Thomas W. Dodman

Thomas W. Dodman

Research interests

Modern France and French Empire; cultural and intellectual history; political economy and critical social theory; medical humanities, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis.

I am a historian of modern France and its empire, with a broad training in cultural and intellectual history, and ancillary interests in anthropology, political economy, psychoanalysis, and critical social theory. My research grapples with forms and experiences of social change in the modern era. Thus far, I have focused on instances of war, revolution, and colonialism, and approached these through the study of emotions, memory, and medicine in particular.

My first book, What Nostalgia Was: War, Empire, and the Time of a Deadly Emotion (Chicago, 2018) explores how people once died of nostalgia in order to tell a larger story about social transformation and alienation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A work of archival research, the book develops a theory of practice as a way of grounding the history of changing concepts and emotions in the capitalist epoch. A French translation is forthcoming.

I have also recently co-edited a global history of war for the French publisher Editions du Seuil (Une histoire de la guerre, 2018). Featuring 55 specialists from different fields, this book offers a sweeping thematic panorama of armed conflicts since the nineteenth century.

In a new project, I am researching the correspondence and extraordinary “family romance” of a French revolutionary-era citizen soldier who was raised to be Rousseau’s Emile. With this book, I wish to navigate the porous boundaries between history and literature, and explore the ways in which we can connect personal stories to wider global histories.

I am also currently pursuing a side project on Alexis de Tocqueville’s “missing” political economy and a rereading of his analysis of capitalist social relations, whilst guest editing journal issues on interdisciplinary approaches to emotions (for Sensibilités) and letter-writing in a francophone context (for French Historical Studies).

I co-edit the French journal Sensibilités: histoire, critique & sciences sociales, and serve on the editorial board of Critical Historical Studies. Previously, I served as associate editor at Emotion Review. In 2016-17 I was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where I co-founded the collective project IAS History Working Group. Previous to that I have also held fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Huntington and Newberry libraries, as well as the Marie Curie program among others.

I read history in the UK at University College London (BA 2001 & MA 2002), before moving to the US to pursue a doctorate at the University of Chicago (PhD 2011). Before joining Columbia I taught at Boston College, George Mason University, and Sciences Po Paris. I teach Contemporary Civilization in the Core, modern French, Mediterranean, and intellectual history, as well as thematic courses on the interdisciplinary study of emotions, war, and social theory. I am also affiliated with ICLS and co-organize the affect studies university seminar.

Representative publications:

What Nostalgia Was: War, Empire, and the Time of a Deadly Emotion, Chicago Studies in Practices of Meaning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018)

“Nerfs et névroses” & “Toutes sortes d’émotions extravagantes” in Bruno Cabanes, Thomas Dodman, Hervé Mazurel, and Gene Tempest, eds., Une Histoire de la Guerre, du XIXe à nos jours (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2018)

“De la nostalgie à l’utopie en Algérie française au XIXe siècle,” Conserveries mémorielles: revue transdisciplinaire 22 (June 2018)

“1814 and the melancholy of war,” Journal of Military History 80:1 (January 2016)

“Tropiques nostalgiques: Fatal homesickness in French Algeria,” Historical Reflections / Reflexions historiques 39:3 (Winter 2013)

“Un pays pour la colonie: mourir de nostalgie en Algérie française, 1830-1880,” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 66:3 (July 2011)