His research is motivated by the political and social present and seeks to illuminate our current condition by directing our attention to undiscovered, underappreciated, or incompletely excavated resources in the history of political, social, and African-American thought. He is drawn to a series of “Big Questions”: How ought we to understand the norms of conduct that underwrite political life? How should we talk about political relations and its development outside of electoral politics or juridical procedures? What might that language be and what concepts must we employ? Can we harness the power of self-regulation and self-improvement without resorting to stories or theories about absolute political and moral values? These questions inform his reflections on race, governance, and democracy. They guide his inquiry into the way actors in the past thought about the depth and quality of our capacity to be emotionally responsive to the pain of others. These questions direct his attention to the untapped potentiality of human agency and imagination that stands beyond the reach of domination and apathy.
His points of reference for engaging these issues include (and not always explicitly) Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson, John Dewey, and W. E. B. Du Bois; the power of philosophical pragmatism for thinking about modern life; and contemporary ideas and concepts within democratic theory, metaethics, aesthetics, and rhetoric.
Thematically, much of his work has been concerned with the possibility of self-regulation and self-improvement shorn of absolute values, especially in relation to democratic governance, normative judgment, and race relations. His first book, The Undiscovered Dewey: Religion, Morality, and the Ethos of Democracy, explored these issues through an interpretation of John Dewey’s writings and the theme of human responsiveness central to his work. That book was haunted by the unpursued theme of racial injustice and its place in American democracy. Rogers’ second book, Democracy and Faith: Race and the Politics of Redemption in American Political Thought, will be devoted to figures within American and African-American political thought; it will combine close readings of figures and historical contextualization to think through the themes of democratic responsiveness, redemption, and faith amid racial injustice. This will set the stage for the third book that will explore the dark-side of this same tradition—the justified eclipse of faith resulting from the culturally and institutionally supported disposability of black lives in American society.
Graduate students interested in working with him should note that while he often teaches and draws widely from other traditions, they largely serve as supplements to illuminate American and African-American political and moral life.
The Undiscovered Dewey: Religion, Morality, and the Ethos of Democracy (Columbia University Press, 2008; Pb., October, 2012), 328 pages
John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012), 190 pages
Includes: Annotations; Critical Introduction; Bibliographical Essay; Biographical Outline
Articles (Peer Reviewed)
- David Walker and the Political Power of the Appeal, Political Theory: An International Journal of Political Philosophy (Online First 2014/Journal Edition, 2015)
- The People, Rhetoric, and Affect: On the Political Force of Du Bois? The Souls of Black Folk, American Political Science Review, 106.1 (February 2012): 188-203
- The Fact of Sacrifice and Necessity of Faith: Dewey and the Ethics of Democracy, Transactions of Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy, 47.3 (November 2011): 274-300
- Introduction: Revisiting The Public and its Problems, John Dewey and His Vision of Democracy, Contemporary Pragmatism: Special Issue, Revisiting The Public and Its Problems? 7.1 (June, 2010): 1-9; 69-92
Guest Editor (With essays by: James Bohman, Eric MacGilvray, and Eddie Glaude)
- Re-reading Honneth: Exodus Politics and the Paradox of Recognition, European Journal of Political Theory 8.2 (April, 2009): 183-206
- Democracy, Elites and Power: John Dewey Reconsidered, Contemporary Political Theory, 8.1 (February, 2009): 68-89 Selected for Journal?s Feature Article: Political Theory Revisited Section Revised version of Chapter 5, Constraining Elites and Managing Power of The Undiscovered Dewey
- Republican Confusion and Liberal Clarification, Philosophy and Social Criticism, 34.7 (September, 2008): 799-824
- Action and Inquiry in Dewey's Philosophy, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy,43.1 (2007): 90-115