A transnational historian of modern Europe, I am an assistant professor in the department of history and the program in international studies at the university of Montréal. I trained in the United States and France and earned my PhD from Indiana University.
As a researcher, 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 in a global context, 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.
Recently, I completed a manuscript, Unintended Nations: How French Liberals’ Empire of Civilization Remade Southeast Europe and the Post-Napoleonic World. Based on archival work in Greece, Romania, and France, Unintended Nations explores a specific concept of civilization and the constellation of ideas, beliefs, and practices it invoked—or what I refer to as civilization-speak—in the early- and mid-nineteenth century. This was not the universalist civilization that appeared in the works of enlightenment-era writers like Nicholas de Condorcet, nor was it the mission civilisatrice that French figures deployed later in the nineteenth century to justify their colonial adventures. Instead, civilization-speak was an intermediate step between the two. Civilization-speak furnished French liberals in the post-Napoleonic era with a discursive frame for the exercise of soft power during a period of military and diplomatic weakness.
Unintended Nations focuses on notables in France and the lands that make up significant parts of present-day Greece and Romania (important centers of Hellenophone cultural, political, and economic life at the time). In it, I show how and why, after Napoleon’s defeat, Paris-based liberals formed partnerships with Orthodox elites in Southeast Europe. They used civilization-speak to describe and promote these relationships, which aimed to produce informal economic and cultural colonies in the Balkans. I explore the implications of these interactions in regional and domestic politics on both sides of the continent. In the French context, I reveal the central place of these exchanges and civilization-speak in the development of liberalism and of a liberal reform agenda. I likewise demonstrate how these contacts provided a framework for the articulation of nascent national identities in the Greek and the Romanian lands. Situating this history in a global context, I link these entanglements to Franco-British economic competition in the Americas and discuss how they helped crystalize the cultural, political, and biopolitical borders of Europe and the West.
Unintended Nations rethinks the center-periphery model in international history, examines links between liberalism and informal empire, and question the inevitable rise of nationalism in peripheral, or so-called “backward,” regions such as Southeast Europe.
Currently, I have begun working on a second book-length study. This project investigates French Saint-Simonians’ involvement in Greece and Mexico between 1820-1870. The Saint-Simonians, remembered today as utopians and technocratic dreamers, were the first to theorize about using machines to collapse distances between people, prefiguring the deliberate “development” of the Third World in the twentieth century. Examining their work in Mexico and Greece, where they used technology transfer and money lending as means of diplomacy and “soft” colonialism, my study highlights the Saint-Simonians’ integral role in the creation of the global economy. It also considers the limits of informal empire—analyzing why loan default led to debt forgiveness and additional investment in Greece, whereas in Mexico it helped trigger an invasion orchestrated by France and its European allies. This endeavor has received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Additionally, I am part of a collaborative research team based at the New Europe College/Institute for Advanced Study in Bucharest. As a group we aim to understand how West European ideas of (political and economic) corruption entered the Central-South-East European space during the age of revolutions. In connection with this line of research, I recently completed a chapter for a collective tome: “A Corrupt Governor? Kapodistrias’s Assassination in the Francophone Press,” currently under review at Oxford University Press. Our group recently received a five-year grant from the European Research Council.
Finally, I have begun working on a project that will explore the surprising place of Southeast Europe and unexpected role that Southeast European actors played in the development of global hierarchies based on race, religion, and nationality in the nineteenth-century. Exploratory research for this study has already benefited from a small grant from the University of Montréal.
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, in both my history and international studies courses, 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.