George Steinmetz takes a critical look at how interdisciplinary fields emerge and evolve. Drawing from a larger work-in-progress on how history and sociology have intersected in Europe and the United States, he provides a case study of the meeting of these fields in France before and after World War II. Steinmetz argues interdisciplinary projects tend to be born out of subfields within different disciplines and that successful ones are developed organically among peers rather than engineered from above.
George Steinmetz is the Charles Tilly Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. He has also taught at the New School for Social Research (2008), the University of Chicago (1987–2002), and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (2007, 2012, 2014). His main interests are: (1) the historical sociology of empires, states, and cities, with a focus on modern Germany, France, and Britain and their colonies; (2) social theory; and (3) the history of the social sciences. He has published Regulating the Social: The Welfare State and Local Politics in Imperial Germany (Princeton University Press, 1993) and The Devil’s Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and Southwest Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2007), and he edited State/Culture (Cornell University Press, 1999), The Politics of Method in the Human Sciences (Duke University Press, 2005), and Sociology and Empire (Duke University Press, 2013). Together with Michael Chanan he directed a 92-minute documentary film, Detroit: Ruin of a City (Art Films, 2012), with an original musical soundtrack by Michael Nyman. He is currently completing a book on the research by British and French sociologists in the overseas colonial empires between the 1930s and the 1960s.