David Nirenberg

Director and Leon Levy Professor Institute for Advanced Study Princeton

Portrait of David Nirenberg

David Nirenberg is the 10th Director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study. Prior to his appointment at IAS in 2022, he served as the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Distinguished Service Professor of Social Thought, History, Divinity, Romance Languages and Literatures, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Center for Jewish Studies, and the College at the University of Chicago.

Nirenberg is an historian of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in medieval Europe and the Mediterranean. His work explores the history of ideas, particularly medieval ideas about communication, exchange, and social relations, as well as ideas of race and racism. In his first book, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages, Nirenberg explored social interactions between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Spain and France in order to understand how violence shaped possibilities for coexistence. In subsequent work, Nirenberg has explored different ways in which the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have figured in each other’s thought. Judaism and Christian Art: Aesthetic Anxieties from the Catacombs to Colonialism (2011) and Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (2013), and Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies: Judaism in Christian Painting, Poetry, and Politics (2015) are noteworthy products of this exploration. In both Anti-Judaism and his most recent book, Uncountable: A Philosophical History of Number and Humanity from Antiquity to the Present, written in collaboration with Ricardo Nirenberg (David’s father and a mathematician), Nirenberg cultivates an ambitious new approach to the history of ideas – one that is unusually expansive both geographically and temporally.

Nirenberg was educated at Yale University (A.B. 1986) and Princeton University (M.A. 1989, Ph.D. 1992). He has also served as the founding director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society (2011–14), Dean of the Social Sciences (2014–17), Executive Vice Provost (2017–18), and Dean of the Divinity School (2018–22) at the University of Chicago.

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