You are here

H. Glenn Penny

Glenn Penny
Modern European history
Critical theory
Migration and diaspora
History of Anthropology
19th century to present relationships between Europeans and non-Europeans
119 Schaeffer Hall
Office Hours:
By appointment
Phone Number:

Glenn Penny’s work explores the relationships between Europeans and non-Europeans from the eighteenth century to the present. He is particularly interested in Germans’ broad engagement with the wider world. His first book, Objects of Culture: Ethnology and Ethnographic Museums in Imperial Germany (2003), was a major intervention in the history of anthropology. It was the first comparative study of German ethnographic museums as well as the first in-depth analysis of the international market of material culture that took shape during the late nineteenth century. His second book, Kindred by Choice: Germans and American Indians since 1800 (2013), explores the striking sense of affinity for American Indians that has permeated German culture for two centuries. It shows how those affinities stem from German polycentrism, notions of tribalism, a devotion to resistance, a longing for freedom, and a melancholy sense of shared fate. It also uses those interconnections over the longue durée to directly engage the relationship between continuity and rupture in the metanarratives of modern German history and to underscore the perils of historians’ reliance on political periodizations. Listen to a New Books in History podcast interview regarding this book here

As a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin (2017-18), Glenn completed In Humboldt’s Shadow: A Tragic History of German Ethnology (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2019/Princeton 2021). It directly engages the public controversies swirling around ethnological museums in Europe today. Written for a broad audience, it explains why there are more than a half million non-European objects in the Berlin Ethnological Museum and millions more in similar museums across Germany. It explains how those objects came to German cities; what the people who collected those objects thought they were doing; and what we could and should be doing with them today. Ultimately, it argues that German ethnological museums are treasure troves filled with the traces of human histories that have yet to be written, and it pleas for the objects to be released from their long confinement and the museums returned to their original focus on the production of knowledge. Listen to a New Books podcast interview regarding this book here.

Recently Glenn completed a book for Cambridge University Press titled:  German History Unbound: 1750s to the present, which offers readers a polycentric German history that pointedly decenters the nation-state.  It includes communities of Germans far beyond its borders, and it emphasizes that for generations many who considered themselves to be German also felt themselves to be other things.  Taking up a decidedly counter-hegemonic position, Glenn calls for a greater integration of mobilities, migration flows, and pluralities of belonging into our narratives of Germans’ histories. He also argues for greater attention to the transcultural spaces many Germans helped to fashion and the various networks that tied them together. German History Unbound will appear in June 2022. 

Glenn is spending this academic year as John Simon Guggenheim Fellow pursuing a new project on belonging in the southern German borderlands.

In 2000, Glenn Penny's dissertation, Cosmopolitan Visions and Municipal Displays, won the Fritz Stern Prize from the German Historical Institute. His first book received awards from the American Anthropological Association and the European Section of the Southern Historical Association. His second book was named a 2015 Choice Outstanding Academic Title and received an award from the German Academic Exchange Service--Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). Recently, Glenn was recognized for Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Humanities Research by the Office to the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. Glenn has been awarded fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, the Freie Universität in Berlin, the Frtiz-Thyssen Foundation, the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation at Brown University, the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, the Center for Advanced Studies in Munich, the German Academic Exchange, the Social Science Research Council, and the Institute for European History in Mainz. He received his PhD from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1999.


Glenn teaches undergraduate courses on modern German and European history, on historiography and critical theory, and on the challenge of doing global history locally. He also teaches graduate seminars on critical theory, modern Europe, and migration studies. Courses recently taught include:

  • HIST:1004  Issues: Communities and Society in History -- German Iowa and the Global Midwest
  • HIST:1014  Issues: Twentieth Century-Crisis -- Fleeing the Nazis: German Exiles in Latin America
  • HIST:1403  The West and the World, Part III
  • HIST:2151  Introduction to the History Major -- World War I and German Immigration to Iowa
  • HIST:4148  Global History as Local History:  European Immigration in Iowa
  • HIST:4473  German History 1648-1914
  • HIST:4428  Nineteenth Century Europe and the World
  • HIST:6003  History Theory and Interpretation
  • HIST:7155  Theories: Diaspora, Immigration, Migration
  • HIST:7438  Theories of Diaspora, Immigration, and Migration
  • HIST:7440  Readings in Modern German History

Awards & Service

  • John Simon Guggenheim Fellow (2021-2022)
  • Senior Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin) (2017-2018)
  • Distinguished Achievement in Arts and Humanities Research, Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development (2015)
  • German Academic Exchange Service--Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) book award (2015)
  • Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Fellowship (2012-2014)
  • Visiting Fellow, Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, Berlin (2011)
  • German Historical Institute, Washington DC Post-Doctoral Fellowship (Spring Semester 2008)
  • Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, (Center for Contemporary Historical Research) Potsdam, Summer Research Fellowship (2007)
  • The George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship (2006-2007)
  • Charles Smith Book Award from the European Section of the Southern Historical Association (2004)
  • Nineteenth Century Studies Association Article Prize (2003)
  • "William A. Douglass Book Prize in Europeanist Anthropology," Honorable Mention. The American Anthropological Association (2003)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2003-2004)
  • American Philosophical Society Research Grant (2003)
  • Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange) Research Grant (2001)
  • Friends of the German Historical Institute Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize in German History (2000)
  • James Bryant Conant Fellowship in German and European Studies at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University (1999)
  • Joseph Ward Swain Article Prize (1997) • Institute for European History (Mainz, Germany) Fellowship (1997)
  • Social Science Research Council--Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies Research Fellowship (1995-1996)