School of Humanities and Sciences
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Associate Professor of History
BioJonathan Gienapp is an associate professor in the History department. He received his B.A. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Principally a scholar of Revolutionary and early republican America, he is particularly interested in the period’s constitutionalism, political culture, and intellectual history. More generally, he is interested in the method and practice of the history of ideas.
His first book, *The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era* (Harvard University Press, 2018), rethinks the conventional story of American constitutional creation by exploring how and why founding-era Americans’ understanding of their Constitution transformed in the earliest years of the document’s existence. More specifically, it investigates how early political debates over the Constitution’s meaning, in transforming the practices through which one could justifiably interpret the document, helped in the process alter how Americans imagined the Constitution and its possibilities. In the process, it considers how these changes created a distinct kind of constitutional culture, the consequences of which endure to this day. It won the 2017 Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize from Harvard University Press and the 2019 Best Book in American Political Thought Award from the American Political Science Association and was a finalist for the 2019 Frederick Jackson Turner Award from the Organization of American Historians. In addition, it was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2019 and a Spectator USA Book of the Year for 2018. It has been reviewed in The Nation, was the subject of a symposium at Balkinization, and was chosen for the 2019 Publius Symposium co-hosted by the Stanford Constitutional Law Center and the Stanford Center for Law and History. He wrote about some of the book's central themes in an op-ed for the Boston Globe, and has discussed the book on "New Books in History" and "The Age of Jackson Podcast" as well as in interviews for The Way of Improvement Leads Home and the Harvard University Press Blog.
Gienapp has also written on a range of related topics pertaining to early American constitutionalism, politics, and intellectual history, originalism and modern constitutional theory, and the study of the history of ideas. He has published articles and book chapters in a host of venues, including the Journal of the Early Republic, Law and History Review, The New England Quarterly, and Constitutional Commentary.
He has written extensively on the relationship between history and constitutional originalism and is completing a book on that subject, entitled "Against Constitutional Originalism: A Historical Critique," which is under contract with Yale University Press and to be published in early 2024.
He is also at work on a large book on the forgotten history of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, currently entitled "We the People of the United States: The Struggle over Popular Sovereignty and Nationhood." It tells the story of the Preamble's early vitality and eventual descent into political and legal irrelevance as a way of exploring the broader struggle over popular sovereignty and national union in the early United States.
He has lectured widely on the U.S. Constitution and the American Founding era. Among other appearances, he discussed the Constitution's history in an episode of the podcast, "Writ Large," participated in a National Constitution Center Town Hall, "The Founders' Library: Intellectual Sources of the Constitution," was interviewed about the history of election disputes in the United States for The New York Times, and discussed the history of minority rule in the United States on NPR's All Things Considered. He also helped compile the National Constitution Center's Founders' Library.
J. Christian Greer
BioDr. J. Christian Greer is a scholar of Religious Studies and American culture, who specializes in psychedelic religion and spirituality. In addition to earning a BA (summa cum laude) from Boston University and a MDiv at Harvard Divinity School, he received his MA and PhD (cum laude) in Western esotericism from the History of Hermetic Philosophy department at the University of Amsterdam. While a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Divinity School, he led a series of research seminars on psychedelic culture, which culminated in the creation of the *Harvard Psychedelic Walking Tour,* a free audio guide detailing how the Harvard community has shaped the modern history of psychedelic culture. His research addresses popular culture & religion, radical politics & religious activism, esotericism and occultism, ecological spiritualities, pilgrimage, countercultures and subcultures, and drugs & religion.
His latest book, *Kumano Kodo: Pilgrimage to Powerspots* (co-authored with Dr. Michelle Oing) analyzes the pilgrimage folklore associated with the rainforests of Japan's Kii Peninsula. His forthcoming book, *Angelheaded Hipsters: Psychedelic Militancy in Nineteen Eighties North America* (Oxford University Press), explores the growth, diversification, and expansion of psychedelic culture within fanzine networks in the late Cold War era.
Before accepting his position at Stanford, he held research and teaching appointments at Yale, Harvard, and the University of Amsterdam. As director of the University of Amsterdam's summer/winter school program on esotericism, he teaches an intensive seminar focusing on the global history of esotericism each winter (“Visions of the Occult: Introduction to Esotericism"), and likewise teaches an advanced version of the course each summer ("Arcane Worlds: New Directions in the Study of esotericism").
Some of his scholarship & artwork can be found at www.jchristiangreer.com