The New School for Social Research

Faculty A-Z

  • Jeremy Varon

    Professor of History

    Office Location:

    80 Fifth Avenue

    Profile:

    I am a Professor of History at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College. My main research and teaching areas are post-1945 US history, the global 1960s, the Holocaust, social movements, political violence, and human rights in the “War on Terror.”

    My first book is Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies (2004). It is a pioneering work of global history that engages the parallel trajectories of “armed struggle” groups in the United States and West Germany. My second book is The New Life: The Jewish Students of Postwar Germany (2014). It examines the efforts of Holocaust survivors, when refugees in postwar Germany, to pursue advanced degrees in German universities. The book is a unique look into the fractious, postwar world and the means by which survivors gained again a sense of power, purpose, and a positive vision of the future.

    My journey into academia began at Cornell University, where I earned a PhD in history under the direction of Dominick LaCapra — a towering figure across the humanities. Trained in great varieties of critical theory, I brought these to bear in my examination of left-wing radicalism. My key concerns were the political, ethical and existential appeal of violence; how past collective traumas shaped political behavior; and the need for normative limits to constrain the actions of the state and dissidents alike.

    While doing research for the project, I developed my passion for oral history. Interviewing historical subjects is an unsurpassable way to engage the intimacy of lived experience. I have conducted close to 100 oral histories, and I relish teaching oral history to my students.

    Working on my first book, I ran across many other young scholars fascinated by the 1960s. To give our work a platform of its own, I co-founded in 2008 the interdisciplinary publication The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture. I continue to co-edit the journal, which publishes exciting work on the global 1960s.

    My work on the postwar experience of Holocaust survivors is a bracing inquiry into processes of dehumanization and an account of the process — often neglected in Holocaust studies — by which survivors can both reclaim the past and claim new lives. For it I did oral histories in the United States, Germany, and Israel.

    I remain very active in international communities studying the global 1960s. I also remain fascinated by the origins, evolution, and success and failure of social movements. I recently co-edited a book on opposition to both nuclear weapons and nuclear power in the 1980s. My current book project is a study of domestic opposition to America’s post-9-11 wars. For it I am conducting oral histories, scouring the archives on anti-war organizations, and reflecting on my own opposition to the wars.

    My scholarship reflects my activism, and vice versa. I am a longstanding veteran of social justice struggles. Starting in the 1980s, these include: divestment from apartheid South Africa; opposition to CIA campus recruitment; HIV/AIDs activism; the movement for global economic justice; and opposition to the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars. Since 2005, I have been a leading member of Witness Against Torture – a grassroots, direction action group seeking to close Guantanamo prison and end US torture. My work with the group is a subject of an oral history conducted by Columbia University for its “Guantanamo Bay Oral History Project.”

    Beyond my academic work, I have written essays for Public Seminar, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Waging Nonviolence. They range from reflections on the violence of the New Left; to the fate of “war on terror” prisoners; to the engagement of torture by the arts world; to the treatment of the 1960s in pop culture such as the TV show Mad Men; to the life and legacy of iconic American radicals.

    The New School is a perfect home for me, in its combination of critical inquiry, political engagement, and the idealism of the young and old alike.

    Degrees Held:

    Ph.D. in History, Cornell University, 1998
    M.A. in History, Cornell University, 1995
    B.A. in History, Brown University, 1989

    Recent Publications:

    Books

     

    Edited Volumes

    Journals – Editor

     

    Select Articles and Book Chapters

    • "History Gets in Your Eyes: Mad Men, Misrecognition, and the Masculine Mystique" in Mad World: Sex, Politics, Style and the 1960s. Eds. Lauren M. E. Goodlad, Lilya Kaganovsky, Robert A. Rushing, Duke UP, 2013
       
    • "A History of Violence and the Myth of American Exceptionalism." Journal Of American History 98, no. 1, 2011
       
    • "After the Fall: Politics, Representation, and the Permanence of Empire in the Cinema of Peter Whitehead, FRAMEWORK, 52/1+2, 2010
       
    • “Refusing to be ‘Good Germans’: New Left Violence as a Global Phenomenon” in German Historical Institute Bulletin, Nr. 43, Fall 2008
       
    • “Time is an Ocean: The Past and Future of The Sixties” in The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture, Summer 2008, volume 1, issue 1
       
    • “Stammheim Forever and the Ghosts of Guantanamo: Cultural Memory and the Politics of Incarceration,” in History and Cultural Memory of German Left-Wing Terrorism, 1968-1998, eds. Gerrit-Jan Berendse and Ingo Cornils, Rodopi, 2008
       
    • “Crazy for the Red, White, and Blue, and Yellow: The Use of the NLF Flag in the U.S. Anti-Vietnam War Movement" in Peace Movements in Western Europe, Japan and the USA since 1945, ed. Benjamin Ziemann, Klartext Verlag, 2007
       
    • "Killing the Field of Dreams: George W. Bush, Empire, and the Politics of Misrecognition," solicited for Fast Capitalism, 1.2, online journal at http://www.fastcapitalism.com/1_2/varon.html, October 2005
       
    • “It Was the Spectacle, Stupid: The Clinton-Lewinsky-Starr Affair and the Politics of the Gaze" in Public Affairs: Politics in the Age of Sex Scandals, eds. Paul Apostilidis and Juliet Williams, Duke University Press, 2004
       
    • “Between Revolution 9 and Thesis 11: Or, Will We Start Worrying (Again) and Change the World?” in The New Left Revisited, eds. Paul Buhle and John McMillian, Temple University Press, 2003
       
    • “Probing the Limits of the Politics of Representation.” New German Critique, No. 72, Fall 1997
       
    • “‘The Dreadful Concatenation’: Modernity and Massacre in Adorno, Horkheimer and Todorov.” New German Critique, No. 59, Spring/Summer 1993
       

    Performances and Appearances:

    Academic and Public Presentations

    • Closing Plenary Panelist at "Revisiting 1968 and the Global Sixties," Abu Dhabi, September 2016; Shanghai, China March 2016
    • “Surviving Survival: Jewish Displaced Persons after the Holocaust," Sarah Lawrence College, Spring 2016
    • “Creative Tensions,” organized by Sundance/IDEO, New York City, November 2014
    • “Much Ado About Who Knows What?  The Ecstasy and Agony of Occupy” at Critical Inequalities, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, May 2014
    • “Authenticity, Identity, Performance: The Self in the 1960s,” keynote address at the Graduate Student History Association Annual Conference, Brown University, April 2014
    • “The Sixties in the United States and Germany” at “1968 in Japan, Deutschland, und der USA,” JDZB, Berlin, March 2009.
    • “Who is Still Afraid of the Sixties?” Inaugural Dean’s Lecture, University of Illinois at Chicago, October 2008
    • “The Future of The Sixties” at “Global 1968,” Colgate University, April 2008
    • “Internationalizing the German Sixties” at “Germany’s 1968: A Cultural Revolution?” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, April 2008.
    • “Refusing to be ‘Good Germans’: New Left Violence as a Global Phenomenon,” German Historical Institute, November 2007
    • “Psychedelic Superman or Tarnished Galahad: Ken Kesey, the 1960s, and the Poetics of Memory” at “New World Rising: The 1960s in International Perspective,” Queen’s University, Canada, June 2007
    • “What is Terrorism?” at “Deconstructing Terrorism,” Kraft Foundation Symposium, Columbia University, November 2006
    • “Studying with the Enemy: The Jewish Students of Postwar Germany,” Duke University, November 2006
    • "The Red Army Faction,” seminar on German Terrorism and Film, Duke University, November 2006
    • Closing Plenary, “Radical Politics and the Ethics of Life,” Columbia University, August 2006
    • "The Past on Walls? Walls to the Past? The Red Army Faction in Pictures and Words" at the Modern Language Association Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., December 2005
    • “What's in a Flag? The Iconography of the Anti-Vietnam War Movement" at Peace Movements since 1945 in Comparative Perspective: Symbolism, Patterns, Mobilization, Political Culture, Ruhr-Universität, Bochum, Germany, October 2005
    • "'The Courage of Intolerance': The Red Army Faction, the German State, and the Law" at Cultural Memory of Left-Wing German Terrorism, Cardiff School of European Studies, September 2005
    • “Group Dynamics in Radical Political Formations,” Herd Instinct 360, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York City, July 2005
    • "Germany and Political Violence" at National Responses to Terrorism: Cross Country Comparisons, Russell Sage Foundation, New York City, June 2005
    • "The Munich Years: The Jewish Students of Postwar Germany" at Der jüdische Geschichte im Nachkriegsmünchen, Munich, June 2005
    • "Bringing the War Home: New Left Violence in the 1960s," John Jay College Center on Terrorism, CUNY, March 2005
    • "The Radical Absurd: The Weather Underground in New York" at The New Left Revisited in New York, The Gotham Center - CUNY, February 2005

    Current Courses:

    Historical Methods & Sources

    Independent Study (Open Campus)

    Historical Methods & Sources

    Peace to the Poets

    Terrorism/War on Terror

    Independent Study (Open Campus)

    Ind Senior Project (Open Campus)

    America is Hard to Find

×