Pitts, Jennifer 1970- (Jennifer G. Pitts)
Pitts, Jennifer 1970- (Jennifer G. Pitts)
Born 1970. Education: Yale University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1992; Harvard University, Ph.D., 2000.
Office—Program in Law and Public Affairs, Princeton University, 416A Robertson Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544; fax: 609-258-1110.
Academic. Yale University, New Haven, CT, assistant professor, 2000-04; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, assistant professor of politics, 2004—, Center for Human Values, visiting research associate, 2003-04.
American Political Science Association, American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, Conference for the Study of Political Thought.
John Hersey Prize in Journalism, Yale University, 1992; John Montgomery Prize Fellow in Government, Harvard University, 1994-95; Jacob K. Javits fellowship, 1994-98; Mellon Dissertation Writing Fellowship, summer 1998; Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation fellowship, 1998-99; Chase Dissertation Prize, Department of Government, Harvard University, 2000; Best paper, Foundations of Political Theory section, American Political Science Association (APSA) meeting, 2000, for "Legislator of the World? A Rereading of Bentham on India"; junior faculty fellowship, Yale University, 2003-04; John K. Castle Scholar of Ethics in Political Science, Yale University, 2003-04; cowinner, Best First Book award, Foundations of Political Theory section, APSA, 2006.
(Editor and translator) Writings on Empire and Slavery, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 2001.
A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2005.
Contributor to books and academic journals.
Jennifer Pitts is an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, where she has worked since 2004. Prior to that, she taught political science at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, from 2000-04. Her research and teaching interests include modern political and social thought, specifically British and French thought of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, empire, international law, and international justice. She has taught classes on such topics as political theory, the French political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville, modern republican thought, and political philosophy. She graduated summa cum laude from Yale University in 1992, with a B.A. in English. Pitts went on to acquire her Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University in 2000; her thesis project was titled "Nation, Rights, and Progress: The Emergence of Liberal Imperialism, 1780-1850." Pitts has received numerous fellowships and awards for her work, including the John K. Castle Scholar of Ethics in Political Science award, the John Hersey Prize in Journalism, the Chase Dissertation Prize, Jacob K. Javits fellowship, Mellon Dissertation Writing Fellowship, and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation fellowship. She is a member of the American Political Science Association, Conference for the Study of Political Thought, and the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy. In addition to writing on her areas of expertise for book chapters and academic journals, she is the editor and translator for Tocqueville's A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France, and the author of A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France.
Published in 2001, Writings on Empire and Slavery "brings together a series of essays, letters, and reports previously unavailable in English, tied together with a concise introduction by Pitts. The majority of the pieces represent Tocqueville's evolving thoughts on French ambitions in Algeria from 1833 to 1847, with a single piece advocating the emancipation of slaves tacked on to the end," as Laura J. Mitchell put it in her review of the book for H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. Included in the nine pieces on Algeria is commentary on the native tribes of Algeria, an analysis of French colonial policy in North Africa, and a look at the role colonial Algeria could play in France's future. A Virginia Quarterly Review critic noted that this translation "will introduce readers to an aspect of Tocqueville's thinking that has received little attention in the English-speaking world." "By offering the first translation of these documents in a single volume, Pitts has provided a valuable service to the nineteenth-century specialist. The book should enhance readers' perspectives of both European liberalism and French colonialism," observed Jack B. Ridley in his review of Writings on Empire and Slavery for History: Review of New Books. "The publication of these ten selections in English broadens the audience for a set of informative, provocative writings that will prove useful to scholars of comparative colonialism and in a wide spectrum of undergraduate teaching. For Africanists, this volume offers points of comparison north of the Sahara and valuable source material for considering European colonial motivations," asserted Mitchell.
Pitts's next piece, A Turn to Empire, was published four years later in 2005. The book, which is divided in three parts, explores the evolution in European political thought from the opposition to imperialism by "Liberal" thinkers in the 1780s, such as Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and Jeremy Bentham, to, some fifty years later, the endorsement of imperialism from Liberals like John Stuart Mill and Alexis de Tocqueville. Pitts "situates these thinkers in their social-intellectual context(s) and consciously works to restore the complexity and ambiguity of their ideas in the face of caricature, misreading, and appropriation. Inevitably, the focus on these thinkers tends to skew the analysis toward a metropolitan viewpoint…. Yet, that this now becomes an even more pressing matter for investigation indicates the importance of this thoughtful and engaging book," asserted John Cramsie in his review of the book for the Historian.
"In an elegant, impressively documented, and rigorously argued narrative, Jennifer Pitts asserts that imperialism was not essential to the liberal project, as is so often alleged by its critics," maintained Ethics & International Affairs critic Fonna Forman-Barzilai. Forman-Barzilai further stated that "A Turn to Empire should engage many audiences…. Many liberals will find comfort in Pitts' resuscitation of neglected anti-imperialist strands within the liberal tradition. And critics of the liberal universalist project of exporting European civilization, then and now, should enjoy the lashing received by Mill and Tocqueville; but they might also learn something unexpected about resources for cross-cultural openness and understanding in eighteenth-century European liberal thought." History: Review of New Books reviewer Brandon P. Turner felt that "readers of political theory, philosophy, and intellectual history will undoubtedly find much to hold their interest here, as Pitts tells an intricate and thorough story. Her careful examination of the relevant works is skillfully woven together by a keen hand and complemented by her serious engagement with these thinkers and their ideas." "This book should serve as a model for both intellectual historians and political scientists," maintained Foreign Affairs critic Stanley Hoffmann in his review of the book.
Despite much positive feedbook, some critics had a few points of contention with A Turn to Empire. Michael Bentley, writing in Victorian Studies, found that the book "helps us to see early-nineteenth-century imperial discourse in new light by showing more clearly what came before. But what was this ‘liberalism?’ … Two methodological complications prevent Pitts from giving much of an answer. First, she follows traditional practice in political theory by finding two or three instantiations of a doctrine rather than providing a wider understanding of the doctrine's context and morphology…. Second, the reliance on political theory itself as a medium of explanation falls short of the enormous task envisaged." In the Review of New Books, D.N. Lammers concluded, "Not all specialist readers will endorse her sometimes heterodoxic readings of Burke and Bentham, say, but her overall clarity of vision and respectful treatment of the contingencies give her work a value that is likely to endure, even as her extensive notes and bibliography will make it an essential point of departure for future investigators."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, November 1, 2005, J.D. Moon, review of A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France, p. 569.
Ethics & International Affairs, June 22, 2007, Fonna Forman-Barzilai, review of A Turn to Empire, p. 265.
Foreign Affairs, September- October, 2005, Stanley Hoffmann, review of A Turn to Empire.
Historian, March 22, 2008, John Cramsie, review of A Turn to Empire, p. 173.
History: Review of New Books, winter, 2002, Jack B. Ridley, review of Writings on Empire and Slavery; September 22, 2005, D.N. Lammers, review of A Turn to Empire, p. 16; September 22, 2006, Brandon P. Turner, review of A Turn to Empire, p. 36.
International History Review, June 1, 2006, Krishan Kumar, review of A Turn to Empire, p. 395.
Journal of British Studies, April 1, 2006, Peter Cain, review of A Turn to Empire, p. 426.
Journal of Modern History, September 1, 2007, Theodore Koditschek, review of A Turn to Empire, p. 653.
Nation, April 26, 2004, "L'Amerique, Mon Amour," p. 25.
Perspectives on Political Science, September 22, 2005, Brandon P. Turner, review of A Turn to Empire, p. 231.
Political Studies, June 1, 2002, Cheryl B. Welch, review of Writings on Empire and Slavery, p. 366.
Review of New Books, fall, 2005, D.N. Lammers, review of A Turn to Empire.
Victorian Studies, January 1, 2006, Michael Bentley, review of A Turn to Empire, p. 325.
Virginia Quarterly Review, March 22, 2002, review of Writings on Empire and Slavery, p. 48.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online,http://www.h-net.org/ (July 1, 2003), Laura J. Mitchell, review of Writings on Empire and Slavery.