Writings

Below are links to some of my published articles and working papers:

 

Human Rights as Radical Anthropology [2016]

This article is forthcoming in The Historical Journal. Here’s the abstract: From the 1920s through the ’40s, European and Anglo-American Protestants perceived a crisis of humanity. While trying to determine religion’s role in a secular age, church leaders redefined the human being as a theological person in community with others and in partnership with God. This new anthropology contributed to a personalist conception of human rights that rivaled Catholic and secular conceptions. Alongside such innovations in postliberal theology, ecumenical Protestants organized a series of meetings to unite the world churches. Their conference at Oxford in July 1937 led to the creation of the World Council of Churches. Thus Protestants of the transwar era supplied the two main ingredients of any human rights regime: a universalist commitment to defending individual human beings regardless of race, nationality, or class and a global institutional framework for enacting that commitment. Through the story of Protestant thinkers and activists, this article recasts the history of human rights as part of a larger history of critical reappraisals of humanity. Understanding why human rights came into prominence at various twentieth-century moments may require abandoning ‘rights talk’ for human talk, or, a comparative history of radical anthropologies and their relationship to broader socioeconomic, political, and cultural crises. 

 

Hegel and the Revolutions Revisited [2014/16]

This review essay focuses on two books from the most recent Hegel revival in critical theory. Rebecca Comay’s Mourning Sickness (Stanford, 2010) and Susan Buck-Morss’ Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (Pittsburgh, 2009) reevaluate Hegel’s reactions to two of the most important political upheavals in the Atlantic world, the French and Haitian revolutions. The essay appeared in the journal Modern Intellectual History, 13, no. 2 (Aug. 2016).

Susan Buck-Morss, Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (2009)

 

The Jewish Question in French Catholic Theology, 1944-1965 [2011/14]

Through the lens of two very different French theologians, Jean Daniélou and Paul Démann, this working paper examines midcentury efforts to confront the problem of anti-Judaism in Catholic thought.

    Jean Daniélou       Paul Démann

 

Risk, Miscarriage, and Exile: The Critical Hazards of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory [2011]

In addition to highlighting the theme of risk in Adorno’s great unfinished work, Aesthetic Theory, this essay traces his criteria for a “successful” artwork back to Leibniz, Lessing, and Kierkegaard.

 

Friends or Differends? Discursive Tonalities of Late Twentieth-Century Philosophy [2011]

Here is a review essay on Simon Choat’s Marx Through Post-Structuralism (London, 2010) and Pierre Bouretz’ D’un ton guerrier en philosophie (Paris, 2010). Central figures include Habermas, Derrida, Lyotard, Foucault, and Deleuze.

 

“This is our Dunkirk”: Karl B. Frank and the Politics of the Emergency Rescue Committee [2009]

In this essay, I seek to revise the standard account of the Emergency Rescue Committee and its primary agent Varian Fry, who famously coordinated the escape of thousands of prominent artists, intellectuals, and their families from Vichy France and the Nazis in 1940-41. I focus on the often ignored political backstory of the Committee, which formed in New York City amid various debates among German socialist émigré leaders and their American allies. Again, my central figure is Karl B. Frank (see below).

 

The German Resistance in New York: Karl B. Frank and the New Beginning Group, 1935-1945 [2007]

My senior thesis at Boston University. Karl B. Frank, alias Paul Hagen, was a charismatic intellectual and militant socialist who became known in the United States as “the leader of the anti-Nazi resistance in exile.” While this epithet was clearly an exaggeration, he did represent a small group of antifascist intellectuals that had formed in Berlin in 1929 and survived underground during the early years of the Third Reich. This thesis navigates the murky world of exile politics in order to evaluate Frank’s real political influence as well as the thwarted possibilities of postwar German reconstruction.