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Bios

Brad Evans is a Professor of Political Violence & Aesthetics and founding Director of the Centre for the Study of Violence at the University of Bath, United Kingdom. He is the author of twenty books and edited volumes, along with over a hundred and fifty academic and international media articles. Brad has written extensively on the state of international affairs, while having made a number of telling theoretical contributions to the understanding of violence. He previously held academic positions at the Universities of Bristol and Leeds, while also teaching at Columbia University, New York. 

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Brads current research is focused on 4 key areas, which include 1) the violence of disappearance 2) the politics of disposability 3) spectacles of violence 4) and investigating the role art plays in providing a transgressive witnessing to atrocities, including the visualisation of absence. He also also been the co-lead in establishing the emerging field of Disappearance Studies, which was launched at a major gathering of academics, policy makers and artists in Belfast in 2024 and has a number of associated initiatives including publications, public events, and dedicated journal. 

Throughout 2015-17, Brad led a dedicated series of conversations on violence with leading critical thinkers for The New York Times opinion section (The Stone). He later continued the conversation as lead editor in a column dealing with violence and the arts/critical theory with the Los Angeles Review of Books, which ran from 2017-2022. A recipient of a number of grants and scholarships, in 2018, Brad won a prestigious Independent Publishers Award. His works have been translated into many languages including, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Russian, Finnish, Dutch, Chinese, Greek, Turkish and Korean.  

Brad is founder and director of the Histories of Violence project, which has a user base spanning 148 different countries. Alongside producing its content and managing its online presence, he has also instigated its open access research projects on dedicated themes. These have included “Disposable Life,” which interrogated the meaning of mass violence in the 21st Century, along with the “Ten Years of Terror” project, which received international acclaim, including the screening of its associated film at the Solomon K. Guggenheim Museum, New York, during the commemorative events held in NY to mark the 10th anniversary during September 2011. The project also provides many introductory lectures for audiences wanting accessible resources on the multiple forms violence takes. 

Committed to education in the public interest, Brad continues to work in consultation and partnership with a number of global organisations in both the policy and cultural fields, most recently Save the Children and Museum of Modern Art, Wales. In 2016 he directed a forum in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva titled “Old Pain, New Demons”, on the occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Recently he led a stream on rethinking humanitarianism at the humanitarian xchange event held in London in 2024. Brad has also worked with cultural organisations such as Opera North, UK, co-directing initiatives on the theatrical and performative nature of violence. Brad recently hosted a series of discussions under the rubric of a “Century of Violence” to mark the 100th anniversary of the journal The Philosopher by speaking with leading authorities on the most important books on the subject during that period.  

Brads work continues to explore the cross-over between the social sciences and the arts & humanities. He has curated a number of exhibitions, including a recently profiled exhibition in the City of Bristol on the theme of enforced disappearance (2023) that also featured many supporting academic events. The exhibition attracted media attention and enjoyed over 2000 visitors. Brad has delivered many talks at world leading art centres, including the Guggenheim in New York, and the Museums of Modern Art in London and Wales and Museum of Contemporary Art, Mexico City. Further talks in prominent contemporary galleries have been delivered in Leeds, Liverpool, Stockholm and London. 
 
Brad has been a visiting fellow at the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University, New York (2013-14), distinguished society fellow at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire (2017) and visiting fellow at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (2005-2008). In 2023, he was invited to be a visiting fellow at the Käte Hamburger Centre for Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Studies (CAPAS) at Heidelberg University in Germany, where is also led a number of cultural initiatives.
 
Brad regularly makes television, radio and podcast appearances to global broadcast audiences including televised interviews on the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, and TRT World. Extended interviews have featured on numerous programs, including LBC radio. Brad has written for many prominent news outlets such as the New York Times, Newsweek, the Times (U.K.), the Guardian, the Independent, The Times Higher Education, Unherd, World Financial Review, TruthOut, Counterpunch and Wales Arts Review. His projects have been featured in various outlets including NME, Business Standard, The Telegraph, Metro, The Indian Times, Pakistan Today, Hamilton Spectator, CBS news, ABC news, El Pais, Art Review, Trebuchet Art Magazine, and Art Forum to name a few. 

 

Concerning Violence

Brads professional interest in violence began in 2001, having been profoundly affected by the events of September 11th 2001. Early research focused on forms of global insurgency, with a notable interest in exploring the differences between violent versus non-violent movements. The latter brought him to Mexico, where he conducted fieldwork on the Zapatista uprising. This research informed a number of articles on the insurgency and theories of resistance in a global context. A decade on from the violence of 9/11, Brads research turned to the shadow of that day, addressing the history and the subsequent implications of the War on Terror. His book Liberal Terror (Polity Press, 2013) focused directly on this new security terrain with a particular concern with the idea of humanitarian war, which included addressing its pre-emptive logics and religiosity. Key issues further addressed were the importance of complexity sciences/thinking to security actors, along with the normalisation of the politics of catastrophe. A number of complimentary and theoretically informed volumes were also produced at this time, which emphasised the importance of post-structural thinkers when addressing international concerns, notably Gilles Deleuze.

Continuing his concern with the liberal problematics of war and security, Brad’s co-authored book Resilient Life: The Art of Living Dangerously (with Julian Reid, Polity Press, 2014) looked at how the changing nature of liberal power was transforming the logics of war, governance and political subjectivity. Recognising the centrality of resilience to these processes, this book provided the first substantive critique of the doctrine. Explaining how the liberal embrace of the concept created an environment that governed through catastrophe and crisis, a critical lens turned to consider how liberal societies further embraced notions of vulnerability and insecurity. This was seen to represent a significant departure in the prevailing assumptions of liberal states. It also suggested how the logic of resilience was fully in keeping with neoliberal aspirations and a fundamental shift away from the ideas of security that once underwrote the basis and justification for sovereignty. 

Throughout 2013-2015, Brads work considered more explicitly the relationship between violence and the image. His co-authored book Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle (with Henry Giroux, CityLights, 2015) looked at the digital and broadcast mediatisation of violence and its structuring social effects. It specifically attended to how societies can be seduced by select representations, which in turn renders some lives disposable and the effects of other violence less considered. In doing so, the book addressed the complex relationships between appearance and denial. This book was part of a wider project on human disposability conceived and directed by Brad. Such concerns would be further developed in numerous op-ed articles in media and specialist publications. These were brought together in the anthology, The Atrocity Exhibition: Life in the Age of Total Violence (Los Angeles Review of Books Press, 2019).

Between 2015-2020, Brad continued his concern with representations of violence - from art to media - in an extended monograph, which provided a broad ranging critique by focusing on ideas concerning the sacred to the sacrificial. It considered how religious frameworks and tropes underwrote demands for violence and how they were continued in the modern period. A principal concern was to interrogate the justification for violence and how it could be mobilised and validated. Titled Ecce Humanitas: Beholding the Pain of Humanity (Columbia University Press, 2021) it addressed how the history of violence can be understood through an appeal to different sacred objects for power: - namely, religion, nation, ideology, humanity, then technology. While sacrificial violence was a key motif in the study, it pushed this further into concerns with perpetrators, victims and witnesses, as it extended the critique from intimate acts of violence to systematic policies of annihilation. Furthermore, while accounting for the changing nature of global order, notably from the rise of the liberal international order and its subsequent demise, which was seen as presenting a district challenge for concerns with the victim, the book also provided a comprehensive defence of art as a form of transgressive witnessing to the intolerable, calling for a rethink in the emancipatory potential for non-violent/poetic forms of living.  

 

Between 2020-2024, Brad’s main research focus concentrated on two distinct projects.  The first concerned the politics of enforced disappearance. While the impetus for the collaborative initiative started back in 2017 through the initial production of a series of paintings by the Mexican visual artist Chantal Meza, it developed into a much broader international project, which resulted in the publication of a co-curated academic and art book titled State of Disappearance (with Chantal Meza, McGill-Queens University Press, 2023). This volume included 15 contributions from authors who reflected on the work and questioned what exactly disappearance meant? It also attended to whether its dating from 1970’s needed rethinking. The same title was given to an art exhibition held in Bristol, which featured many public talks and inspired a number of published articles reflecting on the pedagogical lessons in outlets such as the Times Higher Education. 

The second resulted in the writing of Brads latest book, How Black was my Valley: Poverty and Abandonment in a Post-Industrial Heartland (Repeater/Penguin Random House, 2024), which provides a peoples history of the former mining communities in South Wales. Drawing upon his life experiences of growing up in poverty, it speaks to many of the most pressing contemporary social concerns. While deeply rooted in local conditions of political and economic neglect, the book speaks to much broader issues as the valleys are presented as key to understanding many social developments in the changing fortunes of economic power, coloniality, ideological contest and decline. Foregrounding concerns with structural violence as it becomes manifest through issues such as generational unemployment, mental and physical illness, suicide, addiction, violence and domestic abuse, onto the rise of the far right, it speaks to issues blighting post-industrial communities in Europe & North America more generally. The book has already received widespread praise. The former leader of the British Labour Party, Neil Kinnock described it as being “written with an authentic authority. It is evocative and excellent in every possible way”. 

Responding to the political moment and its legacies, a few additional projects were also developed during this time that addressed international concerns. Given the political importance of the Covid pandemic and its implications for world order, during the lockdown Brad invited 24 leading thinkers from many diverse disciplines and areas of life to contribute to a volume, which assessed the social and political implications. The outcome was a curated book titled The Quarantine Files: Thinkers in Self-Isolation (Los Angeles Review of Books Pres, 2020). A similar format was adopted the following year as Brad returned back again to the violence of 9/11 to curate book titled When the Towers Fell in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the attacks. 26 internationally recognised thinkers provided a contribution to mark this occasion.

Brads work continues to be guided by the principle violence demands a serious public conversation. Often this needs to take place with persons beyond specialist areas of expertise, while also taking place in the company of those with whom ideological and methodological disagreements are apparent. This ethos guided his columns in the NYT and LARB, which featured an eclectic mix of contributors, including notable academics, heads of NGO’s, renowned film makers, artists and cultural producers, authors, comedians, literary authors, and neuroscientists. A number of edited books have brought these conversations together, including Violence: Humans in Dark Times (CityLights, 2018) and Conversations on Violence: An Anthology (Pluto Press, 2021). Brad has also sought to make complex theories of violence accessible, which included the production of the award winning graphic novel, Portraits of Violence: An Illustrated History of Radical Thinking (New Internationalist, 2016). This book has been translated into 8 different language editions. 

Brad shares this life with his love, inspiration and soul-mate, his wife the Mexican artist Chantal Meza. They continue to collaborate on many projects related to politics and the arts. 

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