Meet VCU's Authors: Aspen Brinton, Ph.D.

Spring 2021

Confronting Totalitarian Minds: Jan Potočka on Politics and Dissidence

Brinton discusses how her new book is relevant to contemporary political movements. Jan Patočka was a Czech philosopher who not only lived through the turbulent politics of twentieth-century Central Europe, but he shaped his intellectual contributions in response to that tumult. He died in 1977 from medical complications resulting from interrogations by the secret police after he was arrested for being involved in the Charter 77 movement in Czechoslovakia. Brinton’s book explains his work in light of different forms of activism and dissidence. His ideas about confronting totalitarianism, living in truth and finding “solidarity of the shaken” are relevant to many times and places, including today, and thus shed light on how we might face our own political distress.

Aspen Brinton, Ph.D.

Aspen Brinton, Ph.D., is a political theorist and assistant professor of international studies in the VCU School of World Studies. Her research interests include democratic theory, dissident movements, East-Central Europe, phenomenology, and the intellectual history of civil society and free speech. Her most recent book, Philosophy and Dissidence in Cold War Europe (2016), examines the philosophical legacy of Eastern European dissidents during the Cold War. This book is part of a larger project to develop philosophical and theoretical tools to examine the discourses of dissident movements and civic associations more generally, in particular looking for ways to engage continental philosophy and phenomenology to expand the boundaries of political theory.

Brinton's current book project examines how the thought of Czech phenomenologist Jan Patočka might be relevant for understanding dissidence more broadly. Before coming to VCU, she taught in the philosophy department and International Studies program at Boston College, and before that she taught at the University of Pennsylvania in the honors program for the College of Arts and Sciences. Prior to Penn, she spent four years teaching political philosophy, liberal arts, and political science courses at Northwestern University and Georgetown University on their campuses in Doha, Qatar.