Jane Bennett (born July 31, 1957) is an American professor at the Department of political science, Johns Hopkins University School of Arts and Sciences. She is also the editor of the academic journal Political Theory.
Bennett's work considers ontological ideas about the relationship between humans and 'things', what she calls "vital materialism",
"What counts as the material of vital materialism? Is it only human labour and the socio-economic entities made by men using raw materials? Or is materiality more potent than that? How can Political Theory do a better job of recognizing the active participation of nonhuman forces in every event and every stabilization? Is there a form of theory that can acknowledge a certain ‘thing-power’, that is, the irreducibility of objects to the human meanings or agendas they also embody?"
In her book, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, Bennett's argument is that, "Edibles, commodities, storms, and metals act as quasi agents, with their own trajectories, potentialities and tendencies."
Public lectures she has given include "Impersonal Sympathy", a talk theorizing 'sympathy' in which she considered the alchemist-physician Paracelsus (1493-1541) and Walt Whitman's collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass. In 2015 Bennett delivered the annual Neal A. Maxwell Lecture in Political Theory and Contemporary Politics at the University of Utah entitled “Walt Whitman and the Soft Voice of Sympathy.”
Jane Bennett originally trained in environmental studies and political science. She then went on to Cornell University to study environmental science. After Cornell she studied political theory and gained her degree (magna cum laude) in 1979 from Siena College, Loudonville, New York. Whilst at Siena College Bennett met Kathy Ferguson. Bennett then went on to the University of Massachusetts and qualified as a doctor of political science in 1986.1997 - Visiting Fellow, Department of Politics, Goucher College, Australian National University2007 - Visiting Fellow, Department of Politics, University of Nottingham2010 - Fellow, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London2011 - Fellow, Oxford University, Keble College