Ballantine Hall, Rm. 714
I am a cultural historian of Western Europe in the transition from the pre-modern to the modern, focusing especially on Britain. Much of my work tries to understand what the terms in the previous sentence actually mean. What are the meaning and characteristics of modernity? How distant are we from our "pre-modern" or "early-modern" ancestors? My previous work took apart and then put together again some key narratives that the modern west tells about itself—first, the rise of class society and especially the middle class; and second, the emergence of the modern individual or modern self. In both cases I asked where do these narratives come from and what in fact were the historical developments that stood behind them (which were not at all those they claimed to represent). My main topics of interest therefore have been the meanings of identity and self—including categories of identity like gender, race and class; and their intersection with social, cultural and political trends. In recent years I have been drawn especially to the eighteenth century, when so many of those trends began. This interest is reflected in my role as the director of the Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies at Indiana University. My current work, a book I am co-writing with Professor Jonathan Sheehan of the University of Michigan, is about what differentiated the eighteenth century from the early modern period, a question that we want to answer through a close look at the changing role of god in the world as the source of order and harmony. In addition I have a separate interest in the history of Palestine and especially Jerusalem since the eighteenth century, and of photography in the Middle East.
The Making of the Modern Self. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.
The Age of Cultural Revolutions: Britain and France, 1750-1820, edited with Colin Jones. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 2002.
Imagining the Middle Class: The Political Representation of Class in Britain, c. 1780-1840. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Capturing the Holy Land: Mendel John Diness and the Origins of Photography in Jerusalem Cambridge, MA: Harvard Semitic Museum, 1993.
Community and City: The History of the Bukharian Quarter in Jerusalem, Jerusalem Publications of the Izhak Ben Zvi Institute, 1991 (Hebrew).