Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities:
Phone: +1 401 863 2596
Kevin Goldberg is a specialist in nineteenth-century German history, with broad interests in social and cultural interpretations of the Second Reich (1871-1918). His research examines the Central European wine trade as a way of understanding how social and economic relations affect the construction and circulation of cultural forms of knowledge (taste, discernment, and differentiation).
Kevin Goldberg is a Cogut Center for the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow, and teaches classes in the Departments of German Studies, History, Judaic Studies. He received his Ph.D. in History at the University of California, Los Angeles (2010). Goldberg's research examines how commercial and technological transformations led to social disruptions, particularly in the case of agricultural trades in the second half of the nineteenth century. By using the massive transformations in the German and Austrian wine trades as case studies, Goldberg links commercial innovation in the realms of taste and culture to the uncertainties of social dislocation, demonstrating that phenomena such as "terroir" and "single-vineyard" wines are rooted in social and property relations.
Goldberg's second project is on German-Jewish and Austro-Jewish wine merchants in the late-Imperial and inter-War years. This research will integrate the little-understood dynamics of the wine trade into the existing literature on Central European Jewry.
Kevin Goldberg's book, Matters of Taste and Place: The German Wine Trade, 1850-1918 (manuscript in progress) begins by surveying the viti-political landscape of Central Europe in 1815. Traditional viticultural power centers, such as monasteries and the nobility, were weakenedthough certainly not decimatedas a result of the tumultuous wars and social upheavals of the Napoleonic era. 1815 also solidified the place of the winegrowing middle class (Bürgertum) in several parts of the German Southwest while Prussia's entrance into the wine tradethrough its annexation of the Rhinelandproved no less transformative. The subsequent commercialization and monetization of the trade brought about the conditions for technological improvements, better vineyard maintenance, and more innovative selling strategies. But these very same conditions also fostered a greater dependence on variables beyond a single vintner's or merchant's control, including the impact of foreign production markets, national tariff policies, and ever-evolving conceptions of consumer taste.
By 1850s, the unlocking of the secrets of the fermentation process combined with the spread of other forms of enological knowledge to begin leveling the playing field among vintners, no matter the differences in vineyard locations or soil conditions. In short, by the end of the 1860s, cellar processes had the potential to begin replacing nature as the greatest single factor in determining the quality and characteristics of wine. In a market of indiscernible wines, the mystique of the fermentation process (long considered more spiritual than scientific) and the real value of vineyards based on their perceived monopolization on quality, were under threat. Goldberg shows, somewhat ironically, that the uncertainties that had dominated the trade for millennia in the form of inconsistent vintages, a dearth of knowledge about grape varieties and viticulture, and little understanding of the fermentation process, had actually served to stabilize the trade, socially. It was not until these uncertainties were resolved that chaos truly began to reign.
With a theoretical framework stretching from Marx to Baudrillard, the book details the remarkable "re-enchantment" of nature's role in winegrowing by tracing the varied reactions to these remarkable technological and scientific achievements. Owners of valuable vineyards invented the notion of "natural wine" (Naturwein) to highlight the apparent inimitability of their soil, sunshine, and growing conditions by even the most advanced cellar process. Partly as a result of the 1894 Patents Law (as well as the continued inefficiencies of partible inheritance) which did not limit the use of village names in wine labeling across difference wine regions, innovative growers and merchants learned to differentiate their wines at the most micro of levelsthe vineyardby registering vineyard patents in the thousands before the First World War! The very discursive basis of terroir; that is a wine's naturalness and its specific relationship to the soil, is shown to derive from social and legal rather than physical or physiological conditions.
Equally important to this telling of viticultural history are the significant ways in which Matters of Taste and Place rethinks traditional beliefs about Imperial Germany. The book shows that power in the wine trade emanated from the actual wine regions themselves, including chambers of commerce, several vertically-integrated grower-merchants, and a handful of winegrowing politicians, challenging the perceived hegemony of Berlin in matters of legal and economic change. Similarly, Imperial German commercethough certainly not as Liberal as England or the United Statesis shown to have been remarkably plastic, and even innovative, in the ways in which powerful merchants and growers were able to rapidly affect change. Perhaps most surprisingly, the traditional hegemony of the French viticultural narrative, where the vine blight and issues surrounding colonial wines take center stage, are shown to have remarkably little parallels in the German case.
Research for the book was conducted at a number of archives and libraries in Germany, including the Stadtarchiv Trier, the Kreisarchiv Bernkastel-Wittlich, the Weinbauforschungsamt in Geisenheim am Rhein, the Hessisches Staatsarchiv in Wiesbaden, and the Rheinland-Pfalz Landeshauptarchive in Koblenz and Speyer.
Grants, Honors, and Awards
DAAD Faculty Summer Seminar, Cornell University, 2012 (declined).
Cogut Center for the Humanities Award for Cornell University's School of Criticism & Theory summer program, 2012.
Experiences of Modern European Jews: Transnational, National, and Comparative Perspectives, Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University, 2012.
American Council on Learned Societies / Mellon Foundation, New Faculty Fellowship, 2011-2013 (declined).
Walter R. Craddock Award. Best Paper, Europe/Asia/Middle East, Southwestern Historical Association.
Teaching Fellowship, University of California, Los Angeles, 2009-2010.
Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), Dissertation Research Grant, 2008-2009.
Institute of European Studies, University of California, Berkeley, Pre-Dissertation Grant, 2007.
Graduate Mentorship (Summer), University of California, Los Angeles, 2007.
Chancellor's Fellowship, University of California, Los Angeles, 2005-2010.
American Historical Association
Conference Group for Central European History
German Studies Association
Kevin Goldberg's teaching interests include specialized courses in Central European history, German cultural studies, European-Jewish history, and alcohol and commodity history. In addition, Goldberg enjoys teaching general survey courses on a number of topics, including world history, western civilization, and Early-Modern and Modern European history.