Olick, Jeffrey K. 1964-

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Olick, Jeffrey K. 1964-


Born November 15, 1964. Education: Swarthmore College, B.A. (with high honors), 1986; Yale University, M.A., 1987, M.Phil., 1990, Ph.D., 1993.


Office—Sociology Department, University of Virginia, 543 Cabell Hall, P.O. Box 400766, Charlottesville, VA 22904; fax: 434-924-7028. E-mail—[email protected].


Academic and sociologist. Columbia University, New York, NY, instructor, 1993-94, assistant professor, 1994-2000, associate professor, 2000-04; University of Virginia, Charlottesville, associate professor, 2004-07, professor of sociology and history, 2007—, director of graduate admissions in sociology and graduate studies in sociology, 2006—, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, faculty fellow, Center for German Studies, advisory board member. Graduate fellow, Yale University, 1986-89; Bass Foundation writing intensive teaching fellow, 1989; Mellon Foundation fellow, Yale University Institute for Social and Policy Studies, 1989-90; German Academic Exchange Service summer program fellow, University of California, Berkeley, 1990; German Academic Exchange Service dissertation year fellow, Universität Bielefeld, 1991-92; Yale Alumni Fund Dissertation fellow, 1992-93; associate, Society of Fellows, Columbia University, 1994-2004; Chamberlain fellow, Columbia University, 1997; distinguished lecturer, University of Windsor Research Humanities Group, 2002.


American Sociological Association.


Sussman Dissertation Prize, Yale University, 1995.


(Editor) States of Memory: Continuities, Conflicts, and Transformations in National Retrospection, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2003.

In the House of the Hangman: The Agonies of German Defeat, 1943-1949, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2005.

The Politics of Regret: On Collective Memory and Historical Responsibility, Routledge (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals and academic journals, including Memory Studies, Symbolic Interaction, Ethics and International Affairs, Annual Review of Sociology, Religion in Public Life, Sociological Theory, American Sociological Review, Social Science History, Ayer, Working Papers in the Humanities, Future: The Journal of Forecasting and Planning, Social Forces, Perspectives, Contemporary Sociology, Theory and Psychology, New Politics, Theory and Society, and Social Research.

Reviewer of manuscripts for publishing houses, including Harvard University Press, Yale University Press, University of Chicago Press, Cornell University Press, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, University of California Press, University of Nebraska Press, SUNY Press, Blackwell, Ashgate, Palgrave, Sage, Routledge, and Greenwood. Also manuscript reviewer for periodicals and journals, including American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, American Political Science Review, Social Psychology Quarterly, Qualitative Sociology, Sociological Forum, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Sociological Theory, History and Theory, Journal of Political and Military Sociology, Sociological Inquiry, Sociological Quarterly, Social Problems, Cahiers de Recherche Sociologique, Social Science History, Memory, Poetics, Theory and Society, Time and Society, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Japan Studies, History and Memory, Human Relations, Critical Sociology, and Israel Studies.

Grant reviewer for numerous organizations, including the UK Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada, National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and American Councils for International Education. External dissertation evaluator for Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Swarthmore College. Editorial board member of Rose Publication Series, American Sociological Association, Russell Sage Foundation, History and Memory, Memory Studies (founding member), Qualitative Sociology, and Social Science History. Guest editor for Social Science History, 1998.


Jeffrey K. Olick is an academic and sociologist. Educated primarily at Yale University and graduating from there in 1993 with a Ph.D., Olick made a career for himself in academia. Olick began working as an assistant professor of sociology in 1994 at Columbia University. In 2000 he was promoted to associate professor. In 2004 he moved to the University of Virginia, becoming a full professor of sociology and history in 2007. Olick has held a number of fellowships and contributes widely to academic journals, notable in the areas of collective memory, transitional justice, critical theory, and postwar Germany.

Olick edited his first book, States of Memory: Continuities, Conflicts, and Transformations in National Retrospection, in 2003. The account collects essays from academics writing on the use and construction of memory following the open-ended methodologies of hermeneutics, phenomenology, and postmodern studies.

Johnny Burke, writing in Perspectives on Political Science, found the "enchanting set of essays … quite captivating." Burke noted that "scholars outside this disciplinary niche will find valuable entries that deal with the country or region of concern to the scholar and that have transnational implications. In terms of the latter, Lyn Spillman's and Uri Ram's essays are most noteworthy."

In 2005 Olick published In the House of the Hangman: The Agonies of German Defeat, 1943-1949. Deriving from the adage by Theodor W. Adorno, the book looks into the way that Germany helped its citizens to redefine and relearn nationalism after the close of Nazism in the country.

Michaela Hoenicke Moore, writing in H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, commented that the book is an "impressive synthesis" of scholarship on the way Anglo-America reacted to Nazism. Singling out the book's final two chapters, Moore observed that "Olick offers a penetrating analysis of the opposing positions on German guilt by Jaspers, on the one hand, and Heidegger, Schmitt, and Ernst Jünger, on the other." Moore noted, however, that "the language of the introduction laying out the methodological assumptions (p. 19ff) proved a bit of a challenge for me. Once focused on the actual subject matter, Olick's prose is engaging and highly readable." "As is often the case with insightful studies, Olick's book gives rise to further questions," Moore stated, pointing to two specific areas. The first, Moore, noted, was that "given Olick's detailed study of German discursive strategies aimed at avoiding and falsifying reality and redirecting the gaze from the actual Third Reich to some other object (Allied war crimes, an honorable German past) one would have hoped for a more succinct conclusion as to why this obfuscation happened. Olick finds that a consistent ‘goal … was to contain the toxic portion of German history so that it could be more easily disposed or handled without contaminating the healthy main body of German identity’ (p. 328)." Continuing, Moore noted that "we should probe further here. Why did some Germans not only find it possible, but insisted on it being necessary to keep the gaze focused on the inequities of Allied policies rather than looking at the devastation and crimes that their own nation had wrought? Why was the immediate reality so eclipsed? Such questions involve a foray into the field of psychology, which historians, too (studiously and for good reasons) avoid. But the question is too important to remain unexplored, especially since there were important exceptions to this rule of evasion and substitution." Moore highlighted that "the second undeveloped line of inquiry pertains to the exact relationship between the external (foreign) framework of Allied policy and national German responses and initiatives. Further investigation into this topic should pay close attention to differences along generational lines which play no role in this sociological study." In retrospect, Moore concluded that "it is a tribute to the important accomplishments of this fine study that it raises questions that lead beyond its boundaries."

Edwin M. Yoder, Jr., reviewing the book in the Weekly Standard, mentioned that Olick "would seem to have written here a rather different book from the one he says he set out to write," noting that the book "is actually a bit thin on the empirical data that would document popular or public memory." Yoder concluded that "this very informative book would be even more interesting if it were stronger on the history of the period. But that history is only marginally the author's concern, the sociology of cultural memory. To fill out the historical deficit, In the House of the Hangman should be supplemented with the remarkable and underrated works of Sebastian Haffner (The Ailing Empire and The Meaning of Hitler), which deal with the same issues but are unlisted in the author's lengthy bibliography." Writing in Ethics & International Affairs, Frank Biess remarked that In the House of the Hangman "adds an important overarching argument to the historiography of postwar memory, and it also serves to introduce readers to the wide-ranging German and Allied debates about the nature of National Socialism. At the same time, it does not entirely answer the question of what it meant to ‘live in the house of the hangman.’" Biess remarked that "this very learned study has much to offer for both the specialist as well as for readers who are new to the wide-ranging literature on German memory. It also should be essential reading for everybody who is interested in the role of memory in democratic regime transitions," adding that "this important study again underlines that such a confrontation with the legacies of the past constitutes an essential element of democratic transitions."

Victoria Johnson, writing in Social Forces, commented that in addition to discussing the importance of dialogical methods and defining historical memory, "this book illustrates the insights gained through a sociology of memory that recognizes ‘reconstruction,’ the mixing of the old and new in a process of critical appropriation by social actors." Johnson concluded that "Olick's work presents a complex and engaging integration of moral questions with political history and current events; it will be of value to students of German history, historical memory, historical methods, ethics and philosophy." Writing in the German Quarterly, Jaimey Fisher noted that "the study does, like any, manifest a few less successful aspects," pointing out that the book's "methodology is not always as clear as it might be." Fisher argued that "the volume also offers a rather abbreviated discussion of reeducation, which many (including Olick) agree was a cipher for many issues of the occupational period." Nevertheless, Fisher claimed that the book "goes further than existing studies in developing a transnational discourse and debate that have clear national consequences, at once border-crossing and border-affirming processes about which so much methodological ink has been spilled." Olick published The Politics of Regret: On Collective Memory and Historical Responsibility in 2007.



Central European History, March 1, 2007, Astrid M. Eckert, review of In the House of the Hangman: The Agonies of German Defeat, 1943-1949, p. 181.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, July 1, 2006, M. Deshmukh, review of In the House of the Hangman.

Contemporary Sociology, July 1, 2004, Tim Kubal, review of States of Memory: Continuities, Conflicts, and Transformations in National Retrospection, p. 450; July 1, 2006, Omer Bartov, review of In the House of the Hangman, p. 386.

Ethics & International Affairs, March 1, 2006, Frank Biess, review of In the House of the Hangman, p. 135.

Federal Lawyer, March 1, 2006, Henry S. Cohn, review of In the House of the Hangman.

German Politics and Society, spring, 2008, Cora Sol Goldstein, review of The Politics of Regret: On Collective Memory and Historical Responsibility, p. 141.

German Quarterly, summer, 2007, Jaimey Fisher, review of In the House of the Hangman, p. 418.

History: The Journal of the Historical Association, April 1, 2007, Norman Laporte, review of In the House of the Hangman, p. 277.

London Review of Books, October 20, 2005, Barry Schwartz, review of In the House of the Hangman, p. 15.

Perspectives on Political Science, January 1, 2004, Johnny Burke, review of States of Memory, p. 58.

Public Historian, summer, 2004, Aaron J. Cohen, review of States of Memory, p. 59.

Social Forces, September 1, 2006, Victoria Johnson, review of In the House of the Hangman, p. 596.

Weekly Standard, April 9, 2007, Edwin M. Yoder, Jr., review of In the House of the Hangman.


Carnegie Council Web site,http://www.cceia.org/ (July 31, 2008), author profile.

H-Net: Humanities and Social sciences Online Reviews,http://www.h-net.org/ (May, 2006), Michaela Hoenicke Moore, review of In the House of the Hangman.

University of Virginia, Department of Sociology Web site,http://www.virginia.edu/sociology/ (July 31, 2008), author profile.