2020-2021 AGHI Fellows
BA in philosophy, JHU
Zachary Gartenberg is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. He received his BA in philosophy at Hopkins and spent three years as a PhD student in philosophy at Yale before returning to Hopkins to finish his doctorate.
After more than three-hundred years of interpreting the philosophy of Spinoza, commentators are often left puzzled by his use of important metaphysical concepts whose role he neglects to spell out. One such concept, ‘expression’ (derived from the Latin transitive verb exprimere), shows up repeatedly in Spinoza’s philosophy. The range of contexts in which expression is invoked reveals its far-reaching scope. And because it is so closely tied to Spinoza’s characterizations of the essences of God and modes (finite things which depend for their essence and existence on God’s essence), an adequate understanding of expression could uniquely illuminate his foundational views on essence and being. Hence, the driving question of my project is: Can we recover a unified account of expression in Spinoza?
I head my approach to this question with an examination of the connection between expression and Spinoza’s preeminent relations of metaphysical dependence: conception, causation, and inherence. Through this inquiry, I argue, we discover an intimate association between what it means for one thing to ‘express’ another thing, and what it means for one thing to be ‘conceived’ — understood or explained — through another thing.
In this way, Spinoza’s account of expression has a great deal to teach us about the character of his rationalism, the view that there is an explanation for every fact. Developing Spinoza’s thought along these lines involves, in the end, uncovering Spinoza’s position on whether expression is “brute,” i.e., whether one thing’s expressing another is to be regarded as a fact that cannot be explained. If there is any sense in which the answer to this question is affirmative, then Spinoza — widely regarded as the arch-rationalist among early modern philosophers — espouses a more mitigated form of rationalism than is typically supposed. As readers of Spinoza and historians of early modern thought, I contend, we would be well-served by getting clear on this question.
MA in Social Sciences, University of Chicago
Ghazal Asif is a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins University Department of Anthropology. Before arriving at Hopkins, she completed an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from LUMS, Pakistan.
Ghazal Asif’s dissertation examines how Pakistan’s Hindu religious minority create meaningful lives and espouse an ethics of political engagement while calling home a country that was created in 1947 to offer Indian Muslims a homeland free of Hindu influence. Against this backdrop, Ghazal’s research draws on two years of archival and ethnographic research in a mid-sized Pakistani town with a large Hindu population. In an environment suffused with potential and past violence, why do people place their faith in legal or political forms of claim-making, ranging from agitating for caste emancipation through state recognition to the contentious adjudication of the Hindu family in courts of law? This project pays close attention to the everyday aspirations and labors of Pakistani Hindus as they navigate the
vicissitudes of state, neighborhood, gender, and caste, striving to create conditions of possibility for their own belonging. In dialogue with history, gender studies, critical legal studies, political theory, and literary theory, Ghazal’s work theorizes the ways in which communities on the margins of power participate in economies of effect so as to remain oriented towards a hopeful political future. Her dissertation scholarship has been generously
supported by the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the American Institute of Pakistan Studies.
MA in English, JHU, and the University of Tennessee
BA in English and in Classical Civilization, Ohio University
Royce Best is a PhD candidate in the English Department. He focuses on Shakespeare, disability studies, and early modern literature in his scholarship and teaching. His peer-reviewed articles appear in Disability Studies Quarterly, Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research, and The George Eliot Review. Before coming to Hopkins, Royce received MAs in English from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Tennessee. He also holds a BA in English and Classical Civilization from Ohio University.
My dissertation, Crip Estrangement: Shakespeare, Disability, Metatheatre, explores how disabled characters in Shakespeare trouble the way that other characters understand reality, while also metatheatrically staging the means by which this discommodity is achieved for theatregoers to observe. Moments like these ones stem from two concurrent historical phenomena. The English Reformation during the early Tudor period led to the dismantling of the Roman Catholic Church’s systems of almsgiving and charity, which caused disabled people to be re-aligned with the categories of wonder and monstrosity in the cultural imagination. Meanwhile, metatheatrical devices recycled from medieval drama became fashionable in English popular drama shortly after the first public theaters were opened in the 1560s and 1570s. The combination of these two self-referential phenomena into single instances in Shakespearean drama results in moments that I call “crip estrangement,” which are centrally important to early modern disability studies because they frame, focus, and muddle the encounter with disability as readable junctures that expose the protocols of both mimetic representation and dramatic phenomenology in the period. My dissertation, therefore, brings explicit attention to the intersections of form, performance and embodiment, and builds upon prominent discussions of early modern disability in works focused on drama (Row-Heyveld), monstrosity and norming influences (Bearden), and other aspects of Renaissance culture (Hobgood, Wood, Iyengar). Moreover, because the history of disabled embodiment features fluctuating sets of definitions and associations across time, my project helps make sense of the vexed treatment that these scenes have received across theatre history, and what these responses indicate for the history of disability.
BA in International Studies (International Peace and Conflict Resolution) and History from American University
MA in History and in Library Science, University of Maryland, College Park
Ayah Nuriddin is a Ph.D. Candidate in History of Medicine. She received a BA in International Studies (International Peace and Conflict Resolution) and History from American University in 2009. She received a dual Masters in History and Library Science from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2014. She was also a Graduate Fellow in the Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in 2017-2018 and a Dissertation Fellow at the Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (CHSTM) in 2018-2019.
My dissertation analyzes black eugenics, which I define as a hereditarian approach to racial uplift that emphasized social reform, reproductive control, and public health as strategies of biological racial improvement. It emerged from a longer tradition of black political organizing for racial equality and the beginnings of black engagement with medicine and science, especially as greater educational opportunities became available in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I argue that black eugenics is a set of iterations of black engagement with racial science and hereditarian thought across the twentieth century. African American physicians, biologists, social scientists, and others across different social strata mobilized a form of eugenics without racism to argue for racial equality. Using a broad set of archival material, institutional records, African American periodicals, and African American newspapers, this dissertation will track the evolution and transformation of black eugenics, and its relationship to black politics.
MA in Political Science, Freie Universität Berlin
Franziska Strack is a doctoral candidate in the Political Science Department. She holds an MA in Political Science from Freie Universität Berlin and a BA in Cultural Studies/Social Science from Humboldt Universität Berlin. Her current research focuses on the role of sound in conceptions of the political, examining both the musical tropes in prominent political philosophies and the socio-political dimensions of sound studies literature.
My dissertation offers a sonic perspective on the political. Specifically, it develops a theoretical vocabulary for the affective, corporal, and nonhuman dimensions of communicative interactions. The dissertation creates this vocabulary using an interdisciplinary approach. It highlights how distinct sonic figures (such as rhythm, song, voice, or vibration) have been employed in various traditions in the history of political philosophy to describe the world and the individual’s place in it, and it puts those descriptions in conversation with sound studies literature. Bringing together musical, linguistic, and infra/ultrasonic terms under the umbrella of sound in this way, my dissertation proposes a model of communication which emerges from constant exchanges between deliberate articulations and affective flows that pursue bodies before being consciously recognized. It thereby configures speech as one type of expression amongst many other (nonlinguistic) modes of articulation and acknowledges the involvement of nonhuman agents in communicative processes. With this model, the dissertation challenges logocentric notions of subjectivity, power, and collectivity, and complicates dominant responses to ethico-political events by including worldly noises in the creation of intimate modes of belonging.
MA in East Asian Studies, Columbia University
Xiaoqian Ji is a PhD candidate in the Department of History. Before arriving at Johns Hopkins, she completed an MA in East Asian Studies at Columbia University and a BA in Chinese literature at Peking University.
My dissertation uses a single class of objects – cosmetics – to connect material culture, medicine, gender, and the senses and to explore patterns of consumption and trade, the transmission and production of knowledge, and technologies of gender in China from the late 16th century to the early 19th century. First, I integrate cosmetics into the study of global exchanges, connecting consumption in Ming and Qing China to the early modern world. Second, I explain how medical and craft knowledge associated with cosmetics entered into vernacular culture. Third, I demonstrate that cosmetics enabled individuals to perform gender identities.