Congratulations to the new UC President’s Fellows:
Capturing Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease): The Medical Gaze in America’s Tropical Empire
This project investigates scientific photography of leprosy (Hansen’s disease) and its critical role in the medical, sexual, and legal management of U.S. colonial subjects from the late-19th to mid-20th century. Centered on Hawai’i and the Philippines, U.S. colonial possessions that administered leprosy settlements, this work examines how photography medically racialized leprosy patients as non-citizen aliens. This modern medical gaze in turn influenced broader ways of seeing colonial populations as potential pathogens. In its most expansive sense, this work considers how racial difference and disease were mutually constituted through visual culture. The second major objective is to analyze how vernacular photographs taken by exiled leprosarium residents intervened in medicalized discourse.
The Second Oldest Profession: Journalism, Cynicism and Truth-Telling in Post-Soviet Russia
This book-in-progress is both an institutional ethnography of journalism in Russia and a study of broad cultural shifts after the fall of the Soviet Union. The study contends that one of the most important casualties of post-Soviet transformation has been the erosion of truth-seeking as a value; and that journalism and journalists had much to do with it. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the project shows how Soviet journalists–before 1989–often exercised a truth-seeking ethic displayed through seriousness and sincerity that, in complicated ways, spoke truth to power. This moral connection between the press and its public came undone after the fall of the Soviet Union, as press freedom became radically devalued, following a wave of media privatizations and sales of journalistic services to the highest bidder. The book traces how a radical devaluation of press freedom became possible in this atmosphere, and how it articulated with other varieties of state-sponsored cynicism under Putin.
German Angst? Fear and Democracy in Postwar Germany
My project employs a newly conceptualized history of emotions for writing a history of fear and anxiety in postwar West Germany. Contrary to dominant teleological narratives of the Federal Republic’s successful postwar stabilization and “arrival in the West,” the project takes seriously postwar Germans’ own fearful and apprehensive anticipations of their past futures after 1945. It examines how and why recurrent circles of fear and anxiety complicated the process of postwar democratization. Based on a series of empirically rich case studies, the project analyzes the shifting objects of fear and anxiety from the 1940s to the 1980s as well as the changing cultural norms governing the experience and expression of emotions. A synthetic analysis draws these cases together and offers a new perspective on postwar West German history more generally. The book also seeks to provide a historical perspective on contemporary manifestations of a politics and culture of fear.
Liberal ideas of human freedom were central to the founding of eighteenth-century republics, and to the international forms of empire, trade, and government taking shape throughout the nineteenth century. My book, The Intimacies of Four Continents, examines liberal philosophies and institutions of citizenship, free labor, and free trade, in light of transatlantic and transpacific encounters in the “new world,” Africa, and Asia. Studies of the early Atlantic world observe links between Europe, Africa, and the Americas through the transatlantic slave trade, while recent work on Asia suggests that China possessed advanced state formation, market, and government, in the seventeenth century. Drawing upon these insights, my project brings the Pacific and Atlantic worlds into relation and elaborates the emergence of the United States within late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British and European encounters with Africa and Asia. Not only did the post-1840 worldwide trade in Chinese laborers enable British abolition of the slave trade, but the British engagements with China during and after the Opium Wars constituted conditions for U.S. liberalism, and inaugurated new modes of Anglo-American free trade and imperial intimacy.
From the Gates of Vienna to the Gates at Heathrow: Christian Soldiers and the Islamic “Invasions” of the New Europe
Targeting several key Eastern and Western European polities, the project seeks to determine how and why those Europeans whose political activism comes from Christian religious commitments have welcomed or rejected the new presence of Muslims, and how they have drawn on (and mobilized for political purposes) a potent collection of centuries-old images, fears, remembrances, stereotypes, and history-laden received traditions concerning the nature of Islam and its followers. The study will trace and interpret the shifting approaches taken since the 1960s as these critical brokers of integration – political Christians in church and lay organizations and party groups – have argued over whether Islamic views of society are compatible with Europe’s dominant liberal-secular and (post-) Christian cultural, political, and legal traditions. The project puts Samuel Huntington’s persistent and seductive “clash of civilizations” thesis to a rigorous and much needed empirical test, establishing how the civilizational view has, in practice, found militant adherents (“Christian soldiers”) in the East and the West, and, just as important, explaining those crucial instances in which some political Christians have opted to become not soldiers but peacemakers instead, thus undercutting the widely popular Huntingtonian view that religious differences are paramount and that conflict is virtually inevitable.