Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

The New School (Faculty)


I am a scholar, writer, teacher, and activist. As Assistant Professor of History at The New School, I study the politics and culture of the modern United States and am especially fascinated by issues of gender, race, identity, and class. My first book, Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture (Oxford, 2015), explores the roots of the culture wars in American public schools, specifically amid heated battles over sexuality and bilingual education. My latest research traces the rise of “wellness culture” since the 1950s, asking how and why Americans have increasingly linked food and fitness regimes to the pursuit of self-fulfillment. These scholarly pursuits are closely linked to my activist work as co-founder of HealthClass2.0, an experiential health education program that bridges a wellness gap in public school education and connects university mentors with K-12 students.

My writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Slate, Well+Good, and The Huffington Post and I’ve been featured as an expert historian in diverse media venues such as Brian Lehrer TV, The History Channel, and The Atlantic. My work in wellness has been covered by many publications including The Guardian, Well and Good, Univision and Fox 5 NY.

Other Projects: Past Present Podcast



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