• Faculty

  • Jeremy Varon

    Professor of History

    Email
    varonj@newschool.edu

    Office Location
    80 Fifth Avenue

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    Jeremy Varon

    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

    Historical Methods & Sources

    Peace to the Poets

    Independent Study

    Ind Senior Project

    First Year Seminar

    America is Hard to Find

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