David Nirenberg appointed next dean of Social Sciences Division

Professor David Nirenberg has been appointed dean of the Division of the Social Sciences for a five-year term, President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Eric D. Isaacs announced today. Nirenberg’s appointment takes effect on July 1.

Nirenberg is the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor of Medieval History and Social Thought and currently the Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. He holds an academic appointment in the College and five academic appointments across the Social Sciences and Humanities Divisions: in the Committee on Social Thought, Department of History, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Center for Middle Eastern Studies and Center for Jewish Studies. Nirenberg succeeds Dean Mario L. Small, the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology and of the College, who is stepping down after two years as dean.

In a message to the faculty, Zimmer and Isaacs wrote that they were seeking a scholar and leader who will work with faculty to articulate and fulfill the division’s intellectual and educational aspirations, while also becoming a significant contributor to defining the academic directions of the University as a whole.

“As founding Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium, David has worked to create a new institution on campus, bringing together researchers, humanists and humanistic social scientists from every division and professional school on campus,” they wrote. “David’s leadership in launching the Neubauer Collegium gives us great confidence that he will be an outstanding and collaborative leader for the faculty of the Division.”

The Neubauer Collegium is an ambitious initiative launched by the divisions of Social Sciences and Humanities to expand the boundaries of humanistic inquiry and focus resources on questions that transcend any single discipline or methodology. The Neubauer Collegium supports innovative, collaborative research projects and serves as a destination for outstanding visiting scholars from around the world. Nirenberg will continue to lead the Neubauer Collegium until Jan. 1, 2015, while the University works to identify his successor.

“I am delighted to have this opportunity to help my colleagues in the Division and the University carry out their inquiries at the highest level, and pursue their questions wherever they might lead,” Nirenberg said. “The faculty of the Social Sciences Division has a long history of surprising the world with its discoveries. The future will be just as full of those surprises, and I am honored to be part of it.”

The Social Sciences Division is home to eight academic departments as well as a number of interdisciplinary committees, research institutes and centers. The division’s influential faculty has shaped the direction of numerous fields of inquiry, including founding the Chicago Schools of Economics, Political Science and Sociology. Departments in the Social Sciences Division edit and produce leading scholarly journals including the Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Modern History and the American Journal of Sociology. Five Nobel laureates are currently members of the Department of Economics.

A prolific scholar, he has focused his research on the ways in which Jewish, Christian and Islamic societies have interacted with and thought about each other. He is the author of a number of books, including Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (1996), Judaism and Christian Art: Aesthetic Anxieties from the Catacombs to Colonialism (2011), Race and Blood in the Iberian World (2012) and Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (2013). His latest book, Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism Medieval and Modern, will appear later this year.

Nirenberg is currently collaborating on a book exploring the relative claims of different forms of knowledge, in the hope of discovering new ways of understanding both the powers and the limits of the sciences and the humanities. He has written extensively on other subjects including love, set theory, poetry, painting and politics. He has authored numerous peer-reviewed publications, serves on many editorial boards and advisory panels, and is a regular contributor to publications such as The Nation, The New Republic, and the London Review of Books.

Nirenberg earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1986 and his doctorate in history from Princeton University in 1992. He joined the UChicago faculty in 2006. He previously served on the faculties of Rice University and Johns Hopkins University and has developed a significant international presence as a scholar. He has held visiting professorships at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas in Madrid and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and is an Associate of Germany’s Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science.