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
I teach and write in the field of modern European intellectual history, with a focus on French and German thought and on the history of medical concepts.
My teaching includes courses on the history of particular concepts, on moments in European philosophical and scientific thought, and on specific thinkers. Recent courses: “The Origin of Humanity: A European Obsession, 1750-2000”; “European Conceptions of the New Man, 1789-1945”; “Freud”; “European Culture and World War One”; “European Intellectual History, 1805-1914”; “Structuralism”; and “Heidegger & Merleau-Ponty.” In Fall 2014 I will be teaching a graduate seminar on twentieth-century concepts, aesthetics, and practices of sovereignty, and co-teaching an undergraduate seminar on the anthropological encounter
I have written two books. (1) An Atheism that is not Humanist Emerges in French Thought (2010) interprets the history of antihumanism in terms of three parallel transformations—of the notion of the human, of secular humanism, and of atheism—in interwar and postwar France. I argue that philosophers like Koyré, Kojève, Levinas, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Hyppolite reacted to the perceived failure of secular humanism to bring about a better world as well as to scientific and political developments ranging from quantum physics to the Moscow trials. They gradually articulated a new position: that man could no longer, nor should he be viewed as the basis for existence, knowledge, and ethics; man was, rather, derivative of Being, language, and history. (2) Experimente im Individuum: Kurt Goldstein und die Frage des Organismus (2014), co-authored with Todd Meyers, concerns the work of the German-Jewish neurologist Kurt Goldstein, particularly his elaboration of a concept of the individual starting from his neuropsychiatric work on aphasia and tonic musculature. This “individual” patient/organism/human being was crucial for Goldstein’s experimental practices aiming at a revision of physiology, his arguments on brain injury, organismic wholeness, and therapeutics, and his philosophical influence on, among others, Cassirer, Canguilhem, and Merleau-Ponty.
I have also co-translated two books by the French philosopher of science Georges Canguilhem, and co-edited four collections of essays, including one from the work of the biophysicist and philosopher Henri Atlan; one on sovereignty perceived through the twin perspectives of aesthetics and global intellectual history; and one on self-assertion and conflicts over territory and method in the human sciences (particularly in the 19th century). I also co-edit the Forms of Living series at Fordham University Press.
I am currently working on three projects. The first, co-authored with Todd Meyers, and supported by an ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship (2013-15), is a book-length study in the history of physiology and related disciplines, and traces the emphasis of organismic balance and disequilibrium that occurred during the period 1905-1930 across a transnational network of scholars. We are interested in problems like wound shock, aphasia, homeostasis, gastroenteric 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; and in figures such as William M. Bayliss, Walter B. Cannon, George W. Crile, Henry Dale, Kurt Goldstein, Henry Head, W.H.R. Rivers, and E. E. Southard.
The second project is a history of the concept and figure of “transparency” as used by philosophers, anthropologists, filmmakers, psychologists, and other intellectuals in postwar France. This project takes as its starting point the question why transparency, long a goal and ideal in philosophy, seemed so profoundly problematic in the period 1945-1975, 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).
Finally, I have begun research toward a history of conceptions of the “New Man” in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Europe. This project, supported by an ACLS Ryskamp Fellowship (2013-16) 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.”
I’m currently on leave (Fall 2013-Spring 2014) thanks to an ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship. Except for two event series: together with my colleagues Andrew Sartori and Tamsin Shaw, I co-organize the Intellectual History Workshop at NYU; and with Deborah Coen (Barnard), I am also co-organizing a reading group/lecture series on Neuroscience and History at Columbia’s Heyman Center.
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.