I am a historian of modern Europe interested in the spread of radical social and political ideas. After receiving my doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, I became a postdoctoral associate and lecturer in the Humanities Program and Department of History at Yale University. I’m also a fellow in Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center. My research areas include resistance and subversion, German socialism, exile, human rights, critical theory, and comparative revolutions.
Currently I’m working on the book New Lefts: The Era of Renewal for European Socialism, 1930-1970. This project began as an analysis of the group Neu Beginnen, which tried to rejuvenate German socialist politics before and after the Second World War. But Neu Beginnen was just a small part of a larger phenomenon of “new lefts” that cut across time and space in the twentieth century. The concept of a new left has a history that predates the actual term, which came into fashion only in the mid-1950s. Already in the 1930s antifascists established a template for neo-leftist militancy through their dissatisfaction with existing social democracy and communism; extraparliamentary organization; generational solidarity; and rhetoric of rebirth and renewal. Out of the interwar crisis mentality emerged a neo-leftist synthesis of politics, theory, and literature. The reconciliation of “newness” and the socialist tradition became the chief preoccupation of heterodox Marxists like Georg Lukács, Karl Korsch, Ernst Bloch, and Wilhelm Reich. In the postwar years, the neo-leftist imagination would encompass the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, Cornelius Castoriadis, Wolfgang Abendroth, and Ossip K. Flechtheim, among many others. The New Left of the 1960s finally gave a concrete name to the previously fluid phenomenon of neo-leftism. Rebellious students reached beyond traditional working-class concerns toward new causes such as anti-nuclear activism, Third-Worldism, and radical feminism. But the left’s dialectic of renewal ground to a standstill in the 1970s, when disillusioned neo-liberals and new social movements such as environmentalism and human rights abandoned high modernism and the socialist framework. Current formations such as Podemos in Spain and anti-austerity activism throughout Europe, however, suggest that the left may indeed stand before a second era of renewal.
I’ve also started a second project on the metaphor of the underground. Underground movements act in a realm that is imagined to be below, hidden, or invisible. The metaphor dates back at least to 1875, when tsarist police dubbed a secretive group of Russian radicals “the troglodytes,” or, creatures that dwell in holes. From Italian and German anarchism to the French and Polish Resistance, from postwar subcultures to postmodern depthlessness, this project explores the spatial imagination of European radicalism.
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