Scholars 2010-11

Members

Gil Anidjar
Rita Chin
E. Gabriella Coleman
Kathleen Davis
Geoffroy de Clippel
Amrita Dhillon
Tanya E. Erzen
Mayanthi L. Fernando
Martin Gilens
Manu Goswami
Kimberly Hart

 

Mark Hewitson
Cécile Laborde
Tomoko Masuzawa
Stelios Michalopoulos
Mohamed Nachi
Steven T. Pierce
Rohini Somanathan
Jeffrey L. Stout
Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
Anna Sun
Judith Surkis

Visitors

Markus K. Brunnermeier
James W. Cook
Avinash K. Dixit
James Doyle (Term 2)
Henry S. Farber
Laura Secor
Chantal Thomas (Term 2)
Yang Xiao

Research Assistant

Sheena Kang

 

Members

       

Gil Anidjar
Columbia University
Religion

 

 

A Critique of Christianity

Have we ever been religious? It seems unlikely that one would want to inquire today into the “essence of Christianity,” or merely into its history, by way of an interrogation of its status as a religion. Yet what do we mean by this term, “Christianity”? What continuities does it sustain? What ruptures does it conceal? What kind of historical subject is “Christianity” in comparison to “metaphysics,” for instance, “the West” or “Europe,” and even to “Western (Judeo-Christian) Civilization”? Is Christianity merely a religion? And if so, if it was always so, what sense of the word “religion” is thereby invoked? Alternatively, if Christianity became a religion, how did “it” do so? What transformations, what translations are operative in this before and after narrative? Finally, what translations –of Christianity, of religion–and what distributions make it possible and impossible to think, or simply to recognize, Christianity? A critique of Christianity, my somehow grandiose project for IAS, is an essay in asymmetric  anthropology.

 

 

       

Rita Chin
University of Michigan
History

 

The European Left and Postwar Immigration

My project examines how leftist intellectuals, political parties, and grassroots organizations in Germany, Britain, and France have wrestled with questions of "difference" raised by the arrival of millions of migrants after 1945. It provides a history of the European Left's engagement with race and immigration and explains why some leftists have increasingly come to doubt the viability of multiethnic coexistence. Ultimately, my project traces the roots of an urgent problem confronting contemporary European society: the growing perception across the political spectrum that Muslim immigrants of diverse national origins constitute a fundamental threat to liberal democracy.

 

 

       

E. Gabriella Coleman
New York University
Anthropology

 

Coding Freedom: The Pleasures and Ethics of Hacking

While hackers—computer aficionados focused on the craft of computing—have long been known to value information freedom, Free and Open Source Software (F/OSS) hackers have only recently revamped the law to make new ethical and political claims. Notable among them is the idea that certain intellectual property instruments when applied to software infringes on their First Amendment right to engage in technical production. Through the construction of alternative licenses, hackers have not only exposed the contradictions of liberal governance but have also catalyzed a broader set of transformations in the fraught political field of IP regulation. F/OSS hacking, which sits both at the margins and center of liberalism, thus demonstrates the continued relevance of liberalism in the context of new digital formations.

 

 

       

Kathleen Davis
University of Rhode Island
Literature

 

Periodization and Sovereignty

My work on secularism began with the research for my book Periodization and Sovereignty: How Ideas of Feudalism and Secularization Govern the Politics of Time, which analyzes the theoretical underpinnings of “secularization” as well as the relation of periodization as a theory of history to political sovereignty. I suggest that the claim to separate out the “religious” and the “secular” is above all a bid for sovereignty, one that the narrative of medieval/modern periodization often obscures. My current project turns to the history of natural rights, which is likewise inflected by this narrative of periodization and the politics it serves. Predominant historiography recounts natural rights (generally considered the theoretical precursor to human rights) as having an extremely slender, linear development (beginning with Greek philosophy or Roman law, moving through Latin Christendom, and culminating in early modern struggles between colonial powers), a line of development that does not acknowledge influences from outside Christian Europe and that does not take the effects of periodization into account.  “Is Secularism Modern?” puts both “secularism” and the “modern” into question as I explore this history and its significance, particularly in relation to the role of human rights in current debates over secularism.

 

 

 

 

   

Geoffroy de Clippel
Brown University
Economics
 

 

 

Social Choice under Incomplete Information

This research project aims to better understand cooperation in situations where the participants do not share the same information. Even though informational issues have long been recognized as central in economics, their implications on cooperation are not yet well understood. The impressive body of work on mechanism design discusses what is feasible under asymmetric information. However, little is known about what specific contract, among those that are feasible, should or will be chosen collectively. The present research project will shed some light on this question by extending the axiomatic theory of social choice, and more specifically to understand the meaning of egalitarianism and its variants, under asymmetric information. The resulting selection criteria will then be applied to classical problems in economics and political science.

 
         

Amrita Dhillon
University of Warwick
Economics

 

Informal Institutions and Contract Enforcement

Institutions have become an important focus of recent research in economics. By institutions, we mean the formal and informal mechanisms by which contracts are enforced. The main question I want to study in this project is: How do markets and institutions interact? I will bring together two strands of my research on contract enforcement using repeated interactions and reputation building. The first one is a setting where firms produce a homogenous good of variable quality. Quality is unobserved at the time of purchase. Consumers can use two ways to punish firms that produce bad quality: the legal system (formal contract enforcement) and informal contract enforcement which works through consumers transmitting information to each other through a network. In this setting, I plan to extend my current work to have a more detailed model of consumers, networks and of firm´s bribing to influence the legal system and to introduce market structure in the model. This is an important contribution as judicial system reform is high on the agenda of most developing countries and my research will have some policy implications on the types and timing of judicial reforms. The second strand of my research is default incentives in sovereign (and even domestic) debt. When legal enforcement is not an option–as is the case for sovereigns–then we need to look at how well reputational incentives work and what factors they depend on. I will build on the existing work to analyze how market structure of lenders matters in the role of political institutions and how they affect reputational incentives for repayment. Again, given the large public debt to GDP ratios of many countries, my research will be very topical.

 

 

 

 

   

Tanya E. Erzen
The Ohio State University
Religion

 

Faith-Based Prisons and the Politics of Transformation

The project analyzes faith-based forms of incarceration in the United States based on fieldwork in state, federal and private prisons in Florida, Ohio, and California.  It examines how and why an increasingly punitive system of incarceration and programs of religious discipline converge in the present, and how faith-based programs reframe imprisonment as an issue of individual religious transformation.  The focus is on the religious practices, affiliations and subjectivities among incarcerated women and men, volunteers, prison officials, and correctional officers.  How do incarcerated men and women practice religion in the restrictive spaces of the prison? How do individuals articulate a theology of crime and punishment?  How do they utilize the language of values and faith?   How does state secularism promote religious practice in prison?  The project also situates the fieldwork within the history of the religious origins of the prison and the policies of the federal office of faith-based initiatives.

 

 

       

Mayanthi L. Fernando
University of California,
Santa Cruz
Anthropology

 

Reconfiguring France: Muslim Citizens in the Shadows of Secularism

Reconfiguring France, my first book manuscript, weaves together an analysis of Muslim piety and French secularity (lacité), asking what an examination of Islam in France can tell us about the nature of religion, politics, and secularity in the modern world. Drawing primarily on ethnographic fieldwork as well as on archival research and media and political discourse analysis, it analyzes how pious Muslim citizens fashion new forms of ethics and politics as they reconfigure both the Islamic and secular republican traditions. My book also explores tensions within lacité that emerge in its encounter with Islam, tensions that are deferred onto Muslims who are, as a result, put at risk as viable ethical and political subjects. Departing from dominant interpretations of the articulation between French Islam and the secular state that insist on a mutual, monolithic unintelligibility between the two, my book re-situates conflicts between Muslim citizens and secular institutions within the longer histories of both lacité and French Islam. In so doing, it treats these conflicts as symptomatic not only of an emergent form of Islam, but also of long-standing tensions integral to French secularism itself.

 
         

Martin Gilens
Princeton University
Political Science

 

A More Perfect Union: Economic Inequality, Democratic Responsiveness, and Electoral Institutions

My goal is to identify electoral institutions that can enhance democratic equality in the face of rising economic inequality. Based on statistical analysis of 22 years of survey data and public policy outcomes, my current work demonstrates the vastly disproportionate influence of the well-off over federal government policy in the U.S. In the proposed research, I will apply these same methodologies to the U.S. states to produce state-level estimates of inequality in responsiveness to the preferences of lower and higher income citizens. I will then use these estimates to assess the impact that state-level electoral institutions such as campaign finance regulations and citizen initiatives have on democratic equality.

 

 

       

Manu Goswami
New York University
History

 

Between Empire and Nation: Internationalism in Interwar India and Britain

Internationalism is commonly heralded as a central political force of the twentieth century. Yet in contrast to the vast scholarship on such comparable phenomenon as nationalism, that on internationalism is conspicuously meager. There is little consensus about its intellectual foundations, the sources of its global resonance, and its political trajectory. My project–which examines a cohort of Indian and British intellectuals and activists in the decades between the first and second world wars–suggests that internationalism is part of the global history of political modernism, that its ideological origins are distinct from its competitors such as nationalism and imperialism, and that its global appeal during the 1920s and 1930s prompts a rethinking of the interwar era as a world-wide historical conjuncture. My proposed book brings together a group of intellectuals, organizations, insurgencies, and legal trials in colonial India and Britain that have been regarded as discrete, rooted in incommensurate intellectual and political constellations, or whose significance has been overlooked. Precisely because internationalism was a trans-regional phenomenon, I adopt a comparative framework attuned to the unities among its diverse regional expressions.

 

 

       

Kimberly Hart
Buffalo State College
Anthropology

 

Rural Islam, State Power and the Efficacy of Practice

My ethnographic research is on the problematic dichotomy between secularism and Islam in Turkey, a state which has made claims to being secular. My work will demonstrate how, by combining and synthesizing practices in rural western Turkey, villagers raise questions about the relationship between secularism and state religion, contemporary transformations in orthodoxy, and relationships to the Ottoman past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Mark Hewitson
University College London
History

 

The People's Wars: German Images and Experiences of Conflict, 1806-1968

The People's Wars investigates the tension between the persistent, supposedly heroic and increasingly unlimited use of violence abroad and the expanding regulation and prohibition of violent acts and killing at home. As cabinet warfare turned into national conflict during the first half of the nineteenth century, civilians-as-soldiers were asked to kill on behalf of a German nation in which more and more of them believed, yet as citizens they were expected to live peaceful, respectable and restrained lives. In wartime, nineteenth and early twentieth-century supporters of  progress, civilisation or culture were confronted with death, immorality and the futility of existence. Technology, although distancing the killer from his victim, increased the extent, randomness, and destructiveness of killing and maiming. In Germany, because of the close relationship of war and nation-building, compounded by the fact that "successful" nineteenth-century wars were followed by unsuccessful twentieth-century ones, the effects of conflict were particularly pronounced.

 

 

       

Cécile Laborde
University College London
Political Science

 

Religion in the Republic

During my time at the Institute, I am planning to write a new book of political philosophy, about the idea of republican secularism. The book will assess the cogency of the philosophy of secularism, understood as implying a form of political agnosticism (or 'neutrality') towards conceptions of the good life. The central question that I aim to address is whether the secular state can avoid being biased against religion. In the process, I will engage with a number of contentious issues such as: What is special about religious, as opposed to other forms of belief? Do religious beliefs deserve special treatment in law, and why? Are religious arguments illegitimate in democratic public debate? Is secularism compatible with the symbolic establishment of religion by the state? What kind of citizens does the secular state require, and what kind of education should it promote? Is freedom of conscience the central value of the secular state, and what does its protection entail? And is secularism only valid for Western, pluralist countries with Judeo-Christian––or more broadly, monotheistic—traditions?

 

 

       

Tomoko Masuzawa
University of Michigan
History

 

Promise of the Secular: William Robertson Smith and the Historical Constitution of Biblical Studies

The science of religion is understood to be a secular enterprise, but what constitutes this secularity, and how was it achieved? This project explores the condition of academic secularity by examining the ramifications of an event that became a watershed: the heresy trial of a young professor of Hebrew at the University of Aberdeen, William Robertson Smith (1846-1894). Smith published controversial articles in the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1875 and was served a libel by the ecclesiastical court of the Free Church of Scotland, resulting in his dismissal from his academic post five years later. He became the editor of the 9th edition of the Encyclopaedia and was professor of Arabic at Cambridge at the time of his death. He had an enormous yet largely occluded impact in shaping the study of religion. Those most profoundly affected and enabled by his work were Emile Durkheim and Sigmund Freud. This project will reassess Smith's contribution to the study of religion and addresses these issues: (1) his understanding of the "historical" in relation to what we today call "secular"; (2) the significance of his lectures on "Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia" (1885) and what it reveals about the relation between comparative religion and comparative jurisprudence in the 19th century; and (3) the hitherto obscured impact of his work upon overtly secularist theorists of a later generation, particularly Durkheim and Freud.

 

 

       

Stelios Michalopoulos
Tufts University
Economics

 

The Economic Origins of Islam: Theory and Evidence

This research examines the economic origins of Islam. It empirically demonstrates that the Muslim world exhibits highly unequal regional agricultural endowments and argues that this particular type of geography (i) determined the economic aspects of the religious doctrine upon which Islam was formed, and (ii) shaped its subsequent economic performance. The theory argues that the unequal distribution of land endowments conferred differential gains from trade across regions, fostering predatory behavior from the poorly endowed ones. In such an environment it was mutually beneficial to institute a system of income redistribution, i.e., zakat. However, a higher propensity to save by the rich would exacerbate wealth inequality, rendering redistribution  unsustainable and leading to the demise of the Islamic unity. Consequently, wealth inequality had to remain within limits for Islam to persist. This was instituted by increasing the costs of physical capital accumulation through, for example, the prohibition of charging interest on loans, i.e., riba. Such rules rendered the investments on labor productivity, through religious endowments, increasingly attractive. As a result, capital accumulation remained low and wealth inequality bounded. This precluded the adoption of capital-intensive modes of production, causing Islam to fall behind. Geography shaped the set of economically relevant religious principles that allowed Islam to expand and flourish in the pre-industrial world, at the cost of handicapping its potential for growth in the eve of large-scale shipping trade and industrialization.

 

 

       

Mohamed Nachi
Université de Liège
Sociology

 

Islamic Theories of Justice

The aim of the project is to study conceptions of justice in Islamic thought. Nevertheless, about the question: "what is justice?"—varieties of answer are developed by many schools of thought and thinkers. We will discuss those answers on different domains and partially on theological, philosophical, political, and legal ones. One primary objective is to inquire into the writings of some leading Muslim thinkers in search of Islamic conceptions of justice. But the purpose of the work is not only historical; we will also study the contribution of the classical Islamic conceptions of justice for the modern situation in Islamic countries, looking for a secularized meaning of justice. In some way, it is a genealogical approach, following the example of Foucault, which restores the development of the conceptions of justice from the rise of Islamic thought until now.

 

 

       

Steven T. Pierce
University of Manchester
History

 

A Moral Economy of Corruption: State formation and Political Culture in Northern Nigeria

Nigeria´s notorious corruption has a long history–one that transcends simple catalogs of malpractice. This book project considers northern Nigerian discourses of obligation and reciprocity between commoners and state officials, tracing how they have changed as the Hausa-speaking emirates of northern Nigeria were incorporated into modern Nigeria. It argues this shifting mode of constituting and characterizing relationships created what has come to be termed “corruption.” This must be understood both as  a moral discourse evaluating official actions and as a set of material practices. By juxtaposing the history of the local moral economy of commoner-state relations with that of modern state formation, my book will elucidate both contemporary corruption and the violence and instability plaguing Nigeria.

 

 

       

Rohini Somanathan
University of Delhi
Economics

 

Group Inequality in Democracies: Lessons from India and the United States

Both India and the United States have had a history of sizable group inequalities, the salient social divide being race in the U.S. and caste in India. In both cases, the principal instruments of state policy have been the expansion of publicly provided goods and affirmative action programs. In spite of these broad similarities, the evolution of public policy in the two nations has been dramatically different. I would like to use a comparative perspective to better understand the source of these differences and the potential of group-based preferential treatment in addressing inequality.

 

 

       

Jeffrey L. Stout
Princeton University
Religion

 

Sacred and Secular

I intend to work on two projects, both of which bear on images or conceptions of sacred value and secular society. The first project involves completing a book on religion and film that is based on my Stone Lectures. The filmmakers to be treated include Hitchcock, Capra, von Trier, Ozu, Dorsky, Markopoulos, and Brakhage. The second project examines the idea of a "common standpoint"– the freestanding basis of reasons on which alone we are supposed to rely (according to some liberal philosophers) when deliberating on the most important public questions.

 

 

       

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
State University of New York, Buffalo
Law & Religion

 

Spiritual Governance: The New Establishment of Religion

This book will make the argument that a new phenomenology of religion is emerging in U.S. legal and governmental contexts. Not just constitutionally speaking, although there has been a real shift in judicial interpretation of the religion clauses in the last thirty years, but in all areas of American legal administration. Religion is being naturalized. Even revealed religion is understood to be natural. Our way of being modern is to be religious. American law and legal institutions—federal, state, and local—are increasingly recognizing Americans, indeed all persons, as essentially religious—or "spiritual." In myriad standards, rules, regulations, and proceedings, religion is being defined, standardized, homogenized, and made acceptable for government support. The new religious phenomenology is one of sameness rather than difference, of immanence rather than transcendence. Being religious is now understood to be part of being human, not something that sets you apart. That recognition increasingly authorizes responses across the domains of legal regulation.

 

 

       

Anna Sun
Kenyon College
Sociology

 

Beyond the Secular and the Religious: The Revival of Confucianism in Contemporary China

In this project, I argue for three related theses regarding the changing boundaries between the secular and the religious by using Confucianism as a case study. First, I emphasize that the definition of Confucianism as a world religion is historically produced. Second, I argue that the unreflexive use of the categories of the secular and the religious has hindered social scientists’ study of religious practices in non-monotheistic societies, such as Confucian practices in China. Third, I suggest that a new understanding of the distinctions between the secular and the religious, based on a more historically grounded and more culturally specific analysis, will expand our interpretive horizon, helping us do justice to the richness and vitality of the social reality of religion, such as the current revival of Confucianism in China. I draw on my ethnographic research in China as well as recent survey data about Chinese religious life to argue that we need to reconsider the very definition of the "religious" and "secular" in order to understand the changing nature of religious life in the contemporary world.

 
   

 

   

Judith Surkis
Institute for Advanced Study
History

 

Scandalous Subjects: Intimacy and Indecency in France and French Algeria, 1830-1930

In French Algeria, colonial jurists liked to argue that the French had maintained Islam–and hence Muslim law–since the conquest in 1830. French legislators and jurists nonetheless profoundly transformed local law, even as they claimed to preserve it. My project explores how ideas of religious and sexual difference underwrote this plural and hierarchical system. In the second half of the 19th century, cases of Muslim familial conflict appeared before French courts of appeal. By isolating "indecent" facets of Islamic and customary law for their rhetorical and juridical attentions, jurists and settlers, as well as politicians and publicists, increasingly articulated indigenous legal and religious difference as a kind of sexual difference. This unexplored archive offers a new view of the historical entanglement of French and "Muslim" law. In restoring this history to view, my project re-frames contemporary controversies over sexual and religious pluralism in France today.

 
         

Visitors
 

 

     

Markus K. Brunnermeier
Princeton University
Economics

 

Macroeconomics with a Financial Sector

Markus Brunnermeier's economic research focuses on financial crisis, bubbles and significant mispricings due to institutional frictions, strategic considerations, and behavioral trading. During his visit at the Institute for Advanced Study, he will study the impact of financial frictions on the macroeconomy.

 

 

 

       

James W. Cook
University of Michigan
History

 

The Lost Black Generation: African-American Performers and the Making of Global Mass Culture

I am completing a book on African-American performers and the making of global mass culture. At the center of the story is a major surprise: many decades before the Harlem Renaissance, African-American performers became major stars across much of the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.

 
         

Avinash K. Dixit
Princeton University
Economics

 

Governance Institutions, International Trade, and Foreign Direct Investment

I construct game-theoretic models of the design and functioning of institutions that govern economic activity, especially international trade and investment, economic growth and development. My immediate project examines purposive formation of pro-social preferences, asking how far this can resolve dilemmas of collective action including social insurance and climate change.

 
         

James Doyle (Term 2)
University of Bristol
Philosophy

 

Plato's Gorgias

Professor Doyle will be working on a book on Plato's Gorgias.  This will give an analysis of the main arguments of the dialogue, and an account of the use to which Plato puts the dialogue form, as leveling an implicit critique of Socrates' conception of philo-sophical method and his associated doctrine of "intellectualism."

 

 

       

Henry S. Farber
Princeton University
Economics
 

 

 

 

 

Employment, Unemployment and Careers: Long-Term Effects of the Recession

Farber is working on several projects:
1) declining job security and the recession on the shape of careers and the advancement of workers, 2) the effect of liquidity constraints on labor supply with application to New York City taxi drivers, and 3) appeals of U.S. Federal District Court cases to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

 

 

 

 

   

Laura Secor
Journalist

 

Laura Secor is an independent journalist who writes on the intersection of intellectual life and politics. She is currently working on a book about Iran, a country she has covered for The New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine, among other publications. The book will trace the intellectual history of Iran's democracy movement, from revolution to Islamic reform and beyond them both, through the lives of some of its protagonists.

 

 
         

Chantal Thomas (Term 2)
Cornell Law School
Law

 

Law and Economic Development: A Critical Intellectual History

Professor Thomas will be completing a book manuscript tracing the rise of core concepts in the economic development policy of legal reform. In her view, that story begins with the emergence of particular approaches to the sociology of law most closely associated with the work of Max Weber. The field of "law and development" arises over the course of the twentieth century through, among other things, the reception of Weberianism into Anglo-American thought; Cold War-era geopolitics and the birth of foreign aid as an area of governance; and the subsequent rise of neoclassicism in theoretical approaches to law and economics as well as political movements shaping government policy. Thomas's goal is to track both shifts and continuities in the idea that economic development can be engineered through "rational" legality, as well as to explicate connections between theory and practice that have shaped the field. The project concludes with an assessment of forward directions for research and policy.

 

 

       

Yang Xiao
Kenyon College
Philosophy

 

The Art of Observing Water: Confucian Virtue Politics and Its Discontents

My project deals with one of the most important debates in Chinese political philosophy, namely the debate between Confucian virtue politics and Legalist philosophy. This project engages several recent innovative approaches in the study of Chinese philosophy, including virtue ethics, comparative political philosophy, and moral psychology. I focus on the origin of the debate in early China between the first Confucians (Confucius and Mencius) and their Legalist critics (Shen Dao and Han Fei), and I also discuss its implications in the current debates regarding the so-called "political Confucianism" in contemporary China.

 
         

 Research Assistant

       

Sheena Kang
University of Chicago
Political Theory

 

Sheena Kang is interested in the relationship between language and politics, especially the role of official apologies in addressing historic injustice. She will explore themes such as recognition, responsibility and political forgiveness in looking at states' willingness or reluctance to apologize.