School of Humanities and Sciences
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Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Professor in Honor of Constantine Mitsotakis, Professor of Classics, and Professor, by courtesy, of Philosophy
BioJosiah Ober, the Constantine Mitsotakis Chair in the School of Humanities and Sciences, specializes in the areas of ancient and modern political theory and historical institutionalism. His primary appointment is in Political Science; he holds a secondary appointment in the Classics and a courtesy appointment in Philosophy. His most recent book, Demopolis: Democracy before liberalism in theory and practice, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2017. His ongoing work focuses on rationality (ancient and modern), the theory and practice of democracy, and the politics of knowledge and innovation, Recent articles and working papers seek to explain economic growth and inequality in the ancient Greek world, the relationship between democracy and dignity, and the aggregation of expertise.
He is author or co-author of about 100 articlesand chapters (many available on his Academia.edu page) and several other books, including Fortress Attica (1985), Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens (1989), The Athenian Revolution (1996), Political Dissent in Democratic Athens (1998), Athenian Legacies 2005), Democracy and Knowledge (2008), and The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece (2015). He has held residential fellowships at the National Humanities Center, Center for Hellenic Studies, Univ. of New England (Australia), Clare Hall (Cambridge), Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences , and Univ. of Sydney; research fellowships from the ACLS, NEH, and Guggenheim; and has been a visiting professor at University of Michigan, Paris I-Sorbonne, UC-Irvine, and UC-Berkeley. Before coming to Stanford he taught at Montana State University (1980-1990) and Princeton University (1990-2006).
Kathryn Meyer Olivarius
Assistant Professor of History
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsI am an historian of nineteenth-century America, interested primarily in the antebellum South, Greater Caribbean, slavery, and disease. My research seeks to understand how epidemic yellow fever disrupted Deep Southern society. Nearly every summer, this mosquito-borne virus killed up to ten percent of the urban population. But it also generated culture and social norms in its fatal wake. Beyond the rigid structures of race and unfreedom in Deep Southern society, I argue there was alternate, if invisible, hierarchy at work, with “acclimated” (immune) people at the top and a great mass of “unacclimated” (non-immune) people awaiting their brush with yellow fever languishing in social and professional purgatory. About half of all people died in the acclimating process.
In New Orleans, alleged-imperviousness or vulnerability to epidemic disease evolved into an explanatory tool for success or failure in commodity capitalism, and a justification for a race- and ethnicity-based social hierarchy where certain people were decidedly less equal than others. Disease justified highly asymmetrical social and labor relations, produced politicians apathetic about the welfare of their poor or recently-immigrated constituents, and accentuated the population’s xenophobic, racist, pro-slavery, and individualist proclivities. Alongside skin color, acclimation-status, I argue, played a major role in determining a person’s position, success, and sense of belonging in antebellum New Orleans.
Most of all, disease provided the tacit justification for who did what work during cotton and sugar production, becoming the essence of an increasingly elaborate and tortuous justification for widespread and permanent black slavery. In the Deep Southern view, only enslaved black people could survive work like cane cutting, swamp clearing, and cotton picking. In fact, proslavery theorists argued, black slavery was positively natural, even humanitarian, for it protected the health of whites—and thus the nation writ large—insulating them from diseased-labor and spaces that would kill them.
By fusing health with capitalism in my forthcoming book Necropolis, I will present a new model—beyond the toxic fusion of white supremacy with the flows of global capitalism—for how power operated in Atlantic society.
I am also interested in historical notions of consent (sexual or otherwise); slave revolts in the United States and the Caribbean; anti- and pro-slavery thought; class and ethnicity in antebellum America; the history of life insurance and environmental risk; comparative slave systems; technology and slavery; the Haitian Revolution; and boosterism in the American West.
Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Humanities, Emeritus
BioStephen Orgel has published widely on the political and historical aspects of Renaissance literature, theater, art history and the history of the book. His work is interdisciplinary, and is increasingly concerned with the patronage system, the nature of representation, and performance practice in the Renaissance. His most recent book is Imagining Shakespeare (2003), and he is the author of The Authentic Shakespeare (2002), Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare's England (Cambridge, 1996), The Illusion of Power (Berkeley, 1975), Inigo Jones (London and Berkeley, 1973, in collaboration with Sir Roy Strong), and The Jonsonian Masque (Cambridge, Mass., 1965). He has edited Ben Jonson's masques, Christopher Marlowe's poems and translations, the Oxford Authors John Milton, The Tempest and The Winter's Tale in The Oxford Shakespeare, Trollope's Lady Anna, and Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country, The Age of Innocence and The Reef in the Oxford World's Classics. He is the general editor of Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture, and of the new Pelican Shakespeare. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, NEH Fellowships, and ACLS Fellowships; he has been a Getty Fellow, a visiting fellow at New College, Oxford, and most recently the Clark Lecturer at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.