Nima Bassiri

Collegiate Assistant Professor, Humanities
Core: Philosophical Perspectives

Gates-Blake 320

I am an intellectual historian and historian of the human sciences, with a focus on the modern history of brain and behavioral medicine in Europe and beyond. My writing, research, and teaching cover a range of topics, including early modern and Enlightenment medical philosophy, the history mind and brain medicine, the history of the human sciences after the eighteenth century, psychoanalysis, science and technology studies, and the history of modern continental philosophy.

I am completing my first book manuscript, Pathologies of Personhood: Forensics, Madness, and Medicine in the Nineteenth-Century. In the book I examine the medico-legal anxieties that surrounded the clinical elaboration of several major neuropathologies during the nineteenth century in Europe and America. I argue that through these medico-legal preoccupations, we can begin to consider how some classical forensic categories traditionally used to define personhood — such as accountability, authenticity, and intentionality — were being medically called into question as a consequence of the novel and unsettling behavioral anomalies that these neuropathologies introduced. As these classical forensic norms began to lose medical traction, the stage was set for the inauguration of new disciplinary paradigms to make sense of abnormal subjects: namely, risk and dangerousness. My articles have appeared in journals including Critical Inquiry and Journal of the History of Ideas. I am coeditor of Plasticity and Pathology: On the Formation of the Neural Subject (Fordham 2015).

My second book project, Dangerous Behavior: Violence, Risk, and Mental Illness in the Twentieth Century, examines the history of the risk assessment of violence and pathological conduct among the mentally ill as well as other marginalized groups perceived as morbidly and dangerously transgressive. This new project is envisioned, in part, as a global intellectual history of dangerousness, with a particular emphasis on the transplantation of American and European mental paradigms onto the Arab-Muslim world across the twentieth century and with an eye towards the ways in which the discourse of mental illness, political risk, and the threat of violent conduct converged in the figure of the religious radical and global terrorist.

As a Harper-Schmidt Fellow, I teach in the college, but I am also an affiliated faculty member of the Department of History and an associate faculty member of the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science. Before arriving at UChicago, I was an ACLS New Faculty Fellow at Duke University and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University. I received my PhD in the Rhetoric department — the interdisciplinary program in the humanities and social sciences ­— at UC Berkeley where I specialized in modern intellectual history, science studies, and critical theory.