I am a doctoral candidate in Harvard’s History Department with a twofold focus on industrial understandings of international economic space and the intersection of capitalism with design, especially in the United States and Germany. The former has led me to conduct research on topics ranging from the circulation and uses of nineteenth-century German economist Friedrich List’s National System of Political Economy by interest groups in the United States and British empire to the role of engineers and accountants in fostering a complex of dependency relations within German railroad-building projects in late Qing and Republican China. The latter has led me to investigate the politics of engineering and technocracy in Weimar and Nazi Germany as well as among Weimar émigrés (architects, engineers, and urban planners) who contributed to the New Deal, war-planning, and Cold War dipomacy in the United States.
My dissertation, "Drawing Capital: Depiction, Machine Tools and the Political Economy of Industrial Knowledge, 1824-1914," analyzes class formation and shifts in the international technology trade via the practice of mechanical drawing in the capital goods sectors of Britain, France, the United States, and Germany during the long nineteenth century. "Drawing Capital" connects the histories of the knowledge economy and intellectual property to processes of class formation and international trade to explain the increasing global mobility of machines. Focused on the historical reformatting and legal regulation of mechanical knowledge, my work on drafting and design practices uncovers how experience became image or scientific artifact, and how images and data become commodities—freely circulating or enclosed in monopolies. Using the archives of individual engineers, technological print culture, and firms that constructed machinery, metalworking tools, and metrological devices such as Cockerill, Gutehoffnungshütte, Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg, Borsig, Mannesmann, J.E. Reinecker & Co., Ludwig Loewe & Co., William Sellers & Co., Baldwin Locomotive Works, Pratt & Whitney, and Brown & Sharpe, I tell the story of how firms and nation-states transitioned from attempting to monopolize technologies to allowing their export to actively organizing cartels to pursue the mechanization of transport, extractive, and industrial enterprises globally by World War I. I argue that this shift depended on not merely the growth of the capital goods sector but on epistemic transformations within engineering practice.
Landscapes in Suspension
My next major project, “Landscapes in Suspension: Infrastructure in the Engineering of International Development and Debt,” will interpret the relationship between large-scale civil engineering projects and debt regimes from the 1870s to the 1950s to unearth the roots of international financial architectures. Financial missionaries and “money doctors” often accompanied infrastructure projects, seeking to bring countries and colonies from Mexico, Panama, and Nicaragua to the Philippines and China onto the gold or gold-exchange standard. European, Japanese, and American railroading powers converged in late Qing and Republican China. They transitioned from seeking to establish commercial spheres of influence to a form of cooperative financial imperialism in the Chinese Consortium Loans, which entailed significant fiscal and financial reforms to be pursued under the auspices of European experts. Banking and export cartels connected to capital goods industries articulated plans for reshaping economic regions, developing production and purchasing power. Diplomats and commercial advisors theorized increasing China’s state centralization via railroads. Dutch colonial banker Gerard Vissering oversaw the Chinese Consortium Loans, which would have undermined Republican China’s sovereignty while bolstering its fiscal state to pay infrastructure debts. The Chinese Consortium Loans would be stymied by the outbreak of the First World War; however, following the First World War, Vissering corresponded with John Maynard Keynes, proposed the Consortium Loans as a model for a “world bank” to financially reconstruct Germany, and took up a prominent position at the International Bank of Settlements. The Consortium Loans would serve as a model in discussions of central banking as “free from politics.” This project will trace how the material construction of infrastructure formed ideas of economic space, developmental time, and social governance.
I grew up in Arizona and completed my undergraduate work at the University of Chicago in 2012, receiving degrees in History and International Studies.