Denise Ferreira da Silva

Professor at The European Graduate School / EGS


Denise Ferreira da Silva is Professor and Director of the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She is also a Visiting Professor at the School of Law at Birkbeck, University of London.

Prior to her appointment at UBC in 2015, Ferreira da Silva held the Inaugural Chair in Ethics at the School of Business and Management as well as a Directorship of the Centre for Ethics and Politics at Queen Mary University of London.

After obtaining a BA in Social Sciences from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in 1984, Ferreira da Silva received a PhD in Sociology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1999. Between 1999 and 2010, she was Associate Professor at UC San Diego, where she served as the Director of the Latin American Studies Program, the Director of Brazilian Studies, and as Associate Director of the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Studies; at the Ethnic Studies Department she served as the Vice-Chair, the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and as Director of Graduate Studies. Ferreira da Silva was also a Visiting Associate Professor at University of Southern California (2006-2007), where she taught in American Studies and Ethnicity Department.

Her monograph Toward a Global Idea of Race (University of Minnesota Press, 2007) raises the question of “why, after more than five hundred years of violence perpetrated by Europeans against people of color, is there no ethical outrage? Rejecting the prevailing view that social categories of difference such as race and culture operate solely as principles of exclusion, Silva presents a critique of modern thought that shows how racial knowledge and power produce global space.”

Ferreira da Silva has edited several books, more recently Law, Race, and the Postcolonial – A Handbook (with Mark Harris; London: Routledge/Cavendish, 2015), Indigenous Peoples & the Law – A Handbook (with Mark Harris; London: Routledge/Cavendish, 2015) and Postcolonial Capitalism: Histories & Cartographies of Global Capitalism (with Rashne Limki; London: Routledge/Cavendish, 2015). In addition, she has published numerous book chapters and journal articles including “Radical Praxis or Knowing (at) the Limits of Justice” (in: Sherene Razack and Suvendrini Perera, Eds., At the Limits of Justice, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014); “To be Announced: Radical Praxis or Knowing (at) the Limits of Justice,” (in: Social Text 31, 2013); and “Accumulation, Dispossession & Debt: The Racial Logic of Global Capitalism – Introduction ”(in: American Quarterly 63, 2012).

Outside academia, Ferreira da Silva has written on and for Biennials such as Liverpool and Sao Paulo (2016) as well as for the Documenta 14 Reader (2017); she also served as advisor for Contour Biennale 8 (Mechelen, 2017).

In “Reading Art as Confrontation” [1] she writes: “I am interested in the possibility of art with an anticolonial inflection. What sort of compositions could retain the postcolonial concern with representation, aiming beyond the limits of postcolonial critique and its particular rendering of modern grammar? If it aims to go beyond denouncing, if it moves to dismantle and/or counteract the effects of epistemic violence, what would anticolonial artwork accomplish through the form of presentation? For now, and within the limits of this text only, my answer to this question is: it would corrupt any mode, any form of presentation, by turning it into a confrontation—that is, a presentation that refuses representation.”

Together with Valentina Desideri, Ferreira da Silva organizes experimental “Poethical Readings”, sessions of which have been performed at venues such as The Showroom (London) or Arika (Glasgow). Cast in the experimental film From Left to Night (Wendelien van Oldenborgh, 2014), Silva collaborated with Arjuna Neuman on the film Serpent Rain (2016), commissioned by Stefano Harney: “Serpent Rain is as much an experiment in working together as it is a film about the future. The collaboration began with the discovery of a sunken slave ship, and an artist asking a philosopher – how do we get to the post-human without technology? And the philosopher replying – maybe we can make a film without time.” [2]

[1] In: e-flux journal, #65, SUPERCOMMUNITY (May-August 2015),



Denise Ferreira da Silva

Faculty Interview