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Heinrich-David Baumgart

PhD Candidate

Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin

Research Interests

American Cultural and Literary History, especially late 19th century
(Cultural) Formations of American Capitalism
Governmentality Studies
Surveillance studies


January 2021 to present
Doctoral Candidate, Department of Culture, Graduate School of North American Studies, Freie
Universität Berlin

September 2019
Master’s (1,1) in North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, including studies at
Université Diderot in Paris

June 2015
Bachelor’s (1,4) in North American Studies and History, Freie Universität Berlin, including
studies at University of Washington in Seattle

Professional Experience

2017 – 2020
Student assistant and member of the works council at Fulbright Germany

Teaching assistant Understanding North America
Department of Sociology
John F. Kennedy Institute

2015 – 2016
Tutor Teaching assistant Understanding North America
Department of Culture
John F. Kennedy Institute

Project Assistant
Villa Aurora
Los Angeles

Fellowships and Grants

2020 -
Doctoral Fellowship Hans-Böckler-Stiftung

2012 - 2013
Direct Exchange Stipend

PROMOS travel grant

Evolving Collectives: Group Agency and Notions of Temporality in Discourses of Evolution, 1880 – 1920 (dissertation project)

Dissertation in Culture

Mentoring team:
First supervisor: Prof. Dr. Frank Kelleter
Second supervisor: Prof. Dr. James Dorson
Third supervisor: N/A

This project focuses on problematizations of collective human agency that pervade evolutionary discourse in the decades around 1900. Starting from the well-established distinction between social and reform Darwinism, I contend that opposing claims about collective human agency rest on particular conceptions of evolutionary temporality. The ‘classical’ social Darwinist position rests on a holistic notion of temporality that posits a frictionless and essential connection between past, present and future. Present societal conditions are immune to human agency precisely because they manifest a set of timeless natural laws. On the other hand, reform Darwinist positions conceive of a fractured, inconsistent temporality, in which human agency can affect and steer social evolution. In the reform Darwinist imagination, the future is contingent on collective human effort, and the present a way to reach and construct new worlds.

My research charts the discursive terrain that lies between these two poles. Its guiding assumption is that these discourses exceed their ideological functions. I study the ways in which discourses of evolution were instrumental in the formation of group identities (, e.g. that of the “Negro race,” “the female Sex,” or “the leisure class”). I argue that in making claims about evolutionary temporality and collective human agency, discourses of evolution simultaneously construct particular group identities. In so doing, discourses of evolution made it possible to ponder collectives as social agents and possibilities of bringing about social change through collective action. My text corpus embraces naturalist novels, feminist utopian fiction, African American autobiographies and essay collections, socialist periodicals and ‘scientific’ tracts. This plethora of literary forms provides a fascinating way into the variety of discourses of evolution and its constructions of group identities.

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft