Shalini Satkunanandan

Shalini Satkunanandan Portrait

Position Title
Associate Professor and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee Chair

571 Kerr Hall
1 Shields Avenue, Davis CA 95616


  • Ph.D., Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, UC Berkeley, 2007
  • B.A. (Hons.), LL.B., University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 1999


Shalini Satkunanandan is a political theorist who works in the history of political thought and contemporary political theory, but also does work in legal and ethical theory. Her interdisciplinary interests were cultivated during her doctoral study in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at the University of California, Berkeley, and her degrees in political science and law from the University of New South Wales, Australia. After completing her Ph.D., Satkunanandan spent three years at the University of Chicago, where she was a Harper Schmidt Fellow in the Social Sciences.

Research Focus

Professor Satkunanandan’s research follows four lines of inquiry. First, she investigates the relationship between ethics and politics, specifically the way a political actor’s preoccupation with morality can court irresponsibility. Second, she explores the passions and orientations that might counter technocratic, legalistic, and overly instrumental approaches to politics. Third, she considers the role of religious or secularized faiths in late modern liberalism. Her fourth line of inquiry explores how we relate to and share political and other everyday spaces with those whose political and existential outlooks are different from and even opposed to our own. What practices allow us to live with others whose views we might find contemptible, while still allowing us to struggle against those views? She is especially intrigued by the wisdom of disengagement—of withdrawing from dialogue, of not responding—at particular moments in political struggle. Her research is interdisciplinary and ecumenical in that it crosses divides between political, legal and ethical theory; and between Anglo-Analytic and Continental approaches to political theory.




  • Satkunanandan, S. (2019) “Bureaucratic Passions,” Journal of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, Vol. 15(1), 14-29.

  • Satkunanandan, S. (2018) “Drawing Rein: Shame and Reverence in Plato’s Law-bound Polity and Ours” Political Theory, Vol. 46(3), 331–356.

  • Satkunanandan, S. (2015) Extraordinary Responsibility: Politics Beyond the Moral Calculus, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Co-winner of the 2015 First Book Award, Foundations of Political Theory.
  • Satkunanandan, S. (2014) Max Weber and the ethos of politics beyond calculation, American Political Science Review, Vol. 108 (1), 169-181.
  • Satkunanandan, S. (2013) Speaking faith to modern law, Journal of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, Vol. 9(1), 26-38.
  • Satkunanandan, S. (2011) The extraordinary categorical imperative, Political Theory, Vol. 39 (2), 234-260.


For her undergraduate lecture courses, Professor Satkunanandan usually teaches whole books or self-standing essays from the history of political thought. She works closely with her students to make sense of difficult texts. She challenges students to provide and defend their own overarching interpretation of a text and so (full disclosure) her lecture courses demand student participation. She teaches political theory texts as ways to understand our political situation, rather than as offering potential policy proposals, even when these texts present “prescriptive” or “applicable” theory. She regularly teaches Ancient Political Thought, Late Modern Political Thought, and Nietzsche’s Critique of Modernity.

Professor Satkunanandan has taught graduate seminars on Weber, Nietzsche, Plato, and also on the theme of the search for a “rational religion” in the history of western political thought (looking at thinkers including Immanuel Kant, John Rawls and Charles Taylor). Her graduate courses are cross-listed with the UC Davis Program in Critical Theory (


U.C. Davis Chancellor’s Fellow, 2019-2024

Foundations of Political Theory (Organized Section of the American Political Science Association), First Book Award, co-recipient 2015.

Hellman Fellow, 2014 -2015.

Kadish Center for Law, Morality and Public Affairs Fellowship, U.C Berkeley, 2002-2003.

Fulbright Postgraduate Student Award, 1999.

University of New South Wales University Medal for Political Science, 1997.