I’m an intellectual historian of the left in modern Europe, and I analyze the development of social movements and radical politics from the 19th century to the present. Currently I’m a visiting researcher in the Department of History at the Humboldt University of Berlin, where I’m on a postdoc fellowship funded by the Volkswagen and Mellon Foundations. Prior to that I was a postdoc and lecturer in the Humanities Program and Department of History at Yale University. I received my Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley.
My current book project is called New Lefts: A History of Radical Antifascism and Anti-Authoritarianism in Europe, 1920-1970. In it argue that the New Left activism sweeping across Western Europe 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, Spain 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. The remarkable case of one German organization called New Beginning shows how not only generational conflict, but also frustration at the institutionalized 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 transcend capitalism. Contemporary activists in Antifa, Indignados, Nuit debout, and 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 banal political routine.
I’ve also started a new research project on the history of “the underground,” which became a metaphor for political and social resistance in Europe’s late nineteenth century. The development of industrial class society and the modern state involved concerted attempts to make society visible through police surveillance, census-taking, statistics, and border control. The underground took shape among radicals as an invisible countermovement to such attempts. It marked a non-public space that avoided surveillance, frustrated statistical measurement, and disregarded national borders. From the perspective of governments and corporations, the underground represented a persistent threat from below. For radicals who went underground, it signified a refuge from oppression and a base for antisystemic resistance.
My work appears in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Aeon, The Point, H-Ideas, H-Diplo, The Historical Journal, Modern Intellectual History, and New German Critique. Download my CV here.