I am a historian of modern Europe interested in the spread of radical politics and social movements. After receiving my Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, I became a postdoctoral associate and lecturer in the Humanities Program and history department at Yale University. I’m also a fellow in Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center. With a focus on Western and Central Europe, my research areas include resistance, counterculture, exile, human rights, critical theory, and revolutionary traditions.
Currently I’m finishing my first book, New Lefts: The Making of a Radical Tradition, 1920-1970, which argues that the New Left activism sweeping across the Global North during the 1960s actually drew on the radical precedent of interwar antifascism. During the crisis decades of the 1920s and ’30s, eccentric left militants in Germany, France, Britain and elsewhere rejected the bureaucratic party structures of social democracy and communism. They wanted to create a new kind of left politics free from the party form and sensitized to modes of oppression in everyday life. By analyzing the historical process by which “new lefts” emerged out of “old lefts,” this book identifies the patterns of militant behavior, forms of organization, and recurrent theoretical problems that constituted the phenomenon of neoleftism. Not only generational conflict but also periodic frustration at the existing left gave rise to neoleftist small groups on the margins of mainstream politics. These antifascist and anti-authoritarian avant-gardes made the last century’s most creative attempts to transform capitalist society and culture. Today’s activists in Antifa, Podemos, or Occupy Wall Street face the same challenge as past generations of neoleftists: how to sustain the radical novelty of a grassroots movement without succumbing to hierarchy, centralized leadership, and the routine of political power.
I’ve also started a new research project on the subversive metaphor of “the underground.” Beneath the surface of everyday life lies a substratum of clandestine deals, conspiracy, and crime. During the era of industrialization, people in the West began to imagine society as a hierarchically layered structure — and the dangerous classes lived below. In 1819, the German publicist Joseph Görres transposed social fears into a political key when he warned of a Jacobin “fire that burns underground.” This project explores the spatial imagination of resistance to oppression from the early nineteenth century to the present-day digital underground.
Articles of mine appear in The Historical Journal, Modern Intellectual History, and New German Critique. Download my CV here.