I am a historian at Harvard University, where I write about modern nationalism and the global environment. My work examines how human communities think and act on planetary scales in the age of the nation state, especially regarding science, religion, militarism, and the far right. I approach these topics using multilingual and multi-archival perspectives. While much of my scholarship is on modern Europe and North America, with a particular interest in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Germany, I conceive of these places broadly and seek to contextualize them in worldwide frames and the history of the longue durée. My methodology entails following innovative questions across geographical borders and disciplinary boundaries, a practice that has taken me to more than one hundred archives and special collections libraries in twenty countries.
My current book project, “The Year of the Earth (1957-1958): Cold War Science and the Making of Planetary Consciousness,” offers the first global history of the International Geophysical Year, an intensive period of worldwide scientific collaboration in which tens of thousands of scientists working across every continent and ocean collected data to study planet Earth as a dynamic environmental system. This book manuscript draws on sources in a dozen languages collected from archives on six continents. Situating the rise of environmental research in the context of Cold War superpower hegemony and postcolonial globalization, my project shows how Earth science has counterintuitively spurred social inequality and ecological collapse since the end of the Second World War while at the same time helping to construct notions of our planet as a peaceful and universalist space. I published an article about these themes with the Journal of Global History in 2020.
My first book, Chosen Nation: Mennonites and Germany in a Global Era, appeared with Princeton University Press in 2017. This book tells the surprising story of a predominantly rural and historically pacifist religious community that developed a broad fascist constituency across three continents in concert with rising transnational sensibilities. Chosen Nation offers a multifaceted perspective on nationalism’s emergence across Europe and the world, and it is the first book to place Christianity and diaspora at the heart of nationality studies. Drawing on sources from Poland to Paraguay, this project inspired my passion for multi-continental archival research, and it prompted me to turn the tools of global and transnational history to the study of environmental science and planetary thought. I remain invested in the themes explored in Chosen Nation, having published over a dozen related journal articles and book chapters. My two latest contributions are forthcoming with German Studies Review and Antisemitism Studies.
Numerous institutions have supported my research, including the Fulbright Commission, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Beinecke Scholarship Program. I have held fellowships at the European University Institute, Freie Universität Berlin, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and the University of Sydney. My teaching and writing have received awards from the Kansas Historical Foundation, the Associated Church Press, the Canadian Church Press, Swarthmore College, and Harvard University.
Chosen Nation: Mennonites and Germany in a Global Era (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017). Paperback 2019.
*Shortlisted for the 2018 European Studies Book Award, Council for European Studies
Reviews and endorsements here.
“A Benchmark for the Environment: Big Science and ‘Artificial’ Geophysics in the Global 1950s,” Journal of Global History 15, no. 1 (2020): 149-168.
“Terms of Racial Endearment: Nazi Categorization of Mennonites in Ideology and Practice, 1929-1945,” German Studies Review 44, no. 1 (2021): forthcoming.
“‘As the Jews’: Mennonites, Holocaust Denial, and the Appropriation of Jewish Suffering,” Antisemitism Studies, forthcoming.
For a full publication list, see here.