Current Fellows

2018-2019 AGHI Fellows:

Loumia Ferhat

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.

Meredith Gaffield

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.

Nicole Karam

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.

Emilie Raymer

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.

Gavin Wiens

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.