Elizabeth Povinelli's writing has focused on developing a critical theory of late liberalism. This critical task is grounded in theories of the translation, transfiguration and the circulation of values, materialities, and socialities within settler liberalisms. Her first two books focused on impasses within liberal systems of law and value as they meet local Australian indigenous worlds, and the effect of these impasses on the development of legal and public culture in Australia. Her most recent book examines how a set of ethical and normative claims about the governace of lowve, sociality, and the body circulate in liberal settler colonies in such a way that life and death, rights and recognition, goods and resources are unevenly distributed there.
Professor Povinelli diverges from most contemporary approaches to sexuality, gender and the legacy of European colonialism in so far as she brackets sexuality in the first moment and, instead, looks at how the distinction between individual freedom and social bondage subtends and animates most theories and practices of sexuality in postcolonial liberalisms.