Nima Bassiri

Nima Bassiri

Assistant Professor of Literature

External address: 
101 Friedl, 1316 Campus Drive, Campus Box 90670, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: 
101 Friedl, 1316 Campus Drive, Box 90270, Durham, NC 27708

I am an assistant professor at Duke University, where I teach in the Graduate Program in Literature and Global Cultural Studies, Duke’s interdisciplinary humanities, cultural studies, and critical theory department. I am an intellectual historian of the human sciences, and my scholarship is deeply informed by the history and philosophy of science and critical theory.

In my current research, I consider how nineteenth-century notions of mental and behavioral pathology in Europe and America were deeply tied to conceptions of enterprise, commercial propriety, and moral-economic freedom. This is the substance of my first book, The Normal Enterprise of Madness, which I am currently completing. I am also beginning work on a new project that examines the psychiatric medicalization of political deviance and radicalism throughout the twentieth century. Here I examine, among other things, the medical preoccupations beginning at the end of the nineteenth century with so-called “dangerous individuals” — a broad category that has included everything from criminals and psychopaths to revolutionaries and political radicals — and how such individuals were defined by pathological medicine, and later re-defined by the political discourse of global security.

My research has covered a range of topics, including Enlightenment medical philosophy, the history of mind and brain research, the human sciences after the eighteenth century, psychoanalysis, science and technology studies, and the history of modern continental philosophy. Articles and essays developed from my research have appeared in journals including Critical Inquiry, Journal of the History of Ideas, Modern Intellectual History, and Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, and I am coeditor of the volume Plasticity of Pathology: On the Formation of the Neural Subject (Fordham University Press, 2015). I teach courses on the history, theory, and global circulation of science, medicine, and ideas of selfhood, and my courses emphasize the relationship between the sciences and humanities as well as the historical, philosophical, and political contexts of ideas.

Before arriving at Duke, I was a Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago where I taught in the College, the History department, and the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science. Before that, I held an ACLS New Faculty Fellowship at Duke and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Wesleyan University. I received my PhD at the University of California, Berkeley.


  • Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley 2010

Bassiri, N., and David Bates, editors. Plasticity and Pathology: On the Formation of the Neural Subject. Fordham University Press, 2016.

Bassiri, N. R. “Epileptic Insanity and Personal Identity: John Hughlings Jackson and the Formations of the Neuropathic Self.” Plasticity and Pathology On the Formation of the Neural Subject, Oxford University Press, 2016.

Bassiri, N. R. “Who Are We, Then, If We Are Indeed Our Brains? Reconsidering a Critical Approach to Neuroscience.” Neuroscience and Critique Exploring the Limits of the Neurological Turn, Routledge, 2015.

Bassiri, Nima. “Freud and the Matter of the Brain: On the Rearrangements of Neuropsychoanalysis.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 40, no. 1, University of Chicago Press, Sept. 2013, pp. 83–108. Crossref, doi:10.1086/673227. Full Text

Bassiri, Nima. “The Brain and the Unconscious Soul in Eighteenth-Century Nervous Physiology: Robert Whytt’s Sensorium Commune.” Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 74, no. 3, Project Muse, 2013, pp. 425–48. Crossref, doi:10.1353/jhi.2013.0019. Full Text

Bassiri, Nima. “Material translations in the Cartesian brain.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, vol. 43, no. 1, Elsevier BV, Mar. 2012, pp. 244–55. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2011.10.017. Full Text

BASSIRI, N. I. M. A. “WHAT KIND OF HISTORY IS THE HISTORY OF THE SELF? NEW PERSPECTIVES FROM THE HISTORY OF MIND AND BRAIN MEDICINE.” Modern Intellectual History, Cambridge University Press (CUP), pp. 1–13. Crossref, doi:10.1017/s1479244317000403. Full Text

Bassiri, N. R. Brain. Somatosphere, 18 Mar. 2014.