My new essay on natural science and historical materialism, “Engels after Frankfurt: Nature and Enlightenment in Critical Theory,” is out now in New German Critique.
I’m Matt Shafer, a political theorist and currently a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations, Florida International University. Before coming to FIU, I held postdoctoral research positions at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2021-22) and at the University of Pennsylvania (2020-21). I received my PhD in 2020 from Yale University.
I’m now writing a book on recent debates about how the word violence should be defined in political theory and deployed in political rhetoric. How do we draw the line between violence and nonviolence? Where do terms like “structural violence” come from? Why does so much contemporary activist and academic debate about violence focus on language as a space of power and harm? These are the sorts of questions that my project examines.
My research as a whole is shaped by broader interests in the methodological dilemmas of the Marxian tradition in social thought. Beyond the project on violence, my current work also focuses especially on the status of science and technology in historical materialism.
Image: The Senckenberg Museum of Natural Science, ca. 1930. Photographer: Leo Wehrli. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv. Dia_247-02469. CC BY-SA 4.0.