The Year of the Earth
My current book project, The Year of the Earth (1957-1958): Science, Global Cold War, and the Making of Planetary Consciousness, explains how environmental science helped to concentrate wealth and power in the Global North following the retraction of European empires. I show how the invention of Earth as an imagined set of physical systems was essential for new forms of empire and tactics of wealth accumulation. To tell this story, I focus on the 1957-1958 International Geophysical Year (IGY), the first global study of our planet as a unified environment. The IGY involved tens of thousands of scientists and citizen volunteers from most countries. Its organizers (a remarkable team of rivals representing both sides of the Iron Curtain) publicly depicted their program as vital for global economic development. But acquiring comprehensive environmental data—including data related to “extreme” regions like the upper atmosphere, deep ocean, north and south poles, and outer space—allowed the Cold War superpowers and their allies to exercise global military and commercial force while claiming to support decolonization across the Global South.

Planetary thinking emerged in the context of the International Geophysical Year as an alternative to more restricted channels grounded in ideological affinity, military alliance, or national community. Uncovering the origins and valences of this imagined Earth will be a prerequisite to addressing the intertwined environmental and political challenges of our time. I published an article about these themes with the Journal of Global History in 2020.

Read more about The Year of the Earth here.

Chosen Nation

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. In 2018, Chosen Nation was shortlisted for the European Studies Book Award, conferred by the Council for European Studies. My scholarship has informed a broad effort within the Mennonite denomination to reckon with its troubled history of church involvement with Nazism and the Holocaust. Since 2015, an academic conference series on these topics has been held in Canada, Germany, Paraguay, and the United States.

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 have published articles related to this project in German Studies Review and Antisemitism Studies.

Reviews and endorsements for Chosen Nation are available here.