Lauren Berlant English -- On leave until Spring Quarter

Professor Berlant’s work has focused on politics, emotion, and intimacy in the U.S. nineteenth and twentieth centuries—now the twenty-first: in particular, in relation to citizenship, to informal and normative modes of social belonging, and to affective attachments and fantasies that take shape through ordinary practices. These scenes zone and disturb the relations between public and private, white and non-white, straight and non-straight, and/or citizen and foreigner—along with providing settings for other, inventive kinds of social bond through which people imagine and practice world-making.

She is interested in how institutions and people orchestrate the overcloseness of the world, the fundamental non-sovereignty of people in relation to each other and of states in their interdependence. This involves pursuing how people and populations absorb the blows of power and the discriminations of privilege while preserving critical and optimistic attachments to the political and/or to what’s intimate and magnetizing in the ordinary. To this end, Professor Berlant developed a national sentimentality trilogy—in order of their historical address, The Anatomy of National Fantasy (1991); The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (2009); and The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship (1997). She has also followed out this interest in attachments and affects in the edited volumes Intimacy (2000); Our Monica, Ourselves: Clinton and the Affairs of State (with Lisa Duggan; 2001); Venus Inferred(with Laura Letinsky; 2000);Compassion: the Culture and Politics of an Emotion (2004), and Desire/Love (2013).


Bill Brown English

In the past, Professor Brown’s research has focused on popular literary genres (e.g. science fiction, the Western), on recreational forms (baseball, kung fu), and on the ways that mass-cultural phenomena (from roller coasters to Kodak cameras) impress themselves on the literary imagination. Rather than assuming that historical contexts help to explain a particular literary text, Professor Brown assumes that literature provides access to an otherwise unrecuperable history. That is, he assumes that the act of literary analysis (including formal analysis) can become an "historiographical operation" all its own.

Currently Professor Brown’s work lies at the intersection of literary, visual, and material cultures, with an emphasis on what he calls "object relations in an expanded field." His work asks how inanimate objects enable human subjects (individually and collectively) to form and transform themselves. How do individuals try to stabilize the "significance" of their lives through the act of collecting? What role do objects play in the formation of gender, sexual, ethnic, and national subjectivity? How are subcultural formations (or projections of cultural form) mediated by objects? What kinds of fetishism have yet to be conceptualized? Professor Brown’s approach to such questions makes use of psychoanalysis, materialist phenomenology, aesthetic theory, and the anthropological discourse on the "social life of things." He has also tried, in a piece called "Thing Theory," to point out how things and thingness might become new objects of critical analysis.


Dipesh Chakrabarty History

Professor Chakrabarty is the Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor in History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the College. He is also a faculty fellow of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory and an associate faculty of the Department of English.

Chakrabarty holds a BSc (physics honors) degree from Presidency College, University of Calcutta, a postgraduate Diploma in management (considered equivalent to MBA) from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, and a PhD (history) from the Australian National University.  He is a founding member of the editorial collective of Subaltern Studies, a consulting editor of Critical Inquiry, a founding editor of Postcolonial Studies, and has served on the editorial boards of the American Historical Review and Public Culture. He was one of the founding editors, with Sheldon Pollock from Columbia University and Sanjay Subrahmanyam from UCLA, of the series, South Asia Across the Disciplines, published by a consortium of three university presses (Chicago, Columbia, and California). He also serves on the Board of Experts for non-Western art for the Humboldt Forum in Berlin and has been a member of the Scientific Advisory Board to the Center for Global Cooperation Research (Bonn and Essen) since 2012.

Chakrabarty is the recipient of the 2014 Toynbee Foundation Prize for his contributions to global history. He was awarded an honorary DLitt by the University of London (conferred at Goldsmiths) in 2010 and an honorary doctorate by the University of Antwerp in 2011. He was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award by the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (conferred on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Institute in 2011). He was elected an honorary fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 2006 and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004.


Shannon Lee Dawdy Anthropology

Professor Dawdy (PhD, U Michigan 2003) is a Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College. Professor Dawdy is an interdisciplinary scholar who works across methods and time periods. Her current fieldwork can be understood as an archaeology of contemporary life. Her regional focus has been on the U.S., Caribbean, and Mexico. A central thread running through her work concerns how landscapes and material objects mediate human relationships, from the historical ecologies of capitalism to the emotional trajectories of those who lost their intimate object worlds to Hurricane Katrina. Another theoretical interest is temporality -- how pasts, presents, and futures shape social life and political possibilities. Her current research focuses on rapidly changing death practices in the U.S., particularly around disposition and transformation of the body. Collaborating with a filmmaker, one domain of the project experiments with how to make a documentary film with an archaeological eye. Professor Dawdy is a MacArthur Fellow and has received funding for her fieldwork from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For access to publications and information on current work go to: and


Andreas Glaeser Sociology 

Professor Glaeser is a sociologist of culture with a particular interest in the construction of identities and knowledges. His work interlaces substantive interests with efforts to build social theory. In this vein, his first book develops a theory of identity formation processes in the context of an ethnographic study of Germany's post-unification woes. He is currently finishing a book aiming at the development of a political epistemology which asks how people come to understand the world of politics from within their particular biographical trajectories and social milieus. The substantive focus of this book is the late socialist German state's effort to understand its citizens and to control the opposition as well as the opposition members' efforts to form their independent understanding of state socialism. 

Professor Glaeser has begun work on a new project which studies the emergence of dominant understandings about Muslim immigrants in the interaction between contingent historical events, the cycles of electoral politics, everyday experiences and mass-mediated discourses in Germany, France and Britain.


William Mazzarella Anthropology

Professor Mazzarella is the Neukom Family Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India (2003), Censorium: Cinema and the Open Edge of Mass Publicity (2013), and The Mana of Mass Society (2017). He is also the editor of K D Katrak: Collected Poems (2016) and the co-editor (with Raminder Kaur) of Censorship in South Asia: Cultural Regulation from Sedition to Seduction.


Joseph Masco Anthropology

Professor Masco writes and teaches courses on science and technology, U.S. national security culture, political ecology, mass media, and critical theory. He is most recently the author of Theater of Operations: National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror (Duke University Press, 2014), which locates the origins of the present-day U.S. counterterrorism apparatus in the Cold War's "balance of terror." His work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His previous work, The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post–Cold War New Mexico (Princeton University Press, 2006), was the winner of the J. I. Staley Prize from the School for Advanced Research and the Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science.


William Sewell Political Science and History --professor emeritus

Professor Sewell’s work has two distinct foci: (1) the history of early modern and modern Europe and (2) the relationship between history and social theory. His empirical historical research concerns French social, labor, political, and cultural history, particularly in the revolutions of 1789, 1830, and 1848. He is currently working on the relationship between eighteenth-century capitalism and the cultural origins of the French Revolution. Over the past fifteen years, much of his writing and teaching has centered on the development of a theoretical vocabulary that simultaneously speaks to history and the other social sciences. Most of this work is now published in Logics of History: Social Theory and Social Transformation (University of Chicago Press, 2005)

Professor Sewell’s courses are generally cross listed with Political Science; many of them focus on theoretical approaches or problems in interdisciplinary historical studies. Although the history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France often figures somewhere in these courses, they usually include cases drawn from various regions of the world and from different historical periods. He has also recently taught more conventionally historical courses on the old regime and the French revolution and on the emergence of capitalism in early modern Europe.


Kaushik Sunder Rajan  Anthropology / Co-Director of 3CT

Professor Sunder Rajan’s work has focused on a number of interrelated events and emergences: firstly, the increased corporatization of life science research; secondly, the emergence of new technologies and epistemologies within the life sciences, such as, significantly, genomics; and thirdly, the fact that these technoscientific and market emergences were not simply occurring in the United States, but rather globally. His book, Biocapital: The Constitution of Post-Genomic Life, tries to capture a flavor of these emergences. On the one hand, it is a multi-sited ethnography of emergent genomic research and drug development marketplaces in the United States and India. On the other hand, it traces the historical emergence of what he calls biocapital in the late 20th century, which asks questions of the nature and manner of the co-production of economic and epistemic value in the life sciences today. In the former register, Sunder Rajan’s work has followed a number of actors – scientists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and policy makers – involved in genomics research and market development in a range of sites in the US and India (in the US, primarily in the Bay Area; in India, primarily in Delhi, Bombay and Hyderabad). In the latter register, his work engages social theories of epistemology, political economy, ethics, subjectivity, language and value (most directly the analysis of Karl Marx, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida), in order to provide ways to think about a current moment in world history that is significantly shaped by techno-scientific capitalism. 

Professor Sunder Rajan is currently researching two distinct though inter-related new projects. One focuses on the political economy of pharmaceutical development in India in the context of changes in global capital flows and governance regimes. This has two aspects to it: 1) A study of capacity building for global pharmaceutical clinical trials in India and 2) A study of the consequences of India’s new, World Trade Organization (WTO) compliant, patent regime on the Indian pharmaceutical industry and on access to essential medicines. The second project focuses on the changing nature of the research university in India in the life sciences. The focal point here is the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), a new biomedical research institute being set up as a collaboration between the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Division of Health, Science and Technology (HST) at MIT. This involves tracing a) The history and context of institutional development in Indian life sciences; b) The history and context of translational research as a category and mode of research in the United States; and c) The nature of global institutional and research collaborations in the life sciences.

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Lisa Wedeen Political Science / co-director of 3ct

Professor Wedeen  is the Mary R. Morton Professor of Political Science and the College and the Co-Director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory at the University of Chicago. Her publications include Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria (1999); "Conceptualizing 'Culture': Possibilities for Political Science" (2002); "Concepts and Commitments in the Study of Democracy" (2004), Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power and Performance in Yemen (2008), "Ethnography as an Interpretive Enterprise" (2009), "Reflections on Ethnographic Work in Political Science" (2010), and "Ideology and Humor in Dark Times: Notes from Syria" (2013). She is the recipient of the David Collier Mid-Career Achievement Award and an NSF fellowship. She is currently working on a book about ideology, neoliberal autocracy, and generational change in present-day Syria.

Selected Publications:

"Scientific Knowledge, Liberalism, and Empire: American Political Science in the Modern Middle East,” in Middle East Studies for a New Millenium: Infrastructures of Knowledge (Social Science Research Council’s Internationalization and Interdisciplinary Program on Knowledge Production in the Middle East and North Africa), New York: New York University Press, 2016.