Cultural and Intellectual History

During the 1970’s and 1980’s, the study of cultural and intellectual history was denigrated for its alleged elitist and canonical nature. Today, the situation has changed dramatically. Enriched by the methods and insights of such neighboring domains of inquiry as social history, the history of mentalities, anthropology, linguistics, literary theory, and art history, cultural and intellectual history is experiencing a renewed vitality. Broadly conceived, these two fields now encompass an astonishing range of subjects and themes, including “high” intellectual history, sociocultural history, cultural politics, psychocultural history, class and culture studies, crosscultural history, consumption and material culture studies, print cultures, culture and collective memory, culture and the body, culture and post colonialism, and postmodernist cultural studies. Indeed, an easy case can be made for viewing cultural history in particular as the most intellectually vibrant and expansive branch of historical study today. It is the historical discipline’s avantgarde, its frontier of experimentation and interdisciplinarity.

The Department of History at the University of Illinois reflects the striking reemergence of these areas of inquiry. As the list below indicates, a significant percentage of our faculty are cultural and intellectual historians. Several recent hires have added to this preexisting departmental concentration. The program in cultural and intellectual history at Illinois is notable for its chronological range, ranging from late antiquity to the present; for its geographical breadth, including courses in East Asian, North American, Oceanian, Russian and Western and Central European history; and for the exceptionally wide variety of conceptual and methodological approaches it represents.

Students in the program are encouraged to develop imaginative interdisciplinary approaches, drawing on the departmental and institutional resources of collateral fields, including anthropology, gender studies, the history of science and medicine, and literary theory and criticism. In recent years, graduate students have benefited in particular from the close relations between History and Anthropology at the University of Illinois, resulting in extended campus visits by such distinguished scholars as Natalie Z. Davis, George Stocking, and James Boon.

Core Faculty and Fields

  • Adrian Burgos (Ph.D., University of Michigan, 2000): U.S. since 1865, U.S. Latino, sport history, and urban history, with emphasis on the intersection of race, culture and nation in post-emancipation societies in the Americas.
  • Antoinette Burton (Ph.D., Chicago, 1990): women, gender, race, sexuality, feminism, empire; colonial and postcolonial India and diaspora; world history; archives and narratives; methods
  • James Brennan (Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2002): East Africa and the Indian Ocean world in the twentieth century, in particular on themes of urbanization, nationalism, political thought, and media.
  • Tamara Chaplin (Ph.D., Rutgers University, 2002); modern French cultural and intellectual history; the history of sexuality; human rights; the history of television, media and digital technologies; feminist and critical theory; post-1945 Europe.
  • Augusto Espiritu (Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 2000): 
    American cultural, Asian American, post-colonial nationalism, gender and performativity, transnational migration.
  • Peter Fritzsche (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1986.): modern German and European history, comparative questions of memory and identity and vernacular uses of the past in modern Europe.
  • Kristin Hoganson (Ph.D., Yale University, 1995): United States in the world, gender and empire, domesticity, consumption, armchair travel, Americanization, political discourse.
  • Diane Koenker (Ph.D., Michigan, 1976): modern Russian and Soviet Union; comparative working-class culture; socialist consumption; tourism; food history; film.
  • Craig Koslofsky (Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1994): culture and religion in late medieval and early modern Europe, especially the Holy Roman Empire; daily life in early modern Europe
  • Harry Liebersohn (Ph.D., Princeton University, 1979): the cultural and intellectual history of modern Germany; crosscultural history; the history of the human sciences; the history of travel.
  • Mark S. Micale (Ph.D., Yale University, 1987): comparative Western European cultural and intellectual history; findesiècle France; cultural studies of science and medicine; psychoanalytic studies; the history of the body 
  • Kevin Mumford (Ph.D., Stanford University, 1993): race, politics and sexuality in modern America
  • Kathryn J. Oberdeck (Ph.D., Yale University, 1991): American cultural and intellectual history; workingclass cultures; religion and popular culture; cultural criticism; the history of American social thought
  • David Prochaska (Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, 1981): history and postcolonial studies; comparative colonial cultures; society and culture in modern Europe, especially France; history and theory; visual culture, especially the history of photography
  • John Randolph (Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, 1997): Imperial Russian intellectual and cultural history; Pre-Petrine history; history of personal documents; history of intimacy.
  • Leslie Reagan (Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1991): women, gender, sexuality; medicine and public health; health films and photography; reproduction and the body; disability studies; museums and memory; U.S., Vietnam and war
  • Mark D. Steinberg (PhD., University of California at Berkeley, 1987): imperial and early Soviet Russia; popular cultures; urban studies; religion; emotion; modernity.
  • Carol Symes (Ph.D., Harvard University, 1999): medieval European cultural and intellectual exchanges in the global context; history of pre-modern theatre, public media, and communication technologies.
  • Maria Todorova (Ph.D., Sofia University, 1977): social and cultural history of Eastern Europe, with an emphasis on the modern Balkans and the Ottoman Empire; nationalism, empires, identity, historical memory, historiography.

Courses (Graduate and Undergraduate)

The Age of Renaissance; American Intellectual and Cultural History since 1859; Alternative Histories; Approaches to Early Modern European Social & Cultural History; Cities; Culture and Colonialism; Emotion in Japanese History; The Enlightenment and Its Others; European Culture between the Wars; The European Enlightenment and the Jewish Transition to Modernity; European Travelers and the Natural World, 1750-1900; Fin de Siècle France; History and Memory; The History of Consumption and Material Culture; History of the Human Sciences; History and Post Colonial Studies; History and Social Theory; Modern German Cultural History; Modernity and Urban Culture in Twentieth Century China; Nature and American Culture; Popular and Lower Class Cultures in Modern Europe; Post Colonial Twentieth Century; Thought and Society in Modern Europe, 1789 to the Present; Varieties of Cultural History; The Western Intellectual Tradition: The Enlightenment to Existentialism; Women and Gender in the European Enlightenment; Women’s European Intellectual History