I’m a historian of modern Europe with a specialization in German intellectual history, radical democracy, and transnational social movements. Currently I’m a lecturer in the Humanities Program and Department of History at Yale University. Last year 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 current book project is called New Lefts: A History of Radical Antifascism and Anti-Authoritarianism in Europe, 1920-1970. In it I argue that a basic continuity existed between three moments in the history of the 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 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 liberal 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 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 the social visible through police surveillance, statistics, and border control. Among Russian émigrés and through a European anarchist publishing network, the underground took shape as an invisible countermovement to such attempts. It marked a non-public space that evaded surveillance, frustrated statistical measurement, and disregarded national borders. So far my research has focused on the so-called pyramid of capitalism, a visual allegory of class oppression that went viral across the Atlantic in the early 1900s.
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.