New Anabaptist and Mennonite Historian Will Connect the Past with the Present

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Conrad Grebel University College has appointed Dr. David Y. Neufeld as Assistant Professor of History, beginning July 1, 2022, succeeding Professor Marlene Epp who retires this summer.

David Neufeld“We are excited that David Neufeld will be joining the tradition of excellent teaching and scholarship in History and Anabaptist-Mennonite Studies at Grebel and the University of Waterloo,” announced Troy Osborne, Grebel’s Dean. “David brings an impressive breadth of knowledge of the history and thought of Anabaptists from across the globe over the last five hundred years.”

As a scholar of early modern Europe, Neufeld studies the interaction of Swiss Anabaptists with their Reformed neighbors and officials in Zurich from 1550-1650. His work challenges scholarly and popular assumptions about the degree to which Swiss Anabaptists were separated from their neighbors and society. Neufeld has already published public-facing scholarship on the history of French Mennonites and demonstrated his skill at connecting early modern topics with current conversations among Mennonite scholars and in the wider discourse. His training in early modern Anabaptism and breadth of knowledge in Mennonite studies will build on Grebel’s reputation in these fields, and he will enlarge the network of pre-modern and early modern scholars at the University of Waterloo, which includes Kate Kennedy Steiner and Troy Osborne at Grebel. 

“This hiring reflects Grebel's ongoing commitment to understand and interpret the past,” noted President Marcus Shantz, “both for the Mennonite community and for society at large." 

Neufeld has been a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Grebel since 2019, following his doctoral studies at the University of Arizona’s Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies. Previously, Neufeld attained a Master’s degree in history at the University of Arizona and a BA in History at the University of Waterloo, where he also minored in Peace and Conflict Studies at Grebel. He is currently revising his book manuscript for publication, Separating Tares from Wheat: Making an Anabaptist Minority in Early Modern Switzerland.

“I am a historian focused on the long-term development of both early modern Swiss Anabaptism and Mennonite historical memory,” explained Neufeld. “I approach the study of early modern Anabaptism by examining dissenters’ lived experience and by investigating how the interactions of Anabaptists with social majorities have been captured in the historical record.”

David Neufeld teaching students in the libraryWith five years of teaching experience in a broad variety of courses, Neufeld was recognized for teaching excellence and thoughtful interactions by both students and colleagues. While prioritizing hands-on engagement with a student-centred pedagogy, he will teach many of Grebel’s existing History courses and develop new courses in Latin American and World History.

“History courses deepen student understanding of why our communities and world take their current shape, while reminding us that other ways of living together are possible,” added Neufeld. “Whether by guiding collective analysis of source material or fostering research curiosities, I look forward to accompanying students as they build their own capacities for historical thinking.”

Beyond teaching and scholarship, Neufeld will join Grebel’s Institute of Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies, where he has been serving as Associate Director. He serves on numerous boards and will bring new energy for community education activities and network building. With a strong interest in archival studies, and as a past J. Winfield Fretz Visiting Research Scholar in Mennonite Studies at Grebel, Neufeld will be able to continue thinking creatively around the use of archival material in teaching and research.

“It’s a rare privilege to work alongside people who share a conviction that active and honest grappling with the past enriches our common life, work, and faith,” said Neufeld. “I’m thrilled by the chance to contribute to Grebel’s long-standing strength in Anabaptist-Mennonite studies, and intend that my work speaks to the concerns of the communities invested in this global tradition.”

 “As a sophisticated scholar and innovative and student-centered instructor,” Osborne added, “David will make an immediate contribution to our academic programs and the Institute of Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies. We look forward to welcoming him back to our community.”

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