Faculty Fellows 2016-2017
Linda Bosniak is Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University School of Law. She is the author of the book “The Citizen and the Alien: Dilemmas of Contemporary Membership,” and of multiple articles and book chapters on the subjects of borders, citizenship, equality, territoriality and transnational migration. She spent the academic year 2015-2016 as a Member at the Institute For Advanced Study in Princeton in the School of Social Science, and continues there as a Visitor this year. She is currently working on a book critically analyzing conceptions of immigrant justice in liberal national states. She has taught at Princeton University and at the University of Graz, and has been awarded fellowships through the Rockefeller Foundation and Princeton University.
Linda Bosniak is completing a book titled “Justifying Immigrant Justice: Wrongs, Rights, and the Liberal-Statist Imaginary.” This book-- part of her ongoing project to advance a ‘critical citizenship theory’--examines the structures of normative thought and debate over the status and treatment of unauthorized immigrants in liberal destination states. These immigrants are concurrently perceived as culpable and vulnerable, and the interplay of these judgments gives rise to sometimes-convoluted political and legal responses to their presence. The book pays particular attention to the way in which these immigrants’ asserted ‘wrongdoing’ against the state is addressed—castigated, elided, defended or otherwise managed—by various actors, including an increasingly vocal class of irregular immigrants themselves. Overall, the book treats unauthorized migration as one case among others in which growing cross-national movements of persons irrevocably test, and incrementally reconstitute, the insular ethical orders of liberal states.
Jochen Hellbeck is Professor of History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick and the author of, most recently, Stalingrad: the City that Defeated the Third Reich (New York: PublicAffairs, 2015). His research centers on individual life stories and the shaping of the self in modern Europe, with a primary focus on modern Russia and the Soviet Union. He is currently preparing a book on the first Soviet testimonies of Nazi German occupation during World War II.
While at the RCHA, Jochen Hellbeck will examine the constitution and deployment of ethical subjecthood in the Soviet Union during the World War II. His project explores the largely unknown fieldwork of a wartime commission of Moscow historians: in the immediate aftermath of the Red Army’s liberation or reconquest of Soviet villages and towns that had fallen under Nazi rule members of the commission traveled to these places to interview hundreds of witnesses and survivors of the German occupation regime. The narratives that they obtained were remarkably charged in ethical terms. Most of the interviewees relayed similar accounts of suffering and moral outrage about enemy atrocities that they had witnessed or experienced first-hand, and many charted a conversion, from an initial wait-and-see attitude toward the Germans when they first arrived, toward a resolutely pro-Soviet, anti-German stance by the time of liberation. As he interprets these narratives, Hellbeck considers their political uses: for the Soviet regime as it reconstituted itself on grounds formerly controlled by the enemy, and for the interviewees who sought to showcase their loyalty toward the Soviet cause to counter possible accusations against them as collaborators with the enemy. But his project also emphasizes critical moral dimensions in the process of reconstitution of self and community, dimensions that scholarship on the wartime Soviet Union mostly overlooks. The interviews created room for traumatized Soviet citizens to speak out about their personal suffering. The discovery of atrocities in locality after locality also shocked the historians who collected survivors’ testimonies. How this initial shock entered the refounding – both ethical and political, willing and coercive – of the Soviet Union as a beacon of anti-fascist “humanism,” and how and why the ethical tales of unspeakable horror suffered by Soviet citizens continue to remain outside the purview of Western observers is part of the story that he seeks to write.
Professor Jager writes and teaches about romantic literature, politics, and culture, about secularism and religion, and about cognitive science. He is the author of articles on all of these topics, published most recently in Qui Parle, ELH, Studies in Romanticism, Pedagogy, Romantic Circles Praxis, and Public Culture. From 2006-2008 he was co-leader of the “Mind and Culture” seminar at the CCA; for 2013-2014 he was co-leader of the “Objects and Environments” seminar at the CCA. He is the author of two books: The Book of God: Secularization and Design in the Romantic Era (2007), and Unquiet Things: Secularism in the Romantic Age (2015). The first studies the ubiquitous presence of the argument from design in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, arguing that its cultural and aesthetic importance undermines the familiar equation of modernization with secularization. The second emphasizes secularism rather than religion as its primary analytic category, and proposes that romantic-era literary writing possesses a distinctive ability to register the discontents that characterize the mood of secular modernity. Professor Jager is now turning his attention to the political possibilities of romanticism, in particular to the connection between cognition, on the one hand, and the environment, on the other. For more, please visit professor Jager's website.
Romanticism is typically (and not incorrectly) associated with subjectivity. For its modernist critics, from T. S. Eliot forward, this was a mark of philosophical sloppiness and political instability. When in 1970 Harold Bloom celebrated Wordsworth as a poet who demonstrated “the power of mind over outward sense,” he was simply following that modernist critique toward its inevitable, dialectical inversion. Bloom and the critics who followed him were brilliant at demonstrating the various counter-currents and immanent critiques of romantic subjectivism. Nature, language, and history: each were shown, in turn, to variously subtend or undercut the power of the autonomous subject that romanticism supposedly celebrated.
And yet much writing of the period remains indissolubly tied to subjectivity, that is, to seeing the world from a particular vantage-point. This is, after all, the age of philosophical idealism, of the sublime, of the insights of writers who, however democratic their political leanings and however anxious their investments in self-creation, remain intrigued by those moments when, as Wordsworth put it, “We have the deepest feeling that the mind / Is lord and master.”
Professor Jager's proposed RCHA project, then, begins with the acknowledgement that even in our postsecular, posthuman critical moment, any project that attempts to think politically and ethically about romanticism must find a place for the subject. In some fashion, that is to say, changing the world is going to depend upon how we think about that world.
Johan Mathew is an assistant professor in the history department at Rutgers, New Brunswick. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2012, and subsequently held a joint appointment in the departments of history and economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His interests lie in cultural histories of the economy with a focus on the Indian Ocean world. Johan’s first book, Margins of the Market: Trafficking and Capitalism across the Arabian Sea, was recently published by the University of California Press, and he is now working on a new project on the global history of narcotics and labor.
Trust is in many ways an anathema to neo-classical economics. Trust as it is commonly understand, involves some amount of altruism which simply does not make sense if one is a rational self-interested individual. So economists, sociologists and many historians have substituted trust with concepts like social capital or reputation in order to explain away behaviors commonly associated with trust. Johan Mathew sets out to recapture the more intuitive notion of trust from within the commercial world of the Indian Ocean. Drawing on fatwas (legal opinions by Islamic jurists), colonial court records, and mercantile correspondence, he examines how Indian Ocean merchants decided to trust agents both within and beyond their communities. Ultimately, he concludes that in order to recapture this notion of trust we must redraw the boundaries around the individual. Familial relationships stretch the boundary of the individual such that self-interest is conceived within a larger whole of the family. So a trusted agent who is not connected by blood, must be otherwise incorporated into the familial body. The practice of trusting someone might then be conceptualized as the drawing of separate individuals into one subject: with a single locus of interests and morals but distributed agency.
Maya Mikdashi is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She received her PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University. Her current research/manuscript focuses on law, citizenship, secularity, religious conversion, sexual difference, and the war on terror. She has been a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow from 2014-2016 at Rutgers University, and a Faculty Fellow/Director of Graduate Studies, Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University (2012-2014). She is a co-founding editor of Jadaliyya.com, co-director of the feature length documentary About Baghdad (2004) and co- founding member of filmmaking cooperative Quilting Point Productions. A film she co-conceptualized and co-wrote with Carlos Motta, deseos/raghbat, is currently playing in international art and film festivals.
How might we think about archival refusal–archives that are not history and archives that are absent or missing–in order to re-imagine the political possibilities of the present in a War on Terror era Middle East? This paper explores these questions from the vantage point of the archive and archivists at Lebanon's highest court, focusing on civil war era archival files.
Jennifer Mittelstadt is Professor of History at Rutgers University, where she studies the history of the twentieth-century United States. She has broad interests in the state and social policy, politics, women and gender, social movements, the military and militarization. She is the author of several books, including most recently The Rise of the Military Welfare State (Harvard, 2015). She has published articles and opinion pieces in the Journal of Policy History, International Labor and Working Class History, the Journal of Women’s History, Social Politics, Jacobin, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, among others.
This project explores the relationship between citizens and the state through an exploration of US empire. It is a history of the American battle against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua in the late 1970s and 1980s – what most historians of the US know best as part of the “Iran-Contra” scandal. While Iran-Contra has been told as a tale of crisis at the highest levels of the American state, the contra affair was also a vast grassroots effort. Thousands of unknown, ordinary Americans fought, in one way or another, in the wars against communism in Nicaragua and elsewhere. They included evangelical church members, working class veterans of Vietnam, college Republicans, wealthy conservative widows and business leaders, and far-right fundraisers. Many connected their fights against communists abroad to their battles at home – against welfare, big government, and secularism, and in support of “traditional” masculinity, militarization, and private enterprise. But in the 1970s and 1980s fighting old battles took on new casts, now animated by a stronger religious Right, conflict over the loss in Vietnam, deindustrialization, the rise of the free market, and the growing power of women and nonwhites. This project will explore the inner lives of American participants in the war against Nicaragua in the hopes of gaining new vantage points on wider histories of state and society, gender and politics, foreign affairs and empire at the end of the twentieth century.
Larry Scanlon is an Associate Professor in English at Rutgers-New Brunswick. He is the author of Narrative, Authority and Power: The Medieval Exemplum and the Chaucerian Tradition (1994), editor of The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Literature 1100-1500 (2009), and co-editor of John Lydgate: Poetry, Culture, and Lancastrian England (2006). He has published numerous essays on medieval literature, critical theory, and other literary topics.
This year I am completing my current monograph, tentatively entitled At Sodom’s Gate: The Sin Against Nature and Later Middle English Poetry. The project concentrates on the second half of the fourteenth century, the time when English re-emerged as Britain’s dominant literary language. Homoeroticism and unnatural sexuality constituted an important focus of cultural concern throughout the Middle Ages but they emerge as particularly prominent in England at this moment and my project seeks to explain why. I consider Geoffrey Chaucer’s Pardoner and the Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale, the anonymous biblical paraphrase Cleanness, John Gower’s Confessio Amantis, and such romances as Amis and Amiloun, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Launfal. The project also sets these English texts in their long historical perspective. It traces the development of medieval understandings of homoeroticism from their pre-Christian origins in Plato, the Stoics, and Philo of Alexandria, through such ancient Christian thinkers as Paul, Clement of Alexandria, Ambrose, Augustine, and John Cassian, and through medieval penitential tradition from the earliest penitential writings in sixth-century Britain and Ireland to the massively influential Summae on the Vices and Virtues of William Peraldus and its many English translations and adaptations.
Johanna Schoen is professor of History with an affiliation at the Institute for Health, Health Care, and Aging Research at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. She is the author of two books: Choice and Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare in the Twentieth Century, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005) and Abortion After Roe (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2015). For the past decades, she has worked with abortion providers to preserve the history of legal abortion in the United States and use historical analysis and insights to help preserve access to abortion care.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, prior to the legalization of abortion, members of the Clergy Consultation movement, an underground network of clergy who offered women access to safe abortions, articulated a moral framework for abortion. And abortion providers who performed illegal abortions prior to legalization pointed to their own conscience and understanding of ethical care as they explained their decision to break the law. But following the legalization of abortion in 1973, a feminist ethics of abortion care failed to gain traction. Over the following decades, anti-abortion activists claimed that their position represented the ethical side of the abortion debate. This project will trace the history of concepts that describe abortion care as moral work. The moral arguments in defense of legal abortion were ironically stronger prior to legalization and lost their salience when Roe drew attention to arguments surrounding privacy and choice. But in the 1990s, after anti-abortion activists pitched the denial of medical care to women as moral behavior -- a position that abortion providers and their supporters found clearly unethical -- supporters of legal abortion returned to frameworks of morality and ethics and offered new articulations of abortion care as moral work.