I am a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University in History and teach in the Social Studies concentration. I am also a recipient of the Bowdoin Prize for Graduate Essay in the English Language, the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics Graduate Fellowship, and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the Institute for Citizens & Scholars (formerly the Woodrow Wilson Foundation). My work has appeared or is forthcoming in the American Historical Review, Modern Intellectual History, New German Critique, Boston Review, and Public Books.

I study the history of modern Europe and European imperialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with particular interests in social, intellectual, and political history, the history of sovereignty and the modern state, and the ways in which global intellectual exchanges have shaped canonical European texts.

My dissertation, Colonial Reformation: Religion, Empire, and the Origins of Modern Social Thought, explores the way key figures in the history of the social sciences—Émile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss, and Claude Lévi-Strauss—drew on colonial, ethnographic material in formulating their ideas about the social world. My research uncovered an unexpected source for much of this material: Protestant overseas missionaries. Indeed, the nineteenth century witnessed the unprecedented expansion of Protestantism around the globe as evangelists set out to convert indigenous people to the Christian faith. Conversion was not, however, a one-way process. My dissertation draws extensively on published and archival material from research that I carried out in Paris, London, Cambridge, Oxford, Melbourne, Canberra, 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 scholars in Europe. Weaving together the histories of colonialism, religion, anthropology, and sociology, I argue that this profound and widespread challenge to Christian concepts furnished canonical social scientists with a new language with which to describe and imagine the social realm.


Before starting my Ph.D. I worked at Udemy, an education technology startup based in San Francisco.

In June 2013 I graduated from the University of Cambridge with an M.Phil. in European Literature and Culture.

In May 2012 I graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Computer Science and Literary Arts.

  • Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles
  • "Translating God on the Borders of Sovereignty," forthcoming in the American Historical Review.
  • "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]
  • Other Writing
  • "Desire Can Pierce Politics," Interview with Amia Srinivasan on The Right to Sex, Public Books, September 22, 2021. [LINK]
  • "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