Aylon Cohen is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science specializing in political theory. Aylon’s research lies at the intersection of intellectual history, affect studies, and democratic, queer and feminist theory. His dissertation, currently titled “Incorporating the Corporeal: Affect, Bodily Practice, and the Transformation of Political Life in Early Modern Europe” investigates how different forms of bodily practice not only organize everyday relations of equality and hierarchy, but also bind their participants to seemingly abstract principles of sovereignty that make political life intelligible.

During the 18th century, Western Europe underwent a revolutionary change. Against a hierarchical political order, citizens pledged fidelity to principles of equality, as “the people” became a new source of sovereignty. But how was such allegiance actually generated? Whereas received explanations tend to answer these questions by reference to the acceptance of novel intellectual ideals, Aylon’s dissertation studies how new political allegiances were created through both exceptional and everyday practices of bodily comportment that were deeply structured by relations of gender, sexuality, and race. To do so, the dissertation examines four sites of Europe’s public sphere: the royal courts, Masonic lodges, English sodomite clubs, and France’s national convention. In each case, I show how citizens come to see themselves and (some) others as equals through changes in gesture, voice, and touch.

Aylon’s project is supervised by Linda Zerilli (Chair), Lisa Wedeen, Adom Getachew, and Steven Pincus (History) and has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Nicholson Center for British Studies, Pozen Family Center for Human Rights, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. 

You can read more about Aylon’s research and teaching here.