Edgar Illas

Edgar Illas

Professor, Spanish and Portuguese

Director, Catalan Program

Interim Director of The Center for Theoretical Inquiry in the Humanities


  • Ph.D., Duke University, 2007
  • B.A., Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 1999

About Edgar Illas

Two lines of inquiry guide my research. First, my field of specialization is modern and contemporary Catalan culture. My first book, Thinking Barcelona: Ideologies of a Global City (Liverpool UP, 2012), examines the symbolic and material transformations that redefined Barcelona during the 1980s in preparation for the 1992 Olympic Games. Given that the Games were among the first global mega-events that celebrated the neoliberal union of capitalism and democracy, the book explores how the cultural and urban revamping of Barcelona contributed to define the ideologies of the post-1989 world order. I also have written a variety of articles on contemporary Catalan literature, architecture, and politics, with special focus on the emergence of Catalan secessionism as a movement of social and political transformation.

Second, my research interests also lie in political theory, Marxism, global studies, and war theory. My book, The Survival Regime: Global War and the Political (Routledge, 2020), theorizes survival as the political logic of the fusion between global war and the world market. My hypothesis is not simply that struggling for life is the new content of politics, but rather that the globalization of war and capital entails a permanent instability that forces political life to struggle for its own existence in the form of constant intervention. The regime of survival no longer corresponds to the biopolitics of the modern state or to the neoliberal survival of the fittest. Instead, it defines a type of degree zero governmentality in which assemblages of bodies engage in conflict while simultaneously producing positive forms of life. Through a critical dialogue with various contemporary thinkers (Carlo Galli, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Roberto Esposito, Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida, and Carl Schmitt, among many others), my project explores the conditions that make possible the interventions of the singularities of common survival in our conjuncture.

My current book-length project, “War and Politics: An Ontological Relation,” explores a variety of philosophical theories on the enigmatic passage from contentious disorder to stabilized politics. My initial premise is that war is an ontological event, or perhaps the event, that produces new social orders of being. Thus, rather than studying theories of war from strictly political science or military perspectives, my approach is based on theoretical reflections on the power of war as a simultaneously destructive and constructive, or world-shattering and world-making, force. Even if most philosophers have written on war, only a few scholars such as Carl Schmitt, Carlo Galli, Nick Mansfield and Dimitris Vardoulakis have studied the conceptual evolution of this problematic. Drawing from their work, my comparative study aims to provide a map of the different inflections in the thinking of a long list of philosophers, from Heraclitus to Alain Badiou. The relevance—and urgency!—of my project comes from the fact that globalization has emerged as an era of permanent instability that has blurred the difference between (normal) politics and (exceptional) war.


  • Contemporary Catalan and Spanish Culture
  • Theories of Architecture
  • Post-Marxism and Deconstruction
  • Global War and the Political

Selected publications

Book chapters
  • “Precariedad política e independentismo catalán.” La imaginación hipotecada. Aportaciones al debate sobre la precariedad del presente. Eds. Palmar Álvarez-Blanco and Antonio Gómez L-Quiñones. Madrid: Libros en acción, 2016. 245-56.
Creative writing

Honors & Awards

  • Individual Research Award, Institute for Advanced Study, Indiana University (2016).
  • Course Development Grant, Hutton Honors College, Indiana University (2016).
  • New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities, Office of the Vice Provost for Research, Indiana University (2012).
  • Emergency Grant-in-Aid, Indiana University (2012, 2015).
  • Institute for European Studies Mellon Travel Grant, Indiana University (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015).
  • Research Travel Grant, College of Arts & Humanities Institute, Indiana University (2011, 2016).
  • Summer Curriculum Development Grant, West European Studies, Indiana University (2010).
  • Bass Instructorship, Graduate School, Duke University (2006-07).
  • “Premi Extraordinari,” 1st in Class of 1999, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Current research projects

  • "War and Politics: An Ontological Relation"