Arthur and Joann Rasmussen Professor in Western Civilization in the College; Professor of European Social History
Founding Director, Affiliated Faculty, and Member of the Board, Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies
Member, Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies
PhD'88 Brown University
On Research Leave: Autumn 2021 and Spring 2022
The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 E. 59th Street, Mailbox 75
Chicago, IL 60637
William Rainey Harper Memorial Library,
West Tower, room 608 – Office
(773) 702-7940 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax
Website includes links to articles and books.
Nineteenth- and twentieth-century European social and cultural history with a focus on France and Germany; material culture, everyday life, and the built environment; Jewish history; gender history and theory; race in the Atlantic world; colonial and postcolonial Europe
The primary national focus of my research is modern France, but I have found myself intrigued by research problems best treated transnationally. My most recent book, Cultural Revolutions, moves across the Atlantic world from Britain, to colonial and early national America, and finally eastwards again to France. My ongoing pair of projects, Strangers at Home and Conundrums of Commemoration, stay on the European continent but involve a comparative analysis of Paris and Berlin in the twentieth century. Finally, although I have not yet published extensively in this area, I maintain an active interest in and regularly teach the history of European colonialism and the postcolonial world it left behind.
Conceptually, my work focuses on the intersection of material culture, everyday life, and politics. I seek to explain how and why everyday things have become catalysts for conflict, means of expressing identities and constructing selves, vehicles for dissenting opinions, and sites of unexpected state intervention. My research agenda is based on the hypothesis, informed by phenomenology and feminist theory, that key to answering these questions is the close and careful study of material culture, but a close and careful study that always links the concreteness of everyday goods to the abstractions of polity, society, and economy.
Although the courses I offer are necessarily broader and more general than this research agenda, they have been systematically informed by it. I use material and well as visual and textual sources in virtually all my classes, and nearly all are transnational in reach.
My publications in the domain of material culture and the histories of production and consumption include two books: Cultural Revolutions: Everyday Life and Politics in Britain, North America, and France (Oxford: Berg Press, 2008; Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009); French translation (Presses Universitaires de Mirail, 2009) and Taste and Power: Furnishing Modern France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996). I am also currently working on two book-length projects in this area: The Everyday of Modern Citizenship: France and Germany 1918–1940 and Conundrums of Commemoration.
My articles on material cultural and politics include "Perceptions of Beauty and the Problem of Consciousness," in Lenard Berlanstein, ed. Rethinking Labor History (Urbana: Univeristy of Illinois Press, 1993); "After the Revolution: Recycling Ancien Régime Style in the Nineteenth Century," in Bryant T. Ragan and Elizabeth Williams, eds. Recreating Authority in Revolutionary France (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992), pp. 144–174; "The Gendering of Consumer Practices in Nineteenth-Century France," in Victoria de Grazia and Ellen Furlough, eds. Sex of Things: Essays on Gender and Consumption (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), pp. 79–112; “Regeneration through the Everyday? Furniture in Revolutionary Paris,” in a special issue of Art History 28, no. 1 (Spring 2005), ed. Katie Scott, and; “Beyond Words,” American Historical Review (October 2005); “Historians and Architectural History,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (March 2006).
My work on material culture, postcolonialism, and everyday politics in contemporary Europe includes three essays: "'Sambo' in Paris: Race and Racism in the Iconography of the Everyday," (coauthored with Tom Holt) in Susan Peabody and Tyler Stovall, eds. The Color of Liberty: Histories of Race in France, (Raleigh, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2002); "Bavarian Crucifixes and French Headscarves: Religious Practices and the Postmodern European State," Cultural Dynamics 12/3 (2000): 183–209 and "Accomodation, Resistance, and Eigensinn: Evolués and Sapeurs between Africa and Europe," in Belinda Davis, Michael Wildt, eds. Alltag, Erfahurng, Eigensinn: Historisch-Anthropologische Erkundungen (Frankfurt/New York: Campus Verlag, 2008), pp. 205–217.
My most recent area of research is at the intersection of Jewish history and material culture. Some early thoughts on those questions may be found in "'Jewish Taste'? Jews, and the Aesthetics of Everyday Life in Paris and Berlin, 1933–1942," in Histories of Leisure, ed. Rudy Koshar, 299–318 (Oxford: Berg Press, 2002). That reflection has taken a somewhat different turns in "Resisting Context: The Spiritual Objects of Tobi Kahn," in Objects of the Spirit: Ritual and the Art of Tobi Kahn, ed. Emily Bilski, 71–78 (New York: Avoda/Hudson Hills, 2004); "Coming Home? Jews in Postwar Paris," Journal of Contemporary History 40, no. 2 (2005): 237–59; and "The Boundaries of Jewishness or when is a Cultural Practice Jewish?" Jewish Social Studies (Spr. 2009). Finally, "Archiving a Life: Post-Shoah Paradoxes of Memory Legacies" for a volume edited by Alf Lüdtke and Sebastien Jobs, submitted September 2008, is my most recent venture in this area.
My work in the field of feminist history and gender studies includes Différence des sexes et protection sociale (XIXe–XXe siecles), a coedited volume with Michelle Zancarini-Fournel (Paris: Presses Universitaires de Vincennes, 1995); "Feminist Theory and Social History: Explorations in the Politics of Identity," Radical History Review 53 (Fall 1992): 158–76; "Do Women's + Feminist + Men's + Lesbian and Gay + Queer Studies = Gender Studies?" differences 9, no. 3 (Fall 1997): 1–30; Le genre de la nation. Fall 2000 issue of Clio: Histoire, femmes et sociétés on gender, citizenship, and the nation, coedited with Michelle Zancarini-Fournel; "Women's Suffrage, Citizenship Law and National Identity: Gendering the Nation-State in France and Germany,1871–1918," in Women's Rights and Human Rights: International Historical Perspectives, ed. Patricia Grimshaw, Katie Holmes and Marilyn Lake, 138–52 (London: Macmillan, 2001); "Gender at the Intersection of the Disciplines," Cahiers Parisiens/Parisian Notebooks 2 (2006): 434–46; and an issue on "Judaïsme(s): genre et religion" for Clio: Femmes, Genre, Histoire 44 (2016), co-edited Sylvie Steinberg.
Undergraduate courses (selected)
- Problems in Gender Studies
- Europe 1930 to the present
- Colonizations Civ III
- Jewish Civ III
- Modern Jewish History
- Cultural Revolutions
Graduate courses (selected)
- Seminar: Religion, Politics and Society in Modern Europe (with John Boyer)
- Everyday Life in Modern Europe (with Sheila Fitzpatrick)
- Seminar: The Politics of Memory in France and Germany (with Michael Geyer)
- Gender in Europe (with Susan Gal)
- Seminar: Race, Racism and and Anti-Racist Movements in Modern Europe
Recent fields for general examinations
- Modern European History
- Modern French History
- Gender History and Theory
- Culture and Politics in Modern Europe
- European Social History
Titles of some recent (or current) AB and AM theses and PhD dissertations
- Islam and the Republic: A Study of the Effects of the Algerian Civil War on French Understandings of Islam
- Female Action and the Closing of the Women’s Clubs during the Reign of Terror
- War Relic: Revisiting the Leaning Virgin of Albert
- Working Class Milieus under Attack: Struggles between the Left and Right in Leipzig and Lyon, 1929–1936 (co-chair with Michael Geyer)
- The Evolution of French Abolitionism and the Memories of the French and Haitian Revolutions, 1815–1848
- The Ground Beneath their Feet: Agricultural Industrialisation and the Remapping of Rural France, 1954–1976
- Making Islam French Unsettling French Algeria: Settlement, Terror, and Violence in the French-Algerian War, 1954–1962.
- The Permanent Souvenir: Tattoos and Travel from Banks to Barnum Cultivating the Nation, Refining Empire: Wine, Sugar, and Nation-building in Guadeloupe and the Aude, 1880–1910
- The Imperialism of Un-Free Trade: Nineteenth Century British Wine-Trading Enclaves in Oporto, Madeira, and Andalusia
- Writing Black, Talking Back: Consuming, Performing, and Selling Race in Postwar France, 1945–1968
- From Children to Citizens: Republican and Catholic Primary Education in France, 1880–1914
- Fashioning the Folk: The Production and Reproduction of Alsatian Traditional Dress, 1871–1939
- The Rebirth of the Mediterranean: Migrants, Race, Nation, and Labor in the Western Mediterranean, 1914–1940
- Pale Fire: Jews in Revolutionary White Russia, 1917–1929 (cochair with Sheila Fitzpatrick)
- Selling Paris: The Real Estate Market and Commercial Culture in the Nineteenth-Century Capital
—Co-edits Objects of War with Tara Zahra, 2018
—Featured in "French Historians under the Spotlight," French History Network (blog), Apr. 2017
—Delivers Samuel and Lillian Solotkin Memorial Lecture in Jewish Studies, Indiana University, Feb. 2017
—Taste and Power: Furnishing Modern France cited "Trump, Taste, and Power," Arts & Econ (blog), 2017
—Leads Teaching from Objects workshop, Western Society for French History, 2015
—Co-organizes "People and Things on the Move" conference with Tara Zahra, Neubauer Collegium, May 2015
—Named the inaugural Arthur and Joann Rasmussen Professor in Western Civilization
—Awarded Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring