A transnational historian of modern Europe, I use the archives and the classroom to question fundamental dichotomies—center/periphery, universal/national, developed backward, local/global—and reveal how relations between these categories are not as straightforward as they appear. Focused primarily on Southeastern Europe and France, my research and teaching broadly engage with the historical literature as well as the work of political scientists, scholars of science and technology studies, and specialists in international relations.
Currently, I am working on a manuscript, Influence, Development, Liberalism: French Soft Power in Early Nineteenth-Century Eastern Europe and the World (working title).
Based on archival work in Greece, Romania, and France, this study makes three interconnected interventions in the historiography. First, it reassesses the center-periphery model in international history, arguing that without a periphery there can be no center. Next, it takes apart the notion of French “influence” and investigates the historically specific efforts of French individuals and organizations to engage allies and shape institutions and policies abroad. Finally, the manuscript reexamines assumptions about the inevitable rise of nationalism in peripheral regions, namely in the lands that make up present-day Greece and Romania.
I became interested in the relationship between West and East Europe as an undergraduate exchange student in France. My first extended stay in Paris coincided with the EU’s initial expansion into Eastern Europe. This moment of Euro-optimism stimulated me to think deeply about what it meant to be a European at the beginning of the twenty-first century and in the past. It also incidentally incited a reevaluation of my own family’s history and cultural sensibilities—having fled Ceauşescu’s regime, my father and grandparents pushed me to learn an ”important” language like French, rather than teaching me Romanian at home. Without realizing it at the time, I started down a path that would culminate in a dissertation on the sort of French “influence” that had brought me to Paris in the first place.
As an instructor, I invite students to bring their own experiences—personal, political, and intellectual—into the classroom. I help them think critically about the assumptions they make and how so many notions accepted as “natural” (East and West Europe, for example), are really “naturalized” concepts. I push them to explore the intellectual, political, and personal consequences of taking such broad categories at face value and encourage them to investigate alterative ways of understanding history and the world.