I’m a historian of modern Europe with a specialization in German intellectual history, radical democracy, and transnational social movements. Currently I work as a lecturer in the Humanities Program and Department of History at Yale University. In 2018-19, I was a visiting researcher in the Department of History at the Humboldt University of Berlin, where I had a postdoctoral fellowship from the Volkswagen Foundation. Prior to that I was a postdoc and lecturer at Yale. I received my Ph.D. in history with an emphasis on critical theory from the University of California, Berkeley.
My book is titled New Lefts: The Making of a Radical Tradition (Princeton University Press, forthcoming). In it I argue that a basic continuity existed between three moments in the history of the German and Western European left: radical antifascism in the 1920s-30s, left socialism in the 1940s-50s, and anti-authoritarianism in the 1960s. That continuity was based on internal revolts against the organizational form of established left parties and unions. Small groups of militant youth such as Neu Beginnen (New Beginning) in Germany struggled to sustain grassroots movements without reproducing the bureaucratic, hierarchical, and ostensibly obsolete structures of Social Democracy and Communism. What looked like disunity on the left often stemmed from creative efforts by these radicals to build new lefts on the ruins of the old. They did so by experimenting with alternative modes of organization: cells, councils, committees, militias, and assemblies. Eventually, most neoleftists would experience the irony of defending the very institutions that their younger selves would’ve opposed. That irony came to a head in the 1960s amid the transition to a post-industrial society, when across Europe and beyond a self-styled New Left rebelled against the democratic welfare state supported by their formerly neoleftist parents. Many problems that afflict leftist groups today, such as the fleetingness of the post-2008 protests against corporate power and austerity politics, can be traced back to this history of the midcentury left.
I’ve also started a new book project about visual representations of capitalism around the turn of the twentieth century. Partly due to advances in mimeograph technology, political cartoons and other allegorical images proliferated in European and North American leftist newspapers in the 1890s and early 1900s. These images, such as the famous “Pyramid of the Capitalist System,” depicted the class hierarchy of modern industrial society in vividly graphic terms. While obviously propaganda, they also functioned as a visual political education for immigrant workers who spoke diverse languages or could not read. Images such as the pyramid circulated widely in postcard and poster format, embodying viral memes before the digital era. This history is especially relevant to our present age of highly mediatized politics, when, in contrast to the early twentieth century, it seems impossible to visually represent the global capitalist system as a whole.
Along with publishing in academic journals such as Modern Intellectual History, The Historical Journal, and New German Critique, my work has appeared in popular forums such as Aeon, The Point, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Download my CV here.