Associate Professor of History
Johns Hopkins University (Humanities Center), PhD 2008
King Juan Carlos Center, Room 419
Field of Study:
Areas of Research/Interest:
Modern European Intellectual History; French and German Thought; Political Theology and Philosophical Anthropology; History of Medical Concepts; Film; History of Science
My research and writing in the history of concepts, intellectuals, and narratives about the body and the human in modern Europe has proceeded roughly along two tracks, which at times criss-cross.
The first track is modern European history of concepts, with an emphasis on France and philosophy. My An Atheism that is not Humanist Emerges in French Thought (Stanford, 2010) studied the transformation of the concept of the human around the critiques of secular humanism in interwar and early postwar France. I am currently completing a second monograph in this field, The Matter with Transparency in Postwar France. Long a goal and ideal in philosophy and today once again a major political catchword, the concept was treated by philosophers, anthropologists, psychologists, filmmakers, and other intellectuals as profoundly problematic in 1945-1975 France. This book takes as its starting point the question raised by this rejection of transparency, whether as a social ideal (the aspiration to a transparent society or a transparent state), as an ethical priority (the traditional demand for personal purity and the romantic fantasy of the heart-to-heart), or as an epistemological ideal (the assertion of man’s capacity to know the world).
The second track is in the history of the human sciences, starting out from the history of biology and related disciplines. In Experimente im Individuum (August/Walther König Vlg, 2014), co-authored with Todd Meyers, we offered an account of the German-Jewish neuropsychiatrist Kurt Goldstein’s influential elaboration of a concept of the individual premised upon his epistemological, experimental, and therapeutic work with on aphasia and tonic musculature in brain-injured patients. I have also been involved in two translations of books by Georges Canguilhem, Knowledge of Life (Fordham 2009) and Writings on Medicine (Fordham 2012), and have co-edited (with Richard Baxstrom) a collection of essays for the journal Republics of Letters on self-assertion and conflicts over territory and method in the human sciences. Todd Meyers and I co-edit the Forms of Living series at Fordham University Press and we are now completing a book-length study of the early-twentieth-century transformation of conceptions of the organism (and its consequences) in physiology and related sciences: The Whole on the Verge of Collapse: Integration, Disequilibrium, and the Sciences of the Body around WWI. This project traces the emphasis of organismic balance and disequilibrium that occurred during the period 1905-1930 across a transnational quasi-network of scholars. We are interested in problems like wound shock, aphasia, homeostasis, anaphylaxis, gastro-enteric distress, and especially the theorization of disequilibrium and collapse; in new or renewed concepts ranging from histamine response to “catastrophic reaction” to the “individual” patient.
My other current projects generally concern the intersections of aesthetics and politics with a continued focus on the history of concepts in Europe and of scientific and political languages concerning the body. The Scaffold of Sovereignty: Global and Aesthetic Perspectives on the History of a Concept, a volume co-edited with Zvi Ben-Dor Benite and Nicole Jerr, is under contract with Columbia University Press. In 2015-2016 I will be on leave, thanks to an ACLS Ryskamp Fellowship, to pursue research toward a history of conceptions of the “New Man” in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Europe. This project concerns the dream of a transformation of human nature resulting from—but often working against—the advance of modernity; it brings together considerations of different scientific fields (anthropology, psychology, social hygiene, etc), competing figures of authority and power, aesthetic figurations of the motif, and the announcements, ever more frequent after World War I and especially in the National Socialist and Soviet regimes, of the impending or ongoing construction and supposedly redemptive promise of “New Men.”
My teaching includes courses on the history of particular concepts, on moments in European philosophical and scientific thought, and on specific thinkers. Recent courses include The Origin of Humanity: A European Obsession, 1750-2000; Freud; European Culture and World War One; and Structuralism: Language and Man in Postwar Europe. This semester I am co-teaching an undergraduate colloquium with Larry Wolff on The Anthropological Encounter in European Intellectual History and a graduate course on Sovereignty: Twentieth-Century Ideas, Aesthetics, and Practices.
Books: An Atheism that is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought. Stanford University Press, 2010. Cultural Memory in the Present series.
[Stanford UP site] [Amazon.com]
Experimente im Individuum. Kurt Goldstein und die Frage des Organismus
Co-authored with Todd Meyers. August Verlag, 2014.
[August Verlag website]
Translated and Edited Books:
Georges Canguilhem, Writings on Medicine.
Translated and with an introduction (“Georges Canguilhem’s Critique of Medical Reason”) with Todd Meyers. New York: Fordham UP, 2012. [Fordham UP site] [Amazon.com]
The Scaffold of Sovereignty, co-edited with Zvi Ben-Dor Benite and Nicole Jerr, under contract with Columbia University Press.
Conflicts of the Faculties: Interdisciplinarity, forum of the journal Republics of Letters, co-edited with Richard Baxstrom, January 2014 (some essays are still in the process of being uploaded).
Georges Bataille, Scritti sul fascismo: Contro Heidegger, La Struttura psicologica del fascismo 1933-34. Co-edited with Giuseppe Bianco. Milan: Editioni Mimesis, 2010. [Mimesis site]
“The Plastic Self and the Prescription of
Psychology: Ethnopsychology, Crowd Psychology, and Psychotechnics, 1890-1920,” in Republics of Letters, forum on
“Conflicts of the Faculties: Interdisciplinarity.”
“Postwar Facial Reconstruction: Georges Franju’s Eyes without a Face,” in French Politics, Culture, and Society 31:2 (Spring 2013), 15-33. [PR]
“L’Ascension et la marionnette: L’homme d’après Jean Hyppolite,” in Giuseppe Bianco and Frédéric Worms, eds. Jean Hyppolite (Paris: Rue d’Ulm/PUF, 2013), 83-106.
“Kurt Goldstein’s Conception of Individuality” in H. Schmidgen, P. Schöttler, J.F. Braunstein (eds.), History and Epistemology: From Bachelard and Canguilhem to Today’s History of Science (Berlin: MPIWG Preprints, 2012), 101-110.
Происхождение «Антигуманизма», Или «Конец Истории»,” in Новое Литературное Обозрение (New
Literary Observer [Moscow]), 116:4 (April 2012), 76-90.
“Stories of Lynx: Husserlian Concepts in Transformation (France, 1945-1960),” New German Critique 117 (39:3), special issue in honor of Anson Rabinbach (Fall 2012), 33-45.
“Georges Canguilhem’s Critique of Medical Reason.” Translators’ Introduction (with Todd Meyers) to Georges Canguilhem, Writings on Medicine (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012), 1-24.
“The Brain in Abeyance: Freud and the Claim of Neuropsychoanalysis” forthcoming in History of the Present 1:2 (Fall 2011), 219-243
Slave-Princes, Marshall Plans: Carl Schmitt in Hegel’s France,” Modern Intellectual History 8:3 (2011),
Introduction to Complexity” (with Todd Meyers) to Geroulanos and Meyers,
eds. Henri Atlan: Selected Writings on
Self-Organization, Philosophy, Bioethics and Judaism, (Fordham Univ. Press,
Exiles, New Scientific Movements, and Phenomenology: History of a Philosophical
Immigration in 1930s France,” New
German Critique 113 (Spring 2011), 89-128.
Atheism, Antihumanism,” and “Atheism and
Antihumanism as Intellectual-Historical Objects,” on The Immanent Frame: Secularism, Religion, and the Public Sphere (SSRC).
“The 1987 French
Heidegger Affair in Intellectual-Historical Perspective,” in The Journal of
French Philosophy 18.1 (Fall 2008), 26-67.
Thinking Freedom: Maurice Blanchot’s The
Most High,” in MLN (Modern
Language Notes), 122:5 (Dec. 2007), 1050-78.
Transparency, Omnipotence, Modernity,” in Hent de Vries and Lawrence
Sullivan, eds. Political Theologies:
Public Religions in a Post-Secular World (New York: Fordham, 2006).
“An Anthropology of Exit: Bataille on Heidegger and Fascism,” October 117 (Summer 2006), 3-24.