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CAORC Announces 2022's Multi-Country Research Fellows

CAORC is pleased to announce the 2022 award recipients for the Multi-Country Research Fellowship and the Mary Ellen Lane Multi-Country Travel Award. Now in its 29th year, the Multi-Country Research Fellowship supports advanced regional and trans-regional research in the humanities, social sciences, and allied natural sciences for U.S. doctoral candidates and scholars who hold a PhD. For this competition cycle, nine fellowships have been awarded for grants of $11,500 each. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The 2022 Mary Ellen Lane Multi-Country Travel Award has been granted to Brian Valente-Quinn of the University of Colorado, Boulder toward his project, ‘The De-Radicalizing Stage: Theater Makers Respond to Extremism in France and West Africa.’ This award is granted to the highest-ranking Multi-Country Research fellow and provides an additional $1,000 towards travel expenses. The award is named after CAORC’s founding director, Dr. Mary Ellen Lane, who led CAORC for 28 years.

View the full list of 2022 fellows, project titles, and abstracts below.


Bayan Abubakr

Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, Yale University

The Forty Days’ Road and the World Around It: Race, Slavery, and Society in Ottoman-Egyptian Sudan, 1840-1924

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): ARCE (Egypt), ARIT (Turkey)

The 1821 Ottoman-Egyptian conquest of the Funj Sultanate (1504-1821), comprising most of modern-day central Sudan, and the Ottoman Egyptians’ subsequent demand for enslaved peoples (Fahmy, 1997) led to a dramatic increase in slave-raiding and enslaving in Ottoman-Egyptian Sudan (1821-1884). At the same historical moment, the abolition of slavery in the Americas, organized resistance to the European conquest of the African continent, and the instability caused by Islamic reformist movements in West, North, and East Africa led to the expansion of the trans Saharan slave trade. Paul Lovejoy (2011) estimates that the number of enslaved peoples exported along trans-Saharan caravan routes nearly doubled to 1.2 million in the nineteenth century. Despite the parallels between the nineteenth-century Ottoman Egyptian Sudanese and trans-Saharan slave trades, these historical phenomena are not read alongside one another. My dissertation intervenes to examine how the movement, experiences, and networks of enslaved peoples and slave-trading merchants in Ottoman-Egyptian Sudan along trans Saharan trading routes influenced the way they racialized themselves and were themselves racialized. I also ask how these processes structured Ottoman-Egyptian Sudan and informed the making of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (1899-1956). I read Ottoman Turkish, Arabic, and English archival sources alongside ethnographic studies and oral histories conducted in Sudan to examine histories of slavery in Ottoman-Egyptian Sudan as constituent elements of the economic and intellectual routes comprising the trans-Saharan caravan trade. Ultimately, I ask: how did the nineteenth-century trans-Saharan slave trade shape the social and discursive formation of Blackness and Arabness in Ottoman-Egyptian Sudan? How does examining Blackness and Arabness in this context expand our understanding of the power dynamics and ideologies that shaped global Blackness and the development of non-Western regimes of difference in the nineteenth century?

Katherine Harrington

Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Emory University

Home Economics: Crafting Households and Communities in Ancient Greece

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AAR (Italy), ARIT (Turkey), ASCSA (Greece), CAARI (Cyprus)

This project examines the everyday lives of small scale craft producers during the Classical and Hellenistic periods. Many Greek households engaged in production, including weaving, agricultural processing, and carpentry, but also pyrotechnic crafts like ceramics and metalworking. Domestic production and household industry have been studied in their wider social contexts in other archaeological traditions but have rarely been examined in detail in Greek archaeology. My approach is multi-scalar and looks at how household industry operates at the level of the house, the neighborhood, and the city. At the level of the house, I investigate the social and economic roles of craft production and how that production was organized in relation to other household activities. Widening scalar focus to the level of the neighborhood, I explore how domestic industry impacted community formation. Finally, at the level of the city, I look at the wider social and economic significance of domestic production in urban settings.

Ultimately, I argue that household industry was much more common than has previously been acknowledged and that households often used craft production dynamically as a part of their wider economic strategies. Most businesses in ancient Greece were organized at the household level, though because of the institution of slavery, oikoi (households) could have many members. Yet, the vital role of the oikos as an economic institution has not yet been analyzed. This research fills this gap and provides a human face to the ancient Greek economy, drawing from recent trends in anthropological archaeology, economic history, and urban studies.

Hannah Hyden

Doctoral Candidate, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

Subjects of Wonder: Court Society and the Persian ‘Ajā’ib al-makhlūqāt (1300-1632)

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AIIS (India), ARIT (Turkey)

This project explores how wonder was used to shape a courtly education for elite actors in early modern Iran from 1450 to 1750. Among the most widely produced books from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries across the Islamic world, Zakariyya b. Muhammad al-Qazvīnī’s (d.1283) cosmography, Wonders of Creation and Rarities of Existence, was an essential component of a cosmopolitan education throughout the Islamic world. This dissertation examines a scantly studied corpus of illustrated Persian Wonders of Creation manuscripts dating from 1300-1632. Unlike the Arabic Wonders of Creation which is primarily dedicated to descriptions of the natural world, the forms of knowledge outlined and illustrated in the Persian Wonders of Creation pertain to the fields of knowledge essential for the social and political success of elite actors. The cultivation of rhetorical, scholastic, scribal, and legal skills—or adab culture —were essential for those associated with an elite class of society that was tasked with upholding political and societal order, and enabled employability and mobility across vast social and geographic territories. The growing importance of bureaucratic administration throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries coincided with an increased production of illustrated wonders-of-creation manuscripts, which offered a compelling framework for a Persian courtly aesthetics, politics, and ethics. Examining the role of wonders-of-creation literature as a tool for sanctifying and systematizing popular notions of identity, belonging, and social acceptability for the elite actor can expand present understandings of intellectual and courtly life of the late-Timurid and Safavid periods.

Nancy Ko

Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, Columbia University

Nostalgic Governance: Coexistence, Capitalism, and the Moral Imagination of Jewish History-Writing in the Global "Orient," 1878-1967

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): ARCE (Egypt), ARIT (Turkey), PARC (Palestine)

This dissertation reevaluates the legacies of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU), an educational organization established by French-Jewish philanthropists in 1860 to “civilize” the Jews of the “Orient.” Today, scholarship and public memory alike nostalgically refer to the world the AIU inhabited either as a proven alternative to the violence of Zionist settler colonialism, or as a neutral backdrop to the violence that Jews in the Middle East would face in anticipation of and following the establishment of the state of Israel.

What these approaches assume is that settler colonialism in Palestine emerged from the explicit project of European Zionism alone. Rather than understand the AIU’s assimilationism as external to developments in territorial Zionism, this dissertation instead illuminates how the AIU’s financial and affective investments in Jewish welfare came to underwrite a novel genre of Jewish history-writing that paradoxically came to govern the terms both of settler colonialism in Mandate and Israeli Palestine, and resistance to it.

Following four generations (1878-1967) of the AIU’s Jewish and non-Jewish funders, administrators, and alumni across Turkey, Egypt, and Iran—polities remaining outside direct French control, yet financially indebted to or militarily occupied by the British—I trace how the AIU came to define Jewish-Muslim coexistence within emerging claims to indigenous capitalism. Through history books, periodicals, songs, and historical societies, the AIU’s financial and affective investments in Jewish welfare reflected a “moral imagination” that defined the Orient not as a primordial source of anti-Semitism, but as an optimistic site for its absence—an imagination whose ambivalent effects persist today.

Ryan Low

Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, Harvard University

Notarial Information and Village Life in the Medieval Mediterranean

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AAR (Italy)

Between 1200 and 1500 CE, an information revolution swept across Europe as scribes called notaries gave public faith to millions of private agreements in the form of written contracts. At first, they served urban communes, bishops, and merchants. By the fourteenth century, villagers in rural society also began to rely on notaries, generating thousands of contracts every year. Many rural notaries worked in multiple communities. Diligently visiting villages on the other ends of valleys and arduously ascending thousands of meters into the Alps, these scribes went to extraordinary lengths to allow transactors to overcome mutual suspicion and cooperate in the form of loans, marriage dowries, testamentary bequests, land acquisitions, and more. These clients were not just elites. They were peasants in need of credit during lean harvests, Jewish lenders and landowners in isolated Christian hamlets, and widows protecting the proprietary interests of themselves and their children. In other words, notaries connected transactors who crossed geographical, religious, and social boundaries. Such interactions required knowledge of the invisible, implicit rules and norms that determined the legitimacy, fairness, and kindness of any agreement. Itinerant notaries passively acquired these intuitions, communicated them to other transactors, and determined which rules applied to whom. These norms are evasive: they do not appear explicitly in the text of a contract. However, analyzing relationships between and amongst metadata such as the location of acts, the use of finding aids, the transactors' religious identities, genders, and ages all reveal an important regime of intuitive knowledge.

Ariela Marcus-Sells

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Department of Religious Studies, Elon University

The War of Nasir al-Din: Reform and Revolution in West Africa

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): TALIM (Morocco), WARC (Senegal)

In the Mauritanian Gebla of the late seventeenth century (c. 1673-77), a Muslim scholar known as Nāṣir al-Dīn rallied Lamtūna Berbers in a jihad against, first, the Wolof states along the Senegal River and then later against the Arab Bānu Maghfar in the desert. Scholars of West African history agree that the Arabic chronicles of this war composed by Muḥammad al-Yadālī (d.1753) two generations later provided a narrative account justifying the social stratifications of Saharan society. However, although this war and al-Yadālī’s accounts have long been acknowledged as foundational to pre-colonial desert society, there has been no extended academic investigation of al-Yadālī’s work. I will use the CAORC Multi Country Research Fellowship to support three months of manuscript research in Senegal, Mauritania, and Morocco for a book project on al-Yadālī and the connection between the accounts of Nāṣir al-Dīn’s war in the Mauritanian Gebla and other Muslim leaders who claimed the title of “renewer” (mujaddid) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This project will investigate the questions: how does Muḥammad al-Yadālī’s portrayal of Nāṣir al-Dīn reflect al-Yadālī’s broader cosmological and eschatological worldview? And how are the messianic and revolutionary models provided by these accounts related to later Islamic movements in the region?

Abigail Schoenfeld

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University

Social Sciences, Knowledge Production, and Nation -Building in Turkey and Soviet Azerbaijan, 1922- 1940

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): ARISC (Azerbaijan), ARIT (Turkey)

In the years following the collapse of the Russian and Ottoman Empires, both the nascent Turkish Republic and the Soviet Union embarked on totalistic modernizing projects characterized by the deployment of cutting-edge academic and scientific methods in service of nation-building. Bureaucrats in both Turkey and the Soviet Union used structured disciplinary study in the natural and social sciences in order to create their own definitions of history, national belonging, and modernity for their fledgling states in the aftermath of the destruction of World War I. Reflecting global intellectual trends of their time, early Turkish and Soviet policymakers’ and intellectuals’ attempts to define national belonging for their new states came in the form of earnest academic studies of their own heterogeneous populations using then-novel academic techniques in various social sciences. This dissertation will investigate the use of physical anthropology, ethnography, linguistics, and history in nation building projects in and between early Republican Turkey and Soviet Azerbaijan in the years between 1922 and 1940. Of particular interest are sites of transnational intellectual reciprocation such as academic conferences, periodicals, and exchanges of educational literature between the two polities. In doing so, this project will shed new light on both the theoretical study of nations and nationalism and on the multifaceted political, cultural, and intellectual relationships between Turkey and the Soviet Union during the first decades of their existence.

Wallace Teska

Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, Stanford University

Paths to Justice: Law, Religion, and Social Change in French West Africa, 1890-1990

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AAR (Italy), WARC (Senegal)

Many ordinary Africans prefer to use religious mediators over state courts to settle their social disputes. International development experts present “informal justice” as a crisis of state sovereignty, a problem that can be solved by simply lowering barriers to access formal judiciaries. My dissertation argues that Africans’ preference for religious adjudication today constitutes the end-result of a specific historical trajectory, not easily resolved by accessibility projects. Religious mediation operates on norms and logics not always respected by state institutions. Paying attention to these divergent epistemologies highlights the intractability of informal justice in Africa, pushing policymakers to think beyond Western models of justice.

My project refuses the state-centered, monoethnic, and religious frameworks commonly adopted by studies of legal pluralism around the world. In my area of study, a cross-border region of Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, legal venues include everything from state courts to Muslim judges (qadis), Catholic missionaries, and Evangelical pastors. Many of these venues were introduced during the period of rapid legal, religious, and social change brought on by French colonization. I take the diversity of this legal landscape in its totality, analyzing its evolution over the past century. Doing so, my project suggests that paths to justice evolve in conjunction as litigants seek out mediation that accords with their aspirations across political, ethnic, and religious boundaries. This method complicates both African legal history, which focuses predominately on state records, and religious studies, which seldom places Muslims and Christians in the same narrative.

Brian Valente-Quinn

Assistant Professor, Department of French and Italian, University of Colorado Boulder

The De-Radicalizing Stage: Theater Makers Respond to Extremism in France and West Africa

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): WARC (Senegal)

This project explores the ways in which theater makers understand, frame, and respond to the threat of extremism in contemporary society. Conducting performance fieldwork, interviews, and archival research, I will examine the range of techniques that theater makers employ to address the roots of extremism and the impact of extremist movements on society. This project will highlight the connections and parallels that stage artists draw among extremist discourses that circulate globally and within their own local context. I work with a broad understanding of the term “extremism” that encompasses far-right politics and acts of terrorism in the European context, as well as fundamentalist movements and shifts to authoritarian forms of government in West African contexts. My primary interest lies in exploring the particular insights that stage artists are able to provide given the nature of their work, which is embodied and embedded in local contexts while engaging with international perspectives and funding institutions.

My selection of sites (France, Senegal, and Burkina Faso) will allow for a discussion of the transnational funding of anti-extremist cultural projects, as well as the connections between such practices and the long and complex history of French colonial intervention in West Africa. This research constitutes the initial field stage of my current monograph project, which posits that the threat of extremism has provoked a shift in the work of theater makers across geographical contexts toward new approaches that are designed to foster the sense of a collectively shared set of democratic and humanistic values.

The next call for applications for the Multi-Country Research Fellowship will launch on August 10, 2022. The call for applications for the CAORC-NEH Research Fellowship will launch on September 6, 2022. Learn more about CAORC Fellowships.


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