John Torpey (1985)

Professor, Graduate Center, City University of New York

I was drawn to Berkeley because of its tradition of sociological reflection on important public issues. After graduating from Berkeley in 1992, I had a variety of interesting opportunities that broadened my intellectual horizons. Chief among these were a year as a post-doc at the Center for European Studies at Harvard; a stint as a program officer in the Jennings Randolph Program for International Peace at the United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C.; and a year-long fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. During the summer of 1999, I had the good fortune to be a visiting professor in the Department of Sociology at Boðaziçi (Bo-WA-zi-chi, aka Bosphorus) University in Istanbul, Turkey, at the invitation of another fellow Berkeley Ph.D., Faruk Birtek.

Over the years, my work has addressed the transformation of formerly socialist societies (my dissertation) and the development of nation-states (The Invention of the Passport). My current research on reparations for historical injustices concerns the worldwide spread of that idea to many historical experiences and explores why the past has come to play such a prominent role in contemporary politics. In connection with that project, I have grown increasingly engaged by questions concerning the nature, history, and fate of social hierarchies based on the idea of race.

I remain interested in the history of modern social thought, an interest nurtured at Berkeley. I see the classics as entirely relevant to the situation in which we find ourselves, and am grateful that I have the opportunity to teach social theory here at UBC. In this regard, I am working on a new edition of Tocqueville's classic, Democracy in America, for the Oxford World's Classics series.

Dissertation Title: 
Between Anti-Fascism and Opposition: East German Intellectuals, Socialism, and the National Question, 1945-1990
Dissertation Book Title: 
Intellectuals, socialism, and dissent : the East German opposition and its legacy
Minneapolis, Minn.