My scholarship explores 20th-century France and the French Empire, with a focus on how imperialism intersects with histories of national identity, state institutions, race, and sexuality; my studies and teaching have concentrated on modern European history (particularly France), modern colonialism, and the history of sexuality.
My first book, The Invention of Decolonization: The Algerian War and the Remaking of France (2006), is a history of the close of the Algerian War and the difficult re-negotiation of French state structures and national identity that resulted. It was awarded both the American Historical Association's 2006 J. Russell Major Prize and the Council of European Studies' 2008 Book Prize (for best first book in European studies published in 2006-2007). 1962. Comment l’indépendance algérienne a transformé la France (2008; 2012) is a revised and updated French translation.
Like my first book, my two current projects use analyses drawn from cultural history to understand the formative role of law and state institutions. Each relies on a transnational lens to examine how the French grappled with their relationship to Muslim "Arabs."
“Affirmative Action and the End of Empires: ‘Integration’ in France (1956-1962) and the Race Question in the Cold War World” examines how the Algerian Revolution led the French Republic to put in place a pioneering range of programs to redress the effects of discrimination on its "Muslim Algerian" minority. I focus on how Mexican and Soviet antecedents as well as ongoing official U.S. responses to the Civil Rights Movement directly shaped these French policies. The larger goal is to map how transnational currents of post-fascist anti-racism and anti-colonial militancy shaped the history of the late 20th-century West. Some of this work has been published in “A l’heure des “grands ensembles” et de la guerre d’Algérie. L’ ‘État-nation’ en question,” Monde(s). Revue d’histoire transnationale 1 (2012) and “Algeria, France, Mexico, UNESCO: A Transnational History of Anti-Racism and Empire, 1932-1962,” Journal of Global History 6: 2 (2011).
My other project, “France, Sex, and “Arabs,” 1962 to 1979,” explores how “sexual Orientalism” re-emerged in post-decolonization French politics and discussions. Over the course of the 1960s and ‘70s, French “sex talk” around questions such as May ’68, prostitution, gay rights, sexual libertinism, and rape explicitly grappled with questions of empire, the Algerian War, colonial violence, and post-decolonization racism. Some of this work has been published in “Something Notably Erotic”: Politics, “Arab Men,” and Sexual Revolution in Post-Decolonization France, 1962-1974,” Journal of Modern History 84 (March 2012), 80-115 and “L’extrême droite et ‘mai 68’: une obsession d’Algérie et de virilité,” Clio. Histoire, femmes et société 29 (Spring 2009).