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

My scholarship is situated between intellectual history, the history and philosophy of the human sciences, and critical theory. In my current research, I look at the relationship between medicine, law, and politics in nineteenth-century Europe in order to see how medical theories surrounding mental illness and disorders of conduct embedded norms related to commercial propriety and moral-economic freedom. I also look at institutional preoccupations throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries 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. I am completing my first book, Pathologies of Personhood: The Moral Economy of Insanity in the Nineteenth Century. And I am also beginning work on a new project titled, Dangerous Behavior, a global history of violence, political deviance, and mental illness in the twentieth century.

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

Plasticity and Pathology: On the Formation of the Neural Subject. Ed. Bassiri, N and Bates, D. New York,: Fordham University Press, 2016. (Edited Book)

Bassiri, NR. "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. (Chapter)

Bassiri, NR. "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. November 19, 2015. (Chapter)

Bassiri, N. "Freud and the Matter of the Brain: On the Rearrangements of Neuropsychoanalysis." Critical Inquiry 40.1 (September 2013): 83-108. Full Text

Bassiri, N. "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 43.1 (March 2012): 244-255. Full Text

Bassiri, NR. "Brain." (March 18, 2014). (Archive)