18). "The Prince of This World: Thinking the Devil in Light of Agamben's Kingdom and the Glory".

External links[edit]