Which sections of the library do faculty members enjoy the most? The fall issue of Dialogo, the University of Chicago Social Sciences Division magazine, introduced its new faculty members in interviews that included this question. The answers give us some insight into their diverse influences and suggest the vital role that the Library plays in faculty research and teaching.
Joel Isaac, John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, Associate Professor
Joel Isaac is a historian focused on social and political thought in the United States and how the Cold War shaped political ideologies. His current research examines the revival of 18th-century categories of political and moral thought in the 20th century through more modern idioms: neoclassical economics, analytical philosophy, decision theory, and empirical political science. His first book, Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn (Harvard, 2012), was awarded the Gladstone Prize by the Royal Historical Society in 2012.
Isaac’s favorite section of the Library: “The Special Collections Research Center in the Regenstein Library. Before I came to Chicago, I made some pilgrimages across the Atlantic (from Cambridge, UK) to use the SCRC. Now its riches are on tap whenever I need them. I confess I get a special charge from reading the papers of former UChicago faculty who have deposited their papers in the archives of the SCRC. It’s a thrill to see the University through their eyes.”
Destin Jenkins, Department of History, Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow (2017-2018), Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of History (7/1/2018-)
Destin Jenkins’s research as a historian centers on the linkages between the American state, capitalism, racial inequality, and the built environment in the 20th century. His forthcoming book, tentatively titled “Bonded Metropolis: Debt, Redevelopment, and Racial Inequality in Postwar San Francisco,” argues that the practices of municipal debt finance redistributed wealth upwards, reinscribed racial inequality, and became a constraint on democratic state power.
Jenkins’s favorite sections of the Library: “Regenstein Library is phenomenal. My favorite section is arranged by call number, E.185. From small pamphlets proposing solutions to the ills of late 1960s ghetto life to thick volumes dealing with black employment, most of the material in this section deals with the political economy of black life. The most interesting book I’ve found is a 1919-1920 report, “Colored Women as Industrial Workers in Philadelphia.” It’s been especially interesting reading the report alongside W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Philadelphia Negro (1899). When Du Bois wrapped up this comprehensive study, at once sociological and a moral and political reflection on race and human civilization, he concluded that Philadelphia’s black women were largely confined to work as domestic workers. As elsewhere, World War I had thoroughly transformed the labor market. In Philadelphia black women arguably helped to facilitate industrial development, and, as track repair workers, inspectors, and porters, helped to maintain the city’s physical infrastructure. The Consumers League of Eastern Pennsylvania saw these opportunities as creating “a new day” for black women. I am looking forward to discussing this pamphlet and exploring the conditions under which black women toiled with students in my fall course, ‘Histories of Racial Capitalism.’”
Ryan Jobson, Department of Anthropology, Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow (2017-2019), Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Anthropology (7/1/2019-)
Ryan Jobson is a social scientist and Caribbean cultural critic. His research and teaching engage issues of energy and extractive resource development, technology and infrastructure, states and sovereignty, and histories of racial capitalism in the colonial and postcolonial Americas. His first book manuscript, “Deepwater Futures: Sovereignty at Risk in a Caribbean Petrostate,” is an ethnographic study of fossil fuel industries and postcolonial state building in Trinidad and Tobago. A second research project will comprise a historical ethnography of oil and bauxite development in Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana.
Jobson’s favorite sections of the Library: “As a scholar of the Caribbean, I enjoy exploring texts and materials produced in and about the region. I am particularly fascinated by original documents from the 18th and 19th century that I stumble upon in the stacks. On one of my first trips to the Reg, I was surprised to find a collection of late 19th century photographs of the Pitch Lake in Trinidad—the largest global reserve of natural bitumen asphalt. I later discovered that the photographs were donated to the university by the Barber Asphalt Co. on the occasion of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. The gift coincided with efforts to structurally improve the roadways throughout the city, many of which were paved with Trinidad Lake Asphalt including Michigan Avenue and Jackson Boulevard. In my courses, I draw on anecdotes like this to demonstrate the enduring connections between places like Chicago and the Caribbean. Evidence of these connections often lurks in corners of the library or on the pavement beneath our feet.”
Alexander Torgovitsky, Department of Economics, Assistant Professor
Alexander Torgovitsky’s research is focused on developing new methods for causal inference and counterfactual analysis with economic data. His recent work has focused on developing tools for detecting and measuring state dependency (“stigma” effects) in unemployment dynamics. Other recent work has provided tools for extrapolating inferences from studies of small research populations to larger groups, with implications for understanding behavior and for policy making.
Torgovitsky’s favorite section of the Library: “I enjoy the student-run coffee shop (Ex Libris). The coffee is great, and I like the way many of the facilities at UChicago are run by students, unlike at many other private universities. It reminds me of my undergraduate institution, and I think it helps foster a strong sense of academic community.”
Alice Goff, Department of History, Assistant Professor
Alice Goff is a historian of modern German cultural and intellectual life. Her work focuses on the relationships between material objects and political thought in the 18th and 19th centuries. Goff’s current research traces the history 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 19th century.
Goff’s favorite section of the Library: “For browsing, I most enjoy the folios or oversized sections of the library. No matter the call number, the folio shelves always have something monumental and strange to offer: the most lavish exhibition catalogues, the most beautiful atlases, the most unwieldy information, though unfortunately also the most cumbersome to get back to the office.”
Mikhail Golosov, Department of Economics, Homer J. Livingston Professor in Economics and the College
Mikhail Golosov is an economist specializing in macroeconomics, public finance and political economy. His research explores economic theories related to wars over resources, tax systems, and strategic communication. He is an associate editor of Econometrica and the Review of Economic Studies.
Golov’s favorite sections of the Library: “I like to read social science books that are not directly related to economics–sociology, history, philosophy—so I often gravitate towards those sections of the library. Researchers in those disciplines study human society, just like economists do, but often have a very different perspective. I find that I can learn from that a fair bit. Steven Pinker’s book The Blank Slate was one of the most fascinating books I read recently.”
Peter Hull, Department of Economics, Assistant Professor
Economist Peter Hull develops novel statistical techniques to answer policy questions in education and health care. Currently a Post-Doctoral Researcher at Microsoft Research, he will come to the University of Chicago campus as a Becker Friedman Institute Research Fellow in 2018, and will join the Department of Economics faculty in the summer of 2019.
Hull’s favorite genres: “Apart from econometrics textbooks (only somewhat kidding), I’m torn between biography and science fiction. At their best, both genres amaze me in their ability to illustrate a set of foreign ideas, places, and times, all through a strong narrative structure; if only more academic papers had that ability! Recently I’ve been addicted to Robert Caro’s The Power Broker and five-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, while every winter am excited to crack open Gardner Dozois’ most recent Year’s Best Science Fiction short story anthology.”
Read more about new 2017 Social Sciences Division faculty members in Dialogo.