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. My work aims, first, to recover ideas and influences that nationalist framings have obscured; and, second, to explore the legacy of those ideas in relation to contemporary structural inequalities.
My dissertation "Secularism beyond the State: Religion, Empire, and Modern Social Thought" is a study of European social theory in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the early twentieth century the emergent social sciences--anthropology, sociology, and psychology--fundamentally redefined central questions regarding the nature of power, social solidarity, and the relation between the individual and society. My dissertation traces the origins of this transformation and uncovers its unlikely source: the nineteenth-century evangelical movement. In this period, British missionaries worked on an unprecedented scale to convert the empire's native subjects. But conversion was not a one-way process. Rather, drawing on a wealth of published and archival material from research that I carried out in Cambridge, Canberra, London, Melbourne, Oxford, Paris, and Sydney, I show how the task of translating their religion into local vernacular 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, and in letters missionaries exchanged with social scientists in Britain and on the continent. Ultimately, I argue that the profound and widespread challenge to Christianity posed by indigenous religions helped to inspire a generation of European scholars to rethink their understanding of secular social life.
More broadly, my research interests and publications span topics in the history of nineteenth-century Britain, British and French imperial 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.
- "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]
- "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]
kliger at g dot harvard dot eduLinks