Dr Emma Stone Mackinnon

Assistant Professor in the History of Modern Political Thought
Fellow, Emmanuel College
Dr E MacKinnon

I write and teach in the areas of political theory and the history of political thought, with particular interests in twentieth-century political thought and in the histories of human rights and humanitarianism.

My current work is focused on the politics of what I describe as human rights promises. My ongoing book projects trace the contested legacies of the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in mid-twentieth century debates about race and empire. The first focuses on debates over the meaning of the American founding and the nature of American ‘hypocrisy’ in debates over race and rights in the mid-twentieth century US. The second looks at struggles from the 1940s through the 1960s over French imperialism in Algeria, and the relationship between decolonisation, self-determination, and human rights. My work has been published in Political Theory and Humanity, and in the volumes Time, History, and Political Thought (CUP 2023), The Blackwell Companion to Arthur Danto (Wiley Blackwell 2022), and Contingency in the Course of International Law (OUP 2021), and is forthcoming in Volume 5: The Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries of The Cambridge World History of Rights (CUP).

I have been Assistant Professor in the History of Modern Political Thought in the History Faculty and an Official Fellow of Emmanuel College since 2020. From 2017 to 2020 I was a Junior Research Fellow at Emmanuel. Before coming to Cambridge I completed a PhD in Political Science at the University of Chicago.

At Cambridge, I teach on the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. I regularly teach and supervise in the MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History. At Emmanuel, I am regularly a Director of Studies for students in History & Politics and in History & Modern Languages, and have occasionally also directed studies in Human, Social, and Political Sciences. At Emmanuel I also serve as a pastoral Tutor.

Before graduate school, I worked in political communications and social policy research in Washington, DC, and New York City. I grew up in Brooklyn and also hold an AB in Social Studies from Harvard.

In the faculty, I convene and lecture in Political Philosophy and the History of Political Thought Since c. 1890 (History Part II Paper 5 / POL 11). 

I supervise for that paper as well as The History of Political Thought from c.1700 to c.1890 (History Part I Paper 20 and Part II Paper 4/ POL8 and POL10); The Modern State and its Alternatives (POL 1); and The History of the United States from 1865 (History Part I Paper 24). 

At the postgraduate level, I teach and supervise PhD students in History and MPhil students in the MPhil programs in Political Thought and Intellectual History and in Modern European History. I am open to supervision requests on other MPhil programs at Cambridge as well.

At Emmanuel, I serve as Director of Studies for students in the History and Politics joint tripos.

I am happy to supervise students working in all areas of twentieth century political thought.

Key publications

Mackinnon, Emma Stone. "Declaration as Disavowal: The Politics of Race and Empire in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." Political Theory 47, no. 1. February 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177/0090591718780697

Mackinnon, Emma Stone. "Promise-Making and the History of Human Rights: Reading Arendt with Danto," Humanity 19, no. 2 (Summer 2018). https://muse.jhu.edu/article/703634 or http://humanityjournal.org/issue9-2/promise-making-and-the-history-of-human-rights-reading-arendt-with-danto/

Mackinnon, Emma Stone. “'The Right to Rebel’: History and Universality in the Political Thought of the Algerian Revolution,” in Time, History, and Political Thought, ed. John Robertson (Cambridge University Press 2023): 285-307

Mackinnon, Emma Stone. “Amnesty International and Human Rights,” Blackwell Companion to Arthur C. Danto, eds. Jonathan Gilmore and Lydia Goehr (Wiley-Blackwell 2022): 301-308

Mackinnon, Emma Stone. “Contingencies of Context: Legacies of the Algerian Revolution in the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions,” in Contingency in International Law: On the Possibility of Different Legal Histories, eds. Kevin Jon Heller and Ingo Venzke (Oxford University Press 2021): 319-337

Mackinnon, Emma Stone. “Race, Rights, and the Politics of Petitioning,” in Volume 5: The Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries (eds. Samuel Moyn and Meredith Terretta) of The Cambridge World History of Rights (series eds. Nehal Bhuta, Anthony Pagden, and Mira Siegelberg), Cambridge University Press, forthcoming

Other Publications

Toward a Democratic Canon,” Review essay on African American Political Thought: A Collected History, eds. Melvin Rogers and Jack Turner (University of Chicago Press 2021), Comparative Political Theory, December 2022

Difficult Freedom,” Review in Roundtable on Benjamin McKean, Disorienting Neoliberalism (Oxford University Press 2020), Contemporary Political Theory, OnlineFirst September 2022

On Kant’s Problems and Ours,” Review in Roundtable on Inés Valdez, Transnational Cosmopolitanism: Kant, DuBois, and Justice as a Political Craft (Cambridge 2019), Review of Politics, February 2022

Duped by Morality,” Review in Roundtable on Samuel Moyn, Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2021), Tocqueville 21, September 2021

Review of Alex Zamalin’s Black Utopia: The History of an Idea from Black Nationalism to Afrofuturism (Columbia 2019), Political Theory, February 2021

Review in Roundtable on Eric Weitz’s A World Divided: The Global Struggle for Human Rights in the Age of Nation-States (Princeton 2020), Toynbee Foundation blog, November 2020

American Dreamwork,” Review in Roundtable on Wendy Brown’s In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West (Columbia 2019), Tocqueville 21, March 2020

Review in Roundtable on Adom Getachew’s World-Making After Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination (Princeton 2019), H-Diplo, November 2019

On The Language of Just War: A Reply to Whyte,” in Symposium on Jessica Whyte’s article “The ‘Dangerous Concept of the Just War’: Decolonization, Wars of National Liberation, and the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions,” Humanity (online), August 2019

Algeria 1960: Decolonization and the Uses of Human Rights,” entry in Online Atlas on the History of Humanitarianism and Human Rights, eds. Fabian Klose, Marc Palen, Johannes Paulmann, and Andrew Thompson, April 2019