Professor Jonathan C. Hagel earned his BA in American Studies with highest honors in 1998 and his PhD in History from Brown University in 2012. At Brown, he read widely in the culture, thought, and politics of the United States throughout the long 20th century. His main areas of interest are American political culture; the role of racism and anti-racism in shaping American life; the rise of the social and behavioural sciences; the causes and consequences of the twinned crises of the century—the Great Depression and the 1970s. And, of course, movies and sports.
His research concerns America’s moral revolution about racism—a still-incomplete moral revolution, as has become so painfully apparent in the last few years. An intellectual and cultural historian by training, Dr. Hagel has focused his attention on how American intellectuals came to define “racism” as a social problem in the 20th century, and how their definitions changed over time. He has been guided by four key questions: how did American intellectuals learn to think and argue “against race” in a society founded on racial division and exploitation? How did they set about creating new knowledge about “racism,” or more specifically, tools for how to determine who or what is “racist”? How did they project their ideas into the public sphere and translate their thinking into a new common sense about difference, conflict, and hate? Finally, what were the limits of their thinking and argument?
He is currently at work on a book project on this topic, The Souls of White Folk: A Nation’s Search for the Racist Within, whose title borrows from one of W.E.B. DuBois’s more underappreciated essays.
Since joining the faculty at KU as a Lecturer and Program Associate in the spring of 2012, Professor Hagel has taught classes on the Great Depression (HIST 345), Postwar America (HIST 616), the History of American Sports and Mass Culture (HIST 390), and the “terrible” 1970s (HIST 510).
By focusing on narrower periods of time, his courses aim to cut deep slices through American history, revealing how the economic, political, social, and cultural strata of American life compress, interpose, and fuse with each other in often-times confounding and compelling ways.
Professor Hagel also regularly teaches The Historian’s Craft (HIST 301), the History Department’s introductory course for new majors. Working from the assumption that history provides the best possible means of understanding our complex and ever-changing world, he has designed The Historian’s Craft as a platform for mastering the essentials of thinking historically and the rudiments of historical research.
In addition to his regular teaching responsibilities, Professor Hagel also serves as the faculty advisor for KU’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national honor society for history majors.
- HIST 301 The Historians Craft
- HIST 345 Hard Times: America in the Great Depression, 1929-1941
- HIST 390 America Goes to the Movies
- HIST 510 The Crowd Goes Wild: History of Sports in America
- HIST 510 The 1970s
- HIST 616 Contemporary America, 1945-present