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Professor William Watkin
Professor - English

Gaskell Building 119


William Watkin is Professor of Contemporary Philosophy and Literature. He has been at Brunel University since 1999, and has held a personal Chair there since 2008.  He is currently Director of Research for the Arts and Humanities Department, a position he has held more than once.  During his time at Brunel he has also served as Head of English and of the English and Creative Writing Division and Deputy Head of the School.

Professor Watkin has extensive experience with research assessment. He wrote English’s successful RAE2008 bid, our first submission as a unit to the RAE.  He then supervised the early stages of our successful REF 2014 bid, overseeing the school’s internal mock-REF.  He took over the final stages of the REF2021 submission, creating a vision for the division "Transforming the Literary Landscape." This submission was highly commended by the university and resulted in one of the highest GPAs at Brunel.

Prof. Watkin’s research profile is extremely well-established, highly-regarded, influential and wide-ranging.  His main area of interest for the last decade has been the philosophy of indifference.  

Although a well-established philosopher, Watkin began his career working on contemporary poetics and literary theory and wrote three books in this area.  The third of these "The Literary Agamben", was highly regarded by Agamben himself and paved the way for the second phase of Watkin's career as he transitioned from a literary theorist to a continental philosopher.

Watkin is the world's leading expert on the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben.  Of his fourth book "Agamben and Indifference" Agamben himself wrote: "Watkin has produced a work of astonishing originality, which any attempt to read twentieth-century philosophy will be obliged to confront”. Of the same book leading philosoher François Laruelle wrote: “Watkin’s sharp lens is indispensable for those who want to grasp a central aspect of contemporary philosophy."

Watkin is also one of the leading voices on the philosophy of Alain Badiou having written two books on key concepts in Badiou's overall project: "Badiou and Indifferent Being" and "Badiou and Communicable Worlds". Watkin's seventh book, "Bioviolence: How the powers that be make us do what they want" applies his philosophy of indifference to biopolitical theory, another area where he has extensive expertise.  "Bioviolence" is also the first attempt by Watkin to apply indifferential thought to contemporary, real-world examples.  This project is continued in his next book "Herd Immunities: The Philosophy of Covid" which analyses the global pandemic using the indifferential reasoning he has developed in the earlier work.  

Watkin is a published journalist with articles in The Independent, The Week, Newsweek Europe, The Big Issue, The Conversation, The New Philosopher, TES and The White Review. He has made various media appearances, and is also also a blogger and film-maker.  He has a strong interest in the internet, social media, disinformation and, more recently AI.  He is also a painter and large abstract acrylics.  Many of the covers of his books were painted by him.

Research Areas:

  • Continental philosophy: Agamben, Badiou, Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault, Kristeva, Nancy, Esposito
  • Analytical philosophy: Extensional logic, Frege, Wittgenstein, Carnap, Quine
  • Literary Theory
  • Contemporary and Modern Poetics
  • Violence
  • Biopolitics
  • Covid
  • Social media, AI and digital culture

Newest selected publications

Watkin, W. (2021) 'Bioviolence: How the Powers That Be Make Us Do What They Want'. London: Routledge. ISSN 10: 1-003-00601-9 ISSN 13: 978-1-000-38685-1


Watkin, W. (2021) 'Badiou and Communicable Worlds: A Critical Introduction to Logics of Worlds'. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISSN 10: 1-350-17795-4 ISSN 13: 978-1-350-17794-9


Watkin, W. (2020) 'A Mathematised Archaeology Of Ontology: Agamben’s Modal Ontology Mapped Onto Badiou’s Mathematised Ontology'. Etica e Politica/Ethics and Politics, XXII (3). pp. 13 - 47.Open Access Link

Journal article

Watkin, W. (2020) 'Brothel as Category', in Badiou, A. (ed.) The Pornographic Age. London : Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 10: 135001477X. ISBN 13: 9781350014770. Open Access Link

Book chapter

Watkin, W. (2018) 'The Migration of Frontiers', inLaw and Philosophical Theory Critical Intersections. London : Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 219 - 234. ISBN 10: 1786602660. ISBN 13: 9781786602664.

Book chapter
More publications(31)