My name is Liam, and you’ve stumbled upon my Weblog. I am a Ph.D. Candidate in history at the University of California, Irvine, with emphases on the Middle East, world cultures & globalization, and modern European history. My intellectual background is in theory and philosophy, but I’ve always approached ideas and culture within an evolutionary framework, i.e., am more interested in the diffusion and change over time of ideas than in whether they are “right”. Hence my being a historian and not a philosopher!
Right now I am studying religion and culture in the Israel/Palestine conflict, but I have previously worked on nineteenth-century evolutionary biology, the eighteenth-century public sphere, and a few other things. I have long considered myself an intellectual nomad, in that my interest in a given topic will lead me over time into new areas, rather than into new archives on the same topic. I suppose that’s the ADD in me? *grin*
In addition to my research, I teach part-time at Chapman University in Orange, which is a fantastic little liberal arts college in the still-cute Old Towne district. I also TA classes at UCI, of course. But my time at Chapman has allowed me to build my chops as a lecturer and given me the opportunity to develop original classes, of which I am on my fourth. Creating a new programme of study in Middle East history has been a dream-job for me in every sense. Now, if only I could make enough money to pay my rent…
A little about my personality… In the Myers-Briggs typology I am INTP. Ethnically (if anyone cares!) I am Irish, Polish, Sicilian, Bulgarian, Scots, and Jewish. Religiously I self-identify as a humanistic Jew, or if I’m confident someone will have an idea of what I mean I will say I’m a Pyrrhonist. *lol* I am fascinated with religions, but for neurological reasons I have always been an outsider to the religious experience, and for philosophical reasons I prefer suspensive judgement to declarations of belief or lack thereof.
I grew up in a working class family with no-one who’d gone to college, so my heading off to do a Ph.D. was far from expected, especially by me! My first real career was working as a longshoreman in the port of Los Angeles / Long Beach; I still have my card and try to work when I can. This is why I have a commercial drivers’ license, rather uncommon in my current field! I have also worked in restaurants as a fry cook and lead, as a computer network consultant, and as middle management in IT for an aerospace company. It was my time at the latter company which gave me the impetus to get into college, and here I am, still plugging away!
My philosophical interests are tough to summarize quickly. The most influential on my lifestyle would be existential thinkers like Nietzsche, Sartre, and Camus; other major influences include Spinoza, Kant, Foucault, Russell, and the Buddha. My epistemology is strongly coloured by the perspectivists and poststructuralists, primarily Nietzsche and Foucault, as well as classic Pyrrhonists like Sextus Empiricus and sceptics like Hume. My approach to ethics draws on Kant, Deleuze, Singer, Russell, Stirner, Aristotle, and of course Nietzsche. And my political philosophy is founded mainly on the anarchist tradition: Bakunin, Goldman, Thoreau, Rocker, Chomsky, Bookchin. It should be noted, again, that in practice my politics are highly pragmatic. I would say that I am economically centrist and socially liberal; my favourite newspaper is The Economist, if that tells you anything.
My current research looks at the Haredi Jews of Israel and their rôle in the settlement of the West Bank. Historians have not spent enough time on the changes in their socio-cultural identity over the past forty years, and my project uses three “new cities” as a spatial lens to examine those changes. It’s a tough issue to describe briefly, and has the potential to make everyone mad at me for one reason or another if I’m not careful! *lol*
My Masters’ work was on the impact of nineteeth-century evolutionary theories on the philosophy of Nietzsche, which had me reading a lot of science writers and Idealist philosophers. Other projects I have tackled include eighteenth-century British politics and media, the development of ancient religious traditions, and alternative sexualities in the early-modern Muslim world.
I am a little eccentric, with a quirky, ironic sense of humour. I am extremely open-minded, and a ready conversationalist. I am analytical almost to a fault and have a hard time not thinking about several things at once. I’m a pacifist by choice, but am a dominant alpha personality. My politics are difficult to describe. In idealistic (Aristotelian!) terms they verge on anarchism (libertarian socialism), though in practice I am pretty pragmatic. I vote consistently and tend to favour economically centrist policies. Socially I am very liberal, celebrating alternative lifestyles and embracing a Nietzschean perspectivism; I am sex-positive and life-affirming all the way. That said, I try not to judge or impose my morality (or immorality) on others. And at base, I am an ethical person with a strong sense of personal honour which, *ahem*, borrows from the Kantian imperative.
At risk of sounding like a dating profile, I’m going to blather on a bit more about my personal life!
A fussy vegetarian, I love Italian, Indian, and much Mediterranean food, and love nothing more than good beer and fine cheese. Frequently I do my work (reading, writing, grading) in coffee houses here, so I also enjoy good teas and coffee. I am not a foodie, and eating was always something of a chore which distracts from more interesting activities (*lol*), but there are a few things which get me excited (mmm, pizza).
A fairly hard worker, when I’m not otherwise teaching I spend a lot of time reading and writing, working on my lectures, grading student papers, and doing research. I am an “information sponge”, and while I approach many things like a historian (i.e., am keen to recognize causal relationships and contingencies, and follow change over time) my interests range from philosophy to physics, foreign cultures to evolutionary biology, macro-economics to music. When I’m not busy stuffing more useless trivia into my noggin I can be found wasting time on the computer, playing games with my friends, watching assorted strange movies, walking about with my iPod, messing with my cats, or people-watching.
I’m not particularly outdoorsy, as I now have severe allergies for much of the year in California. But in summer they are dormant both in Israel and California, which is one of the reasons I do my research then. I’ve also been known to do the occasional very stupid thing, like take off for another country with just a backpack and no itinerary or reservations. Needless to say, I’m not averse to sleeping under the occasional bridge, as circumstances warrant. *grin* I enjoy hiking in summer and travelling on the cheap, and love to explore new urban enviroments. When walking I tend to snap a lot of photos for a gallery I am building of my travels, and I try to ‘blog regularly when I’m abroad.
All the same, I am quite the homebody much of the time. I have three cats right now, and I love taking in stray or abused animals and helping them recover their dignity and trust in people. As for the cat allergies, that’s what antihistamines are for! And, okay, I’m a collector. I do a damned lot of reading & listening, so I collect books, films & music. If you’re interested in my tastes, look here: http://liammaheriv.com/about-me/some-things-i-like/
To sum me up in a few words, I am a libertarian, environmentalist, vegetarian, non-violent, cosmopolitan. Broadly speaking, my interests include philosophy, critical theory, foreign cultures, world history, world religions, evolutionary biology, psychology & human sexuality. In short, ladies and gentlemen, I am a consummate nerd.