I am a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University in the Department of History, a graduate fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics for the 2019-2020 academic year, and a graduate affiliate of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies.
I study the intellectual history of European empires from the early modern period to decolonization, with a particular focus on the British and French empires in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. My work aims, first, to explore ideas that nationalist framings have obscured; and, second, to reflect on the legacy of those ideas in relation to contemporary structural inequalities.
The nineteenth century witnessed the unprecedented expansion of Christianity, as Protestant missionaries, bolstered by the wealth of expanding colonial and settler colonial empires, set out to convert indigenous people. Conversion was not, however, a one-way process. My dissertation draws extensively on published and archival material from research that I carried out in Cambridge, Canberra, London, Melbourne, Oxford, Paris, and Sydney, to show how indigenous knowledge confronted missionaries with a range of ideas that they could not accommodate within a Christian conceptual framework. I then show how these ideas circulated in vernacular biblical translations, ethnographies, through museum artifacts, and in letters missionaries exchanged with social scientists in Europe. Weaving together the histories of colonialism, religion, anthropology, sociology, and philosophy, my dissertation argues that this profound and widespread challenge to Christianity led early twentieth-century European scholars, including Emile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss, and Claude Lévi-Strauss, to rethink their understanding of social life.
More broadly, my research interests and publications span topics in modern French and British history, anti-colonial and postcolonial thought, liberalism and secularism, and the history of anthropology and the social sciences.Recently
In 2013-2014 I worked at Udemy, an education technology startup based in San Francisco.
- "Humanism and the Ends of Empire, 1945-1960," Modern Intellectual History, 2018 15(3): 773-780. [LINK]
- "Art and Emancipation: Habermas' Die Moderne—ein unvollendetes Projekt Reconsidered," New German Critique, 2015 42 (1 124): 203-221. [PDF]
- "The Infinite Task: Being-in-Common in Robert Antelme's L'Espèce humaine," Forum for Modern Language Studies, 2015 51 (1): 27-39. [PDF]
- "The Pain Just Stays in Your Head," Review of Laurence Ralph's Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence, Boston Review, June 9, 2020. [LINK]
- "The Critical Bite of Cultural Relativism," Review of Charles King's Gods of the Upper Air, Boston Review, October 10, 2019. [LINK]
- "A Hidden Order of Reality," Review of Emmanuelle Loyer's Lévi-Strauss: A Biography, Boston Review, April 17, 2019. [LINK]
kliger at g dot harvard dot edu