2018-2019 AGHI Fellows
MA in Philosophy, Pantheon-Sorbonne University
Loumia Ferhat is a PhD candidate in the Department of Comparative Thought and Literature. Prior to her PhD she obtained her MA in Philosophy at the Sorbonne Paris I and a diploma in Philosophy and Islamic Studies at ENS rue d’Ulm. Aside from Philosophy and Islamic Studies, she is interested in Media Studies both as a scholar and practitioner.
My dissertation, The Dilation of the Heart: Rethinking Subjectivity with Ghazālī, explores specifically the question of subject formation through the lens of the heart, which as the seat both of the intellect and the soul is considered as the essence of the individual. In using the Qur’anic image of God dilating the heart to illuminate it, Ghazālī does not take cognition for granted but rather makes it the potential outcome of a bodily disposition.
Comparative, my dissertation is concerned with using Ghazālī’s conception of the subject as being porous, externally “dilated” and under many influences in order to destabilize the modern conception of the subject inherited from the Enlightenment. Hence my work is in conversation with anthropologists such as Talal Asad and Sabah Mahmood. More generally, it shows how through subject formation, Ghazālī turns epistemology into an ethics and an aesthetics where the gaze has been converted.
MA in History, Johns Hopkins University
Meredith Gaffield is a PhD candidate in the Department of History. Before arriving at Hopkins, she completed a BA in History at Pomona College. Meredith is broadly interested in the history of migration, commerce, and racial identities in the early modern Atlantic world, with a particular focus on the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti).
My dissertation examines the social and commercial practices of middling and laboring white migrants who settled in Cap Français, one of the busiest port cities in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, between 1763 and 1793. During this time period, Saint-Domingue’s booming plantation economy attracted a steadily increasing number of migrants from France in search of colonial fortunes. Scholars of pre-revolutionary Saint-Domingue often portray such migrants as “petits blancs” (“little whites”) who remained on the margins of colonial society, and whose racialized resentment of the substantial and affluent population of free people of color determined their engagement with the French and Haitian revolutions. I argue instead that colonial ports such as Cap Français provided marketplaces where white retailers and artisans thrived. Middling and laboring white migrants adapted metropolitan credit relations and business practices, exploited the system of slavery in urban craft ateliers and households, and tapped into dense shipping networks to participate in regional and Atlantic trade. These familiar forms of establishing credit and trust enabled them to forge new social and economic connections that crossed colonial lines of race and status, and also to maintain connections with relatives and business partners in France. As middling urban whites participated in the French and Haitian revolutions, they defended the exploitative, hierarchical colonial socio-racial order as insiders who had already achieved a degree of success, and who still aspired to join the ranks of the planter elite.
MA in French and Francophone Studies, Syracuse University
Nicole Karam is a PhD candidate in the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures. Before arriving at Johns Hopkins, she completed a BA in French and philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 2008 and a JD in 2011 from the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School, where she focused on intersections between literature and law. After law school, Nicole received an MA in French and Francophone studies from Syracuse University in 2013. Her current research focuses on the intertwining relationship of legal speech and poetic expression in the literary and artistic spaces of 17th and 18th-century France, with particular focus on the production and reception of eloquence as a technology for the reconfiguration of judicial competence and right. Nicole has received the Dean’s Teaching Fellowship for her Spring 2018 course entitled “The Letter of the Law: Investigating the Relationships between Law and Literature in 18th-Century France.”
Nicole’s dissertation, “Poetry in the Praetorium: Robespierre’s Rhetoric in the 18th-Century Courtroom,” illuminates how the rhetorical devices of sentiment developed in novels and theater in 18th-century France infiltrated courtroom textual productions in ways that significantly shifted what it meant to be be an eloquent lawyer. The “literary turn” in legal writing was heralded by many lawyers and philosophes as an important epistemological strategy for the moral and political instruction of their readers. By exploring how different factions conceived and spoke into existence their own modes of courtroom eloquence, we witness the disappearance of the court altogether as norms and forms of judgment lose status faced with the mounting, but ultimately elusive, authority of public opinion. As a contribution to scholarship on law, emotion, literature and rhetoric, this dissertation offers the pre-Revolutionary French legal scene as a case study into the ways “truth” can often be mediated through innovations in literary technologies.
MA in Social Sciences (concentration: History of Science), The University of Chicago
Emilie J. Raymer is a doctoral candidate in the Department of the History of Science and Technology. She is interested in the history of the biological and human sciences, evolutionary theory, and environmental history. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary. She has published her research in the History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences and the Journal of the History of Biology. She was awarded the Dean’s Teaching Fellowship to teach the course “Debating Evolution: From Darwin to Sociobiology,” and she has also taught “Genetics and Bioethics,” offered through the Expository Writing Program. She worked for the National Academy of Sciences before she began doctoral work at Johns Hopkins.
In my dissertation, “From Social Darwinism to Human Ecology: Environmental Approaches to Cultural Evolution, 1900-1955,” I examine how researchers used the science of ecology to study pressing mid-twentieth-century social issues, and I chart an overlooked, but important, discourse on anthropogenic environmental change. Specifically, in the wake of the Dust Bowl, industrial pollution, and neo-Malthusian overpopulation fears, it became increasingly apparent that environmental degradation affected not only flora and fauna, but also humans themselves. After these crises, researchers developed an interdisciplinary field of inquiry that became known as “human ecology,” which integrated perspectives from human, biological, and natural sciences. I argue that human ecological studies are highly significant because they established that humans are intrinsic parts of the ecosystems they inhabit, and they laid the intellectual foundations of the modern environmental movement. These studies additionally contributed to the development of ecosystem ecology, produced new understandings of biocultural diversity, and challenged the evolutionary hierarchies established by earlier social scientific theories. While primarily an American story, in my dissertation, I also examine transnational intellectual exchanges between American scholars and those of India, France, Germany, and Latin America.
MA in the History of Art and Visual Culture, University of Oxford
Gavin Wiens is a seventh year PhD candidate in the History of Art Department at Johns Hopkins University, having previously completed his BA at Carleton University in Ottawa and his Master’s at the University of Oxford. His work focuses primarily on the artistic production of late medieval and early renaissance Siena.
My dissertation, titled “Making Siena: Art, Architecture and Urban Life in the Tuscan City, 1404 – 1487,” examines the fifteenth-century urban renewal of Siena, Italy. The project engages with the recent work of art historians who have approached the built environment not as a background for the unfolding of life but as a medium that actively gave urban experience form and shaped its meaning. Scholars have increasingly emphasized the importance of visual and material culture in fashioning the identity of a city, recognizing the potential of late medieval “things” to open up new approaches. The cityscape has begun to be understood as a dynamic system of relations rather than as a static image. Still, questions surrounding the role played by the visual arts within such a system remains barely charted territory. My project addresses this lacuna by exploring the use of public art to shape the distinctive character of Siena’s revamped topography. In broader terms it brings an art historical perspective to bear on urban renewal projects, allowing for an improved understanding of how images established connections between different sites, defined space and shaped civic identity.
2017-2018 AGHI Fellows
MA, San Francisco State University
Research interests: Digital history and research methodologies, including text encoding, social network analysis, and geospatial mapping
Nathan Daniels is a graduate student in the History Department, studying with Gabrielle M. Spiegel. Prior to his time at Hopkins, he earned a BA in Medieval studies and musicology from Oberlin College and an MA in history at San Francisco State University. Nathan is broadly interested the urban history of the Middle Ages, with a particular focus on the construction and uses of urban space in fourteenth century Paris. His research has been funded by the Medieval Academy of America and the Charles Singleton Center at Hopkins, and he has also received both the Dean’s Teaching Fellowship and the Dean’s Prize Fellowship from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. In addition to his dissertation research, Nathan is also interested in digital history and research methodologies, including text encoding, social network analysis, and geospatial mapping.
Nathan’s dissertation, titled, “Minstrels, Guild Organization, and Medieval Urban Life: A Case Study of the Confraternity of Jongleurs in Paris, 1292-1350,” examines daily life in the Parisian Saint-Martin neighborhood during the early fourteenth century. It addresses how the inhabitants of this neighborhood interacted with each other and how those interactions were shaped by the city’s major institutions, bureaucracies, and topography, taking as a major case study a guild of minstrels located within the neighborhood. While this guild, often called the Confraternity of Saint Julien, has been an occasional source of interest to scholars—and particularly musicologists—for centuries, little actual archival research has been done on it, and it has never been fully considered within its local context. More broadly, the project examines how urban space is conceived and constructed, by the neighborhood residents themselves and by the various overlapping institutions that competed for jurisdictional control over the city. In this way, it contributes to the literature about urbanization during the Middle Ages and the role of cities in shaping conceptions of identity and culture.
Personal website: https://johnshopkins.academia.edu/PatrickGiamario
Patrick T. Giamario is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science. His research focuses on contemporary democratic theory, critical theory, the history of political thought, and aesthetics. He is currently completing his dissertation, The Politics of Laughter, which investigates how experiences of laughter shape our shared political life. Patrick is the author of “The Laughing Body Politic: The Counter-sovereign Politics of Hobbes’s Theory of Laughter,” published in Political Research Quarterly in 2016 as well as “‘Making Reason Think More’: Laughter in Kant’s Aesthetic Philosophy,” forthcoming in Angelaki in Autumn 2017.
The Politics of Laughter investigates how experiences of laughter shape our shared political life. Beginning with Aristotle’s famous claim that “man is by nature a political animal” due to its capacity for reasoned speech, I explore the political significance of his less famous argument that “mankind…is the only one of the animals that laughs.” I show that by calling into question the distinction between reasoned speech and irrational noise, laughter constitutes a privileged site wherein the contemporary social order constructs, preserves, and transforms itself politically. Critical engagements with the accounts of laughter offered by Theodor Adorno, Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, and Ralph Ellison reveal how laughter entrenches and subverts social power (Adorno); enacts and resists sovereignty (Hobbes); expresses and recomposes common sense (Kant); and constructs and democratizes racial hierarchies (Ellison). In a period where laughter constitutes both a key medium through which subjects engage political issues (e.g., The Daily Show) and a central stake in violent political struggles (e.g., the Charlie Hebdo attacks), this study illuminates a crucial way in which politics is practiced today.
MA, Florida State University
Kat Haklin is a PhD candidate in the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures. Before arriving at Hopkins, she completed a BA in French and Art History at DePauw University and an MA in French Literature at Florida State University. Her research focuses on enclosure – the perception and sensation of surroundings that close inwards – as it materializes in the literary, visual, and social cultures of nineteenth-century France. Her work therefore concerns a range of cultural production from poetry and prose, to painting and caricature, to finally fashion and the history of dress. Aside from her academic interests in nineteenth-century France, Kat spent two years teaching English in French primary schools as part of the French Ministry of Education’s Assistant de langue program, and completed an internship with the non-profit association France terre d’asile, where she worked with refugees and asylum seekers in Paris.
My dissertation examines the proliferation of enclosed space in French poetry and prose from 1857 until 1890, a roughly thirty-year period that spans most of the Second Empire and the beginning of the Third Republic. It is during this era in 1879 that the first medical definition of ‘claustrophobia’ materializes – and not incidentally, I contend – in Paris. As such, I analyze literary texts published directly preceding and following this definition by four major authors of the century: poems from Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire, excerpts from Les Misérables and Les Travailleurs de la mer by Victor Hugo, and a selection of episodes from works included in Jules Verne’s Voyages extraordinaires and Émile Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series. Out of the multiplicity of forms that enclosure assumes in this panoply of texts, I argue that a discourse on the perception and sensation of enclosed space emerges in French literature during and immediately following Haussmann’s renovations in Paris. The shifting urban landscape, the aesthetic experience of which imbues Baudelaire’s verse, sets in motion an ambivalent position vis-à-vis enclosure during the latter half of the nineteenth century. The propagation of this discourse extends outside the urban environment, subsequently entering natural landscapes in which enclosure provokes phantasmatic episodes verging on hallucination. Thus, the psychological and philosophical dimensions of confinement, initially articulated by Baudelaire, intensify in dramatizations by Hugo, Verne, and Zola as these authors deploy enclosure to underscore the stifling conditions presented by modern industry, paradoxically seeming to praise and abhor at once the technological as well as social progress of the era.
MA, The American University in Cairo
Personal website: https://johnshopkins.academia.edu/FouadHalbouni
Fouad Halbouni is currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology. His research interests are centered around Coptic studies, anthropology of Islam and cultural memory. He has received his master’s degree in anthropology from the American University in Cairo in 2008. His recent publications can be found on his personal website.
Amid a highly-charged sectarian atmosphere, this ethnographic project focuses on how the clergy of the Coptic Orthodox church, the largest Christian community in the Middle East, engage with their laity over the concerns and grievances that envelope everyday interactions between Muslims and Copts in Cairo, Egypt. More specifically, my research explores forms of ethical criticism that circulate within the vicinities of three Coptic churches in the districts of Al-Azbakiya and Al-Faggalah, which constitute historical venues for the Coptic community in Cairo. Towards this end, I devote my attention to forms of ethical criticism found in Coptic Orthodox traditions such as religious apologetics, martyrological and hagiographical (vitae of the saints) traditions, which play definitive roles in the religious life of the community. Those traditions serve as a medium through which the orthodox believer strives to become a living ‘epistle of faith’ to the outside world and in the eyes of Muslim others. Lastly, my research attends to the internal debates found within the local churches concerning the limits and possibilities of moral perfectibility as ethical criticism of fellow Muslims, and more importantly, the political initiatives that such forms of ethical criticism might inspire (or hinder).