Historical Studies Publications: 2015

Faculty in Historical Studies shared thoughts about their recent work.

Orit Halpern

Orit Halpern, Assistant Professor of Historical Studies, recently published Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason since 1945 (Duke University Press, 2015), a genealogy of big data and interactivity.

Halpern shared thoughts about this book, and how she became interested in the topic:

“Whether building ‘smart’ cities, planning for global warming, or fighting wars through drones, today we believe that increasing the use of technology and computing will make us safer, produce a more sustainable and resilient world, and allow us to survive a future most often  depicted in terms of catastrophic, if not apocalyptic, events. In lieu of this sort of fetish for violent endings, it seems important to write histories that envision different futures. This book is  both a history of computing, design, and responsive environments, and (hopefully) a resource for producing new ideas for designers, social scientists, and humanities scholars about what type of technical world we wish to live in. I think the question today must be not only how will we survive? But how do we want to live? What world would we like to inhabit in the future? And how can we design technologies to make that world more just and diverse? Imagination always anticipates technology, and as scholars we can contribute to that imaginary.

I originally came from public health and international development in the late 1990’s, when the internet was all the hype. I was working in South Asia on ‘technology transfer’ projects, introducing the internet to NGO’s. I got really interested in how we were thinking about technology and progress, and particularly about the relationships between computing, power, knowledge, and political-economy. I began asking about histories of computing, and how computers are related to power (particularly militaries, empires, economies) and knowledge; and how ideas of technology and progress get naturalized through design and incorporated into daily life.”

Other publications include “Test Bed Urbanism” (Public Culture, 2013).

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Bio | Halpern is Assistant Professor of Historical Studies at the New School for Social Research. She received her PhD from Harvard University. Her research centers on histories of digital media, cybernetics, cognition and neuroscience, architecture, planning, and design. She is currently working on exhibitions, and has a number of future projects on histories of “smartness,” self­organization as a virtue and a democratic ideal, and the relationship between calculation, territory, and utopia throughout history.


Eli Zaretsky

Eli Zaretsky, Professor of Historical Studies, recently published Political Freud: A History (Columbia University Press, 2015). Zaretsky was recently interviewed about the project for the site New Books in Psychoanalysis.

Zaretsky shared his thoughts about this new work:

“I wrote Political Freud as the result of many decades of thinking about psychoanalysis. I was struck by the one-sided way in which the new left and feminist movements rejected Freud, and by the way the culture in general turned against it, for example by uncritically accepting the claims of neuroscience, cognitive psychology and psychopharmacology.

Apart from its therapeutic potential Freudian thought is indispensable to understanding political events. It has given rise to a great tradition that I call Political Freud. This is the work of critical intellectuals and social movements committed to liberating people from oppression, both external and internal. The book treats several strands in this tradition including Black Liberation  feminism, gay liberation, pacifism and movements against anti-Semitism.  

The chapter on anti-Semitism came out of my experience as a Jew while other chapters came out of my experiences in the Civil Rights movement and in the New Left. One thing I discovered is that there is an important strand of Black Freudian thought involving such figures as Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison and Frantz Fanon. I also found that one of the best analyses of ‘9/11’ is psychoanalytic, by Judith Butler.  I argue that the feminist rejection of Freudianism was connected to the neo-liberal capture of important segments of feminism, and I try to explain why Freudianism was so important to twentieth century American culture.”

Other publications include the book Why America Needs a Left: A Historical Argument (Polity Press, 2012) and Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis (Vintage, 2005).

Choose a publication below to learn more.


Bio | Zaretsky is Professor of Historical Studies at the New School for Social Research. He received his PhD from University of Maryland. His interests are in twentieth century cultural history, the theory and history of capitalism (especially its social and cultural dimensions), and the history of the family.


Other publication updates from the department:

Federico Finchelstein

Federico Finchelstein, Professor of Historical Studies, recently published El Mito del Fascismo. De Freud a Borges (Capital Intelectual, 2015).

Other publications include the book The Ideological Origins of the Dirty War (Oxford University Press, 2014), which focuses on the theory and practice of the fascist idea throughout the twentieth century, analyzing the connections between fascism and the Holocaust, antisemitism, and the military junta’s practices of torture and state violence, with its networks of concentration camps and extermination; and Transatlantic Fascism (Duke University Press, 2010) which studies the global connections between Italian and Argentine fascism.


Bio | Finchelstein is Professor and Chair of Historical Studies at the New School for Social Research. he received his PhD at Cornell University. He is the author of five books on fascism, populism, Dirty Wars, the Holocaust and Jewish history in Latin America and Europe. Professor Finchelstein has published more than fifty academic articles and reviews on Fascism, Latin American Populism, the Cold War, Genocide and Antisemitism in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian publications.


Selections of NSSR publications from 2015:

Anthropology | Economics | Historical Studies | Liberal Studies | Philosophy | Politics | Psychology | Sociology