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Jennifer Allen

Assistant Professor
Yale University

Jennifer Allen is a historian of modern Germany with a particular interest in late twentieth-century cultural practices. She is currently working on a book manuscript titled In Pursuit of Sustainable Utopia: Art, Political Culture, and Historical Practice in Germany, 1980-2000. In it, she charts the history of Germany’s relatively recent efforts to revitalize the concept of utopia after the wholesale collapse of Europe’s violent utopian social engineering projects by the end of the twentieth century. She argues that, contrary to popular accounts, German interest in radical alternatives to existing society had not diminished. By braiding together case studies from three different milieux—the Berlin History Workshop, the German Green Party, and a loose collection of artists of public space—Allen demonstrates that Germans chose to resist an increasing sense of political disenfranchisement, social alienation, and cultural impotence in the 1980s and 90s. Instead, they pursued the radical democratization of politics and culture in everyday life through a series of grassroots cultural projects. These groups not only envisioned a new German utopia but attempted to enact their vision. In doing so, they reclaimed utopian hope from the dustbin of historical ideas.

In a related research project, Allen traces how Germany’s grassroots commemorative practices became a model for international communities as diverse as Moscow and Buenos Aires over the past thirty years. Her article explores the rise of a global phenomenon in which citizens create extensive decentralized monuments to the victims of mass atrocities and embed them in the spaces of everyday life. Germany’s popular Stumbling Stones project [Stolpersteine] serves as a central point of reference in this story.

Allen received her B.A. (2006) in political and social thought from the University of Virginia and her M.A. (2010) and Ph.D. (2015) in history from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has been funded by the German Academic Exchange Service; the Institute for International, Comparative and Area Studies at UC San Diego with support from the Thyssen Foundation; and the Institutes for European Studies and International Studies at UC Berkeley. At Yale, Allen teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on modern German history, the theories and practices of memory modern Europe, and the history of the Holocaust.


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I am currently at work on a book project with the working title, "The God Behind the Marble: Transcendence and the Art Object in the German Aesthetic State." It tells the story of artworks caught up in the looting, iconoclasm, and shifting boundaries of German states during the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars and the consequences of their displacement for German political, religious, and intellectual practice at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Through these shifts this work examines the frictions that arose between the precarious fates of artworks on the ground and the assertions of art's ideal autonomy in philosophy and criticism. I am also working on a second book project about the history of German baroque royal collections--Kunstkammer-- in the cultural politics and practices of the German Democratic Republic.


Alice Goff

Postdoctoral Fellow, Michigan Society of Fellows
Assistant Professor, Germanic Languages and Literatures, History
University of Michigan


Terence is currently revising his dissertation into a book manuscript. “Restarting Socialism: The Problem of Renewal on the European Left, 1930-1970,” explains how the promise and pitfalls of an ideology of renewal have shaped the trajectory of socialism throughout modern European history. By concentrating on a generation of German socialists born around 1910 -- the Renewers -- this book provides a historical answer to the question of why the Western world repeatedly turns to socialism, despite continual disappointment, as a source of hope for a better social order. His further research interests include modern definitions of humanity, the conceptual history of the underground, critical theory, aesthetics, and comparative revolutions.


Terence Renaud

Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer
Humanities Program and Department of History
Yale University

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