Faculty Fellows and Projects 2015-2016, "Ethical Subjects"

Leah DeVunLeahphoto-2015

Faculty Fellow
Department of History, Rutgers
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Leah DeVun is an Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University. She is the author of Prophecy, Alchemy, and the End of Time (Columbia UP), winner of the 2013 John Nicholas Brown Prize, as well as articles in GLQ, WSQ, Osiris, and Radical History Review. Her current research interests lie in the history of science and the history of gender, sex, and sexuality in medieval and early modern Europe. She is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation, the Huntington Library, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the American Philosophical Society, and the Stanford Humanities Center.

Enter Sex: Hermaphrodites and the Demands of Difference, 1000-1600: This project focuses on hermaphroditism during the European Middle Ages, a critical period for the formation of ideas about sex, as well as for the establishment of professionalized fields such as medicine, surgery, and law, which attempted to codify such ideas, and which have had a long-lasting influence on Western understandings of the body. Many approaches to hermaphroditism that have been credited to much later periods appear in some form in the Middle Ages. Moreover, mentions of hermaphrodites fit into larger discussions about difference – difference between Europeans and non-Europeans, Christians and non-Christians, humans and animals – that touch upon fundamental questions about the very nature of humanity. If the shape of the human body and the scope of its sexual functions lay at the heart of what afforded humans their humanity and Christians their Christianity, then the stakes for properly understanding and managing hermaphrodites were very great indeed. While these discussions are no doubt far removed from the twenty-first century in its intellectual and cultural context, they raise questions that we still struggle to answer: Where is sex in the body? And who decides that sex? How should sex be treated by legal and medical authorities? And why are variations in sex so much more problematic than other kinds of anatomical variations? Enter Sex examines these conversations in detail, and it considers how medieval thinkers produced a system of sex difference that continues to influence contemporary understandings of what makes humans male or female.

Melissa Feinbergmfeinberg

Faculty Fellow
Department of History, Rutgers
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Melissa Feinberg is a historian of modern East-Central Europe at Rutgers, New Brunswick. Her research and teaching interests include Eastern Europe under state socialism, women’s and gender history, and the history of human rights. Her first book, Elusive Equality: Gender, Citizenship and the Limits of Democracy in Czechoslovakia, 1918–1950 (Pittsburgh University Press, 2006), considered why it was impossible for women in interwar Czechoslovakia to fully realize their legal equality with men, even though the Czechoslovak constitution mandated equal rights for both sexes. Future projects include a history of Eastern Europe from 1945 to the present, under contract with Westview Press.

Prof. Feinberg is currently finishing a book with the working title of Enemies in Our Midst: Fear and the Battle over Truth in Eastern Europe, 1948–1956. During the first years of the Cold War, politicians from capitalist and Communist camps alike tried to claim that their ideology had the status of truth, while their opponents merely told lies. This book examines this Cold War battle over the truth in the context of Eastern Europe. She considers how a variety of actors on both sides of the Iron Curtain tried to define and defend their sense of the truth about Eastern Europe, showing how all relied on a similar set of political tropes that depended on their own avowed differences. They used the concept of “truth” (or “lies”) to indicate their conviction in their own rightness and to give their view of the world the weight of a moral absolute. Fear was a crucial weapon in this fight over truth. The region’s own Communist leaders and their Western opponents both told East Europeans they should be afraid, but they defined the meaning of that fear in different ways. For both sides, however, the experience of fear revealed the truth about Eastern Europe.

 

Leslie FishbeinFishbeinphoto

Faculty Fellow
Departments of American Studies and Jewish Studies, Rutgers
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Leslie Fishbein, Associate Professor of American Studies, is an affiliated faculty member of Jewish Studies, Cinema Studies, and Women's and Gender Studies. Her book, for which she won the New York State Historical Association Manuscript Award, Rebels in Bohemia: The Radicals of The Masses, 1911-1917, examines the simultaneous, and often schizophrenic, commitments to socialism, anarchism, syndicalism, Freudianism, feminism, and bohemians of Greenwich Village radicals who contributed to that socialist literary and political magazine. Her scholarship has focused on the history of female deviance, film and history, and gender studies. She currently is at work on a book entitled Memoirs of the Sex Trade: A Cultural History of Prostitution on the self-representation of prostitutes and madams.

Memoirs of the Sex Trade: A Cultural History of Prostitution is a book about women, sex, and power that focuses on what happens when we examine prostitution from the point of view of the prostitutes and madams who engage in it. Prof. Fishbein wants to look at how their experience has influenced the wider culture, both when it is filtered through the accounts of others like anti-vice crusaders and journalists and when it appears unmediated as in the memoirs of prostitutes and madams and the activities of prostitutes’ rights organizations. Our tendency to segregate prostitution in red light districts and to ignore it apart from the frenzied interest of purity crusades has caused us to overlook how pervasive its influence has been in shaping our cultural views of women, sex, and power. Memoirs of the Sex hopes to correct those cultural blinders by not only giving voice to prostitutes and madams but also by examining their desire to act as ethical subjects by challenging unjust laws and appearing in court to establish their rights, criticizing the moral hypocrisy of respectable society, and demanding respect for their attempts to act morally despite the constraints of their profession.

Andrew MurphyAMurphy2012

Faculty Fellow
Department of Political Science, Rutgers
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Andrew R. Murphy is Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers. He received his B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before arriving at Rutgers in 2008, he taught at Villanova University, Valparaiso University, and the University of Chicago. His research focuses on the interconnections of political and religious thought in the Anglo-American tradition. He is author of the forthcoming Liberty, Conscience, and Toleration: The Political Thought of William Penn (2016) and co-author, with David S. Gutterman, of Negotiating Identities: Politics and Religion in the United States (2015). Previous publications include Prodigal Nation: Moral Decline and Divine Punishment from New England to 9/11 (2008) and Conscience and Community: Revisiting Toleration and Religious Dissent in Early Modern England and America (2001) and, as editor, The Political Writings of William Penn (2002) and The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence (2011).

“An Adopted American”: A Life of William Penn (1644-1718): The project description for “Ethical Subjects” expresses a desire to explore “an overlapping terrain, between the study of lives, subjects and practices, on the one hand; and legal, ethical, political, and religious frameworks, on the other.” Prof. Murphy's research over the next two years, and particularly during 2015-16, will be focused on producing a new biography of William Penn (1644-1718) – a key figure in the struggle for liberty of conscience in England as well as the English colonial project in North America – to be published on the 300th anniversary of his death.  Penn’s individual story provides a fascinating window into the struggle of one man in one time and place to establish himself as an ethical subject in a diverse and conflictual religious environment. At a political level, moreover, Penn’s public career as spokesperson for liberty of conscience, and his role in founding and governing an American colony based on principles of civil and religious liberty, placed him at the nexus of a number of important networks that made up the British imperial system. This interplay of the personal and the political make Penn an ideal figure through which to explore the challenges of ethical subjectivity in the early modern Atlantic world.

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