Current Graduate Affiliates
Elya Assayag researches gender and social history in North Africa during the French colonial period. Building off of her law degree and experience as a practicing human rights lawyer, she examines the intersections between colonial law, gender and sexuality, and community traditions in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia in the twentieth century. Her current project deals with gender-based violence and personal law in Morocco and transnationally, exploring the intricate dynamics within and between the legal systems of local communities and the colonial government. Her work analyzes literary and intellectual sources written by North African women, state archival materials, and oral interviews conducted with women from the region. Alongside her academic work Elya continues to volunteer with refugees and asylum seekers, with a deep belief that academic scholarship and social activism must go together.
Alice Gorton focuses on the changing nature of religion and the family in Britain and the British empire between 1870-1920. In particular, she is interested in a transnational group of conservative Catholic radicals who reacted to nineteenth-century economic and social liberalism by re-inscribing and re-asserting heterosexuality as an essential feature of popular democracy. Her work contextualizes this conservative and anti-modern moment in Britain and the empire within the European Catholic revival and demonstrates the significance of the family to these thinkers’ libertarian economic vision – distributism -- which emphasized traditionalism as the chief bastion of defense against both capitalism and state reform. In addition, she has written on homosociality in Canadian and Australian gold mining communities, and she is interested broadly in the relationship between sex, gender, and religion in a range of British imperial settings.
Rachel Himes is a PhD student in the Department of Art History and Archeology. Her research interests emphasize European material culture and decorative arts as sites for racialization in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and particularly the role of visualizations of gender and sexuality in the development of racial ideologies. Recent projects have engaged with decorative representations of gendered and sexualized labor during and after slavery and across work regimes in the French West Indies, with the construction of black and African genders through the circulation and reproduction of icons and motifs of African womanhood in French visual culture, and with the significance of intimate encounters with such objects and imagery in the domestic interior. With an interest in the politics of museum display and interpretation, she has also worked in the Education Department at The Frick Collection and the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her writing has appeared in Jacobin and the Journal of Museum Education.
Lotte Houwink ten Cate
Lotte Houwink ten Cate is a doctoral candidate in modern European history, with a focus on intellectual and legal history, and the history of sexuality and intimacy. Her dissertation, “Ravaged Interiors: A Modern History of Intimate Violence, 1970–,” presents the first transnational intellectual history of how the harm caused by sexual and domestic violence came to be recognized, classified, medicalized, politicized and criminalized in late twentieth century western Europe. She analyzes the 1970s transatlantic feminist exposure of the intimate realm as a site of danger across its intellectual, political and juridical afterlives up to the present. Her research on Hannah Arendt has appeared in New German Critique, and chapters on the global intellectual history of feminist (sexual) politics are forthcoming in two edited collections. She is also co-editing two special journal issues. In 2021 Lotte was awarded an Emerging Scholars Award by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and in 2021-2022 she is the Zuckerman Dissertation Fellow at Columbia.
Mairead Hynes studies feminism in modern Japan. She is especially interested in how feminists in Japan reckoned with the legacy of Japanese empire, and particularly in Japanese feminist theorizations of “sexual invasion,” which articulated the linkages between military invasion, colonialism, capitalist expansion, and sexual exploitation. She has recently worked on how feminist groups in Japan historicized war-era sexual violence in the “comfort woman” system as part of their activism against sex tourism by Japanese men in the 1970s.
Madison Ogletree studies the late-colonial and early nineteenth-century American South. Prior to enrolling at Columbia, Madison received a BA in History and a BA in English-Literature from Auburn University in 2019. She cultivated an interest in public history while working at the Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2017-2018. Madison's first-year paper examined miscegenation law and the links between sexuality and citizenship before and after the Civil War. Her current project traces the development of guardianship laws for free people of color from the passing of South Carolina’s slave code in 1691 to the Civil War. Her work explores how the legal structure of guardianship—and the material disadvantages that accompanied it—animated race, gender, and filiation as meaningful categories of existence in the slave South. Madison served as a Student of Color Representative for the Graduate History Association (2020-2021), a convener for the Intellectual and Cultural History Workshop (2020-2021), and as a student delegate for the Office of Academic Diversity and Inclusion (2020-). She received an Honorable Mention for the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship Competition (2021).
Lucas René Ramos studies the regionalization of sexual politics in Europe with a focus on Italy. Lucas explores Italian history as a site of state-sponsored Catholic sex programming that responded to the globalizing influence of Anglo-American human rights movements. He follows postwar sex education institutions, Freudo-Marxist liberationists, the politicization of Italy's "Southern Question" as a sexual problem, Italy's inclusion within international LGBTQIA+ rights organizations, and the epidemiological concerns of AIDS in the Mediterranean. He is interested in social movement history, the history of medicine, queer mapping, psychoanalysis, and the legal and cultural components of the Catholic Church in civil life. He has been awarded fellowships from the Ford Foundation (pre-doctoral), Mellon Mays (fellowship program), and the University of Notre Dame's Rome Seminar to do archival work in Italy and Britain. He will co-chair and contribute to the 2022 Northeast Language Association’s panel “Authenticity: A Cultural, Legal, Philological Mythology” with his project titled "The Southern Question & the Gay 'Meridionalists': How sexual politics were 'Made in Italy'." He currently serves on the OADI Graduate Student Delegation (2019-) and has helped in the organization of the Columbia University LGBTQ+ Guide.
Nikita Shepard studies gender and sexuality, LGBTQ communities, social movements, data and surveillance, and radical politics in the twentieth century United States and beyond. Their research has engaged topics of queer youth culture and organizing, anarchism and homosexuality, analogies between sexuality and race and the origins of the minority model in the homophile (early gay and lesbian) movement, and the politics of data, surveillance, and privacy in the gay liberation movement. They serve as the 2021-22 Lead Teaching Fellow for the Department of History and the rapporteur for the Columbia Seminar on Death. They founded the Data, Algorithms, and Social Justice working group at the Center for the Study of Social Difference, and have also worked for the Lehman Center for American History, the Center for Spatial Research on their Mapping Historical New York City GIS project, and the Columbia Oral History Archives. They have received research fellowships from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Texas A&M University, and the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History. Their essay "'To Fight for an End to Intrusions into the Sex Lives of Americans': Gay and Lesbian Resistance to Sexual Surveillance and Data Gathering, 1945-72" will be published in the edited volume Queer Data (University of Washington Press, forthcoming 2022).
Jordan Villegas is a PhD student in the History Department. His research focuses on borderlands and migration history, carceral studies, and history of sexuality in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Texas. In particular, he examines the roles that theories of gender, sexuality, and race played in the concurrent development of ‘modern’ urban policing, prison ‘reforms,’ and border securitization, holding the resultant carceral geographies in continuity with deep histories of eliminatory violence and settler colonial ‘place-making’ in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. His work highlights the Progressive-era relationship between burgeoning carceral technologies and constructions of sexual deviance, sodomy, and sexual violence within and without prison plantations. He is especially interested in the fragmentary archives of women-led community resistance to the co-constitutive violences that developed at Texas’s border, its prisons, and its urban centers from the turn of the century through the interwar period.
Desiree Abu-Odeh's dissertation (PhD 2021, Sociomedical Sciences), Sexual Violence and Responses to It on American College Campuses, 1952–1980, examines the emergence of what is now known as “sexual violence” and responses to it on American college campuses in the post-World War II period. She received funding for her doctoral studies and research from her department's Predoctoral Fellowship in Gender, Sexuality and Health, Columbia Population Research Center, Harvard’s Schlesinger Library, Barnard Library, Smith College Libraries, and a 2019 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship. Desiree's scholarship and teaching engage histories of public health, gender, race, sexuality, social movements, and higher education in the United States, as well as social epidemiology and public health ethics. She has taught public health and bioethics courses at DePaul University in Chicago, the City College of New York, and the University of Minnesota. Her work in the history and ethics of public health has been published in Social Science History, American Journal of Public Health, and Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal. Desiree is an editor at NOTCHES: (re)marks on the history of sexuality blog, where she started as an assistant editor in 2016 and served as a social media manager from 2018 to 2021.
Emily Rutherford’s dissertation (PhD 2020) is a history of the politics and culture of gender in British universities between 1860 and 1935. It accounts for the disparate but foundational ways that gender difference as a social norm shaped the emergence of a national higher education system in Britain in this period, from the rise of the research university and the politics of private donations to the culture of organized student life and the emotional lives of men and women academics. She also works on the history of male homosexuality in Britain. Her work on homosociality, homosexuality, and elite educational institutions has previously been published in the Journal of British Studies and the Journal of the History of Ideas, and she is beginning work on a second project that seeks to offer a new, alternative genealogy of elite ideas about male homosexuality in modern Britain.
Benjamin Serby’s dissertation (PhD 2020), Gay Liberation and the Politics of the Self in Postwar America, is an intellectual history of the gay liberation movement. Benjamin has taught in Columbia's history department and advised undergraduates through the Center for American Studies since 2013. He was a 2016-2017 fellow in museum education at the Museum of the City of New York, where he taught about social movements in New York City and developed content relating to the exhibitions Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York City and AIDS at Home: Art and Everyday Activism. He has also written LGBTQ-themed public history material for the Jewish Museum, the High Line, the Museum of the City of New York, the Alliance for Downtown Manhattan, and other institutions. His writing has appeared in Jacobin, The Nation, and elsewhere.