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Ecce Humanitas

Columbia University Press (2021)

Featuring an introduction from the British artist Jake Chapman

The very idea of humanity seems to be in crisis. Born in the ashes of devastation after the slaughter of millions, the liberal conception of humanity imagined a suffering victim in need of salvation. Today, this figure appears less and less capable of galvanizing the political imagination. But without it, how are we to respond to the inhumane violence that overwhelms our political and philosophical registers? How can we make sense of the violence that was carried out in the name of humanism? And how can we develop more ethical relations without becoming parasitic on the pain of others?


Through a critical exploration of violence and the sacred, Ecce Humanitas recasts the fall of liberal humanism. Brad Evans offers a rich analysis of the changing nature of sacrificial violence, from its theological origins to the exhaustion of the victim in the contemporary world. He critiques the aestheticization that turns victims into sacred objects, sacrificial figures that demand response, perpetuating a cycle of violence that is seen as natural and inevitable. In novel readings of classic and contemporary works, Evans traces the sacralization of violence as well as art’s potential to incite resistance. Countering the continued annihilation of life, Ecce Humanitas calls for liberating the political imagination from the scene of sacrifice. A new aesthetics provides a form of transgressive witnessing that challenges the ubiquity of violence and allows us to go beyond humanism to imagine a truly liberated humanity.


Brad Evans appeared on Russell Brands Under the Skin podcast discussing many of the key themes from the Book.

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This series of films have been produced to accompany the Ecce Humanitas book. They draw upon a number of sections that provide critical engagements with the history of art and aesthetics. 

Dante's Inferno: Narrated by Brad Evans
Dante's Inferno: Narrated by Brad Evans
Play Video
Goya's Disasters of War: Narrated by Brad Evans
Play Video
Nothing Sacred: The Art of Jake & Dinos Chapman. Narrated by Brad Evans
Play Video

This is a bold and brave intervention that clear-mindedly attempts to think the human in our current inhuman conditions of plague, ultra-violence, and the fading out of liberalism. If philosophy is its time comprehended in thought, then Evans has comprehended our time philosophically. Highly recommended.
Simon Critchley


A breathtaking exploration of violence and monstrosity by one of our leading political philosophers. How to make sense of the void that is, whether we want it or not, always gazing back at us? Brad Evans has courageously thrown himself into the void and as a result we can read this outstanding book that offers not only a fierce critique of liberal humanism but also points toward poetic alternatives that are more necessary than ever.
Srećko Horvat

In Ecce Humanitas, Brad Evans has given us a manifesto for how to effectively address the crypto theology that lies at the heart of Western modernity. Whereas we tend to think of the sacred as an archaic concept, Evans shows how it remains central to our lives; unrecognized, it wrecks havoc (violent havoc) upon subject populations. Evans proposes that the we rethink the void that is at the heart of the sacred as a place of power and creativity and, in that way, both reaffirm the sacred and redeploy it against the very violent forces that it is ordinarily instantiates. In so doing, Evans has capped a highly successful career of studying violence with a way out and through its dangerous entanglements. This is a brave and extraordinarily timely work at a time when the threat of violence is particularly acute and ubiquitous. 

James Martel

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