Professor of History; Chair of History
I am a Professor of History at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College. My main research and teaching areas are post-1945 US history, the global 1960s, the Holocaust, social movements, political violence, and human rights in the “War on Terror.”
My first book is Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies (2004). It is a pioneering work of global history that engages the parallel trajectories of “armed struggle” groups in the United States and West Germany. My second book is The New Life: The Jewish Students of Postwar Germany (2014). It examines the efforts of Holocaust survivors, when refugees in postwar Germany, to pursue advanced degrees in German universities. The book is a unique look into the fractious, postwar world and the means by which survivors gained again a sense of power, purpose, and a positive vision of the future.
My journey into academia began at Cornell University, where I earned a PhD in history under the direction of Dominick LaCapra — a towering figure across the humanities. Trained in great varieties of critical theory, I brought these to bear in my examination of left-wing radicalism. My key concerns were the political, ethical and existential appeal of violence; how past collective traumas shaped political behavior; and the need for normative limits to constrain the actions of the state and dissidents alike.
While doing research for the project, I developed my passion for oral history. Interviewing historical subjects is an unsurpassable way to engage the intimacy of lived experience. I have conducted close to 100 oral histories, and I relish teaching oral history to my students.
Working on my first book, I ran across many other young scholars fascinated by the 1960s. To give our work a platform of its own, I co-founded in 2008 the interdisciplinary publication The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture. I continue to co-edit the journal, which publishes exciting work on the global 1960s.
My work on the postwar experience of Holocaust survivors is a bracing inquiry into processes of dehumanization and an account of the process — often neglected in Holocaust studies — by which survivors can both reclaim the past and claim new lives. For it I did oral histories in the United States, Germany, and Israel.
I remain very active in international communities studying the global 1960s. I also remain fascinated by the origins, evolution, and success and failure of social movements. I recently co-edited a book on opposition to both nuclear weapons and nuclear power in the 1980s. My current book project is a study of domestic opposition to America’s post-9-11 wars. For it I am conducting oral histories, scouring the archives on anti-war organizations, and reflecting on my own opposition to the wars.
My scholarship reflects my activism, and vice versa. I am a longstanding veteran of social justice struggles. Starting in the 1980s, these include: divestment from apartheid South Africa; opposition to CIA campus recruitment; HIV/AIDs activism; the movement for global economic justice; and opposition to the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars. Since 2005, I have been a leading member of Witness Against Torture – a grassroots, direction action group seeking to close Guantanamo prison and end US torture. My work with the group is a subject of an oral history conducted by Columbia University for its “Guantanamo Bay Oral History Project.”
Beyond my academic work, I have written essays for Public Seminar, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Waging Nonviolence. They range from reflections on the violence of the New Left; to the fate of “war on terror” prisoners; to the engagement of torture by the arts world; to the treatment of the 1960s in pop culture such as the TV show Mad Men; to the life and legacy of iconic American radicals.
The New School is a perfect home for me, in its combination of critical inquiry, political engagement, and the idealism of the young and old alike.
Ph.D. in History, Cornell University, 1998
M.A. in History, Cornell University, 1995
B.A. in History, Brown University, 1989
Journals – Editor
Select Articles and Book Chapters
Academic and Public Presentations
America is Hard to Find (Fall 2018)
First Year Seminar (Fall 2018)
Historical Methods & Sources
Independent Senior Project
Independent Senior Project (Fall 2018)
Independent Study (Fall 2018)
Peace to the Poets
Terrorism/War on Terror
The Death of Everything