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CAORC Announces the 2023 Multi-Country Research Fellows

CAORC is pleased to announce the 2023 award recipients for the Multi-Country Research Fellowship and the Mary Ellen Lane Multi-Country Travel Award. Now in its 30th 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 $12,000 each. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The 2023 Mary Ellen Lane Multi-Country Travel Award has been granted to Gokh Amin Alshaif of the University of California, Santa Barbara toward her project, ‘Native Outsiders: The Black Muhamasheen of Yemen.’ 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 the fellows, project titles, and abstracts below.


Gokh Amin Alshaif

Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, University of California, Santa Barbara

Native Outsiders: The Black Muhamasheen of Yemen

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): ARCE (Egypt)

This project narrates the first social history of Yemen’s marginalized Black Muhamasheen community. While many of them claim Black Yemeni Indigeneity, conventional wisdom posits members of this community as “outsiders” and “African.” Members of this community are also subject to daily acts of violence carried out by both state and non- state actors. The project uses archives, music, and popular culture to trace Black Muhamasheen subjectivity, labor, gendered norms, and lived experiences in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Yemen. It asks how did a community who has continuously lived in Yemen since the sixth century and who claim Yemeni Indigeneity come to be “blackened” and marked as perpetual native outsiders?

Clare Bradford Anderson

Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, Harvard University

Tropical Agriculturists: The British Colonial Office, Imperial Agriculture, and the Making of the Global Tropics, 1870-1935

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AISLS (Sri Lanka)

My project seeks relevant roots of the environmental vulnerabilities faced by postcolonial tropical nations face today, by considering how British agricultural officials 100-150 years ago came to regard a scattered constellation of Crown colonies as ecologically interchangeable. I trace the Colonial Office’s professionalization of British tropical agriculture in Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka), British Malaya (present-day Malaysia and Singapore), Trinidad, and Britain itself, between 1870 and 1935. During this period, colonial planters’ associations and their affiliates fostered robust agricultural information networks, which ultimately gave rise to government-run agricultural departments, agricultural colleges, and research institutes on tropical crops and techniques. I draw upon planters’ papers, publications from planters’ associations and agricultural departments, and the records of institutions like the Imperial Institute and Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture to discuss the development of regional and global agricultural frameworks across tropical space. Using a methodological approach of environmental history, my project historically contextualizes these frameworks, which linger today in conservation science and policy relevant to the global tropics.

Hillary Buxton

Assistant Professor, Department of History, Kenyon College

Disabled Empire: Decolonizing Care and the First World War in Imperial Britain

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AIIS (India)

The First World War gave birth to radically new ways of treating and politicizing the bodily and psychological effects of war. This voluminous history has focused primarily on white soldiers. Yet 1914 to 1918 saw the largest single labor migration within the British Empire to date, as nearly 3 million non-white troops volunteered to fight far from home. "Disabled Empire" tells the stories of these soldiers’ journeys through medical and military bureaucracies, exploring how the intimate interactions between patient and carer mapped onto the greater constellation of war and colonialism. Whether in the form of ethnic-specific diets, the provision of impractical prosthetics, or discounting trauma through racialized stigmas, colonial soldiers navigated a system whose diagnostics and treatments denied them the same level of care as their white counterparts. At the same time, the war forced the state to reckon with new debts to this body of non-white subjects who had offered up their bodies and minds to the war machine. Wounded, debilitated, and disabled colonial subjects contested and participated in their own care, making the knowledge that sought to treat them. The result was a mixed legacy of therapies that lasted well into the post-colonial period, carrying with them both groundbreaking empathy and lasting inequality. By re-evaluating the legacy of the First World War in the British Empire, “Disabled Empire” reveals how black and brown soldiers’ service, and the wounds they sustained, simultaneously challenged colonial hierarchies and laid the unequal foundations of twentieth century global healthcare.

Devin Creed

Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, Duke University

Giving for Eating: Famine, Humanitarianism, and Nutrition Science in Bengal and North India, 1837- 1975

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AIBS (Bangladesh), AIIS (India)

Devastating food famines punctuated British colonial rule in South Asia, a period book-ended by famines in Bengal in 1770 and 1943 which killed over ten million people. Nineteenth-century colonial famine relief differed from previous famine relief in rhetoric and practice as it became swept up in the emerging phenomenon of Western humanitarianism. Colonial famine policies came into ideological and material conflict with the vast and complicated matrix of South Asian charitable and gifting practices, which included care for the hungry and destitute. Situated in this fraught zone between state interventions and indigenous care practices, my dissertation analyzes how South Asians contributed to, contested, and adapted nascent forms of Western humanitarianism, in the process forming hybrid cultures of care and charity. The phrase ‘giving for eating’ highlights my novel approach to the study of famine, which combines an archaeology of annadana and other food gifting practices with a material analysis of famine foods. This turn to the alimentary allows me to show the ways in which endemic famine became constitutive of modern regimes of charity and modern foodways in South Asia. By centering the gift of food in my analysis of famine relief, I hope to shed light on this historical phenomenon. The CAORC Multi-Country Fellowship will allow me to do so by supporting archival research in India and Bangladesh.

Emily Gottreich

Adjunct Professor, Department of Global Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Mobilizing the Jewish Past for the Muslim Future: Jewish Heritage and History in the Islamicate World

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AIFIS (Indonesia), TALIM (Morocco)

A new and somewhat surprising interest in Jewish heritage is increasingly apparent in the Islamic world. From Tangier to Sulawesi, Jewish museums are opening, synagogues and Jewish cemeteries are undergoing restoration, and ethnic tourism is booming. The fact that this process is unfolding largely in the absence of local Jewish communities—most indigenous Jews of the region emigrated during the insecure decades of decolonization—begs the question of who exactly is leading such efforts, and to what ends. The proposed research project will investigate the contemporary mobilization of the Jewish past in Morocco, the UAE, and Indonesia, three countries that have devoted significant resources to the renovation (and/or manufacture) of Jewish heritage. It will study the trajectories of specific sites including the bayt dakira in Essaouira, the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, and the Indonesia Holocaust Museum to understand how the Jewish past has become conceptually important for imagining society, governance, and national identity in the post-9/11 Islamic world. Because presentist explanations can only scratch the surface of what is quickly emerging as a new chapter in the long and complex intercommunal relationship between Jews and Muslims spanning many centuries and thousands of miles, on a broader historiographic and epistemological level, this project will reconsider the overall trajectory of the Judeo-Islamic tradition, interrogating what happens to Islamicate Jewish history itself when it is removed from the traditional legal context of “dhimma” and recast to suit the values of today’s multicultural, globalizing world.

Mayte Green-Mercado

Associate Professor & Newark Campus Director of the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice, Department of History, Rutgers University, Newark

Mediterranean Displacements: Morisco Migrations between 1501 and 1608

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): CEMA (Algeria), CEMAT (Tunisia)

The dispersal of Moriscos—Iberian Muslims forcibly converted to Catholicism and their descendants—that resulted from their expulsion in 1609 from Spain and subsequent resettlement around the Mediterranean is a phenomenon that has received increasing scholarly scrutiny, particularly after the 400th anniversary of the event in 2009. Like the Sephardic Jewish community expelled from Iberia in 1492, the settlement of this ‘Mediterranean diaspora’ of Moriscos in North Africa, Italy, France, the Ottoman Balkans and Anatolia, and the Levant, has been the subject of important scholarship that highlights the challenges and opportunities these groups faced in their host destinations after their expulsion. However, far less attention has been paid to the migratory patterns of Moriscos before their 1609 expulsion. This project seeks to contribute to this scholarship by proposing a broad examination of Morisco migration and displacements throughout the sixteenth century, beginning with the moment of their forced conversions starting in 1501, until the eve of their expulsion a century later in 1609.

Walter Hakala

Associate Professor, Department of English / Asian Studies, University at Buffalo, SUNY

Arabic-Script Vernacular Literacy and Public Texts

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AIIS (India), AIPS (Pakistan), AISLS (Sri Lanka)

“Arabic-Script Vernacular Literacy and Public Texts” seeks to construct a history of Arabic-script writing in South Asian languages based not on the literary production of a few luminaries but rather on the contributions of a largely anonymous class of individuals who were among the first to commit the spoken word to writing. Appearing not just in ink on paper, these sources are preserved in other media, including embroidered textiles, stamped coins, inscriptions on stone, plaster, and wood, and contemporary street signage. Bangla, Hindi-Urdu, Gujarati, Marathi, Panjabi, and Tamil are just some of the many languages that emerged in the medieval period from the long shadows cast by Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian. Some of these so-called “languages of the land” became symbols of and the means through which regional identities consolidated into ideologies of nationalism. I will be visiting sites in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and India where the earliest examples of vernacular writing in the Arabic script are preserved.

Michael Mandelkorn

Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, Princeton University

Dis/Order in the Hills: Mapping Mobilities, Capital, and Ecologies Across a Zomian System, 1852-1975

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AIBS (Bangladesh), AIIS (India)

Split across maps and syllabi into the neat divisions of area studies, a single environmental continuum cuts across East, Southeast, and South Asia. This highway of hills (the southeastern edge of Zomia) arcs over Burma, ranging from Yunnan across the Shan and Zomi hills, through Mizoram, and down into the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Since the early ninth century, these hills have served as trade routes and safe havens for merchants and communities anxious to evade the reach of lowland states. I propose that these hills, too often painted in scholarship as lawless, were deeply ordered spaces. But what sort of system ordered these spaces? What logics were at play? To answer, I will examine the various regimes which brought order to these hills from 1852 to 1975 by exploring the region’s history through the lenses of mobility, property, economy, and ecology. These hill communities are best understood in relation to lowland power centers through the ecologically-stratified framework of the vertical archipelago, which maintains that communities living at different elevations cultivated unique commodities to trade across altitudinal zones, creating a complex economic system informed by (micro)climate. By following commodity bundles and capital from upland to lowland, through post/colonial ports, and across the globe, I will uncover who the key actors and managers of this Shan-Zomi system really were, how they navigated the changing political ecology of the region, and how they circumnavigated post/colonial policies of encapsulation and systemic fracture to connect the world’s most ‘remote’ spaces and communities to global markets.

Caitlyn Yates

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia

Migrantship: Extra-continental Mobility Strategies to Navigate Illegalization and Otherness in the Americas

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): ARENET (Mexico)

Depictions and discussions about immigration in North America overwhelmingly portray migrants who reach the U.S. southern border as originating in Mexico and parts of Central America. Yet, increasingly, migrants from Caribbean, African, and Asian countries also reach the United States. To do so, they have often traveled upwards of a dozen countries throughout Latin America. My doctoral research ethnographically focuses on extra-continental migrants’ journeys through Latin America by engaging two field sites. The first is a migrant camp in Panama’s Darien province which receives extra-continental migrants. The second is a migrant aid organization in Tijuana, Mexico which receives Caribbean and African migrants. In proposing two field sites, I will take a comparative approach and focus on migrants’ mobility practices, connections to the localities they pass through, and construction of (temporary) community. I will center my analysis on how extra-continental migrants interact with government officials, civil society actors, other migrants, and the spaces through which they pass. In doing so, my project will expand the literature on how extra-continental migrants experience migration in Latin America, how this migration is conceptualized and operationalized as distinct from Latin American migration by officials in the region, and how extra-continental migrants’ journeys expand how we conceptualize of a ‘legitimate migrant’ in Latin America. This project’s primary objective is to serve as one of the first ethnographic studies on extra-continental migration by drawing from scholarship on illegality, borders, transit migration, (in)visibility, and (im)mobility.

The next call for applications for the Multi-Country Research Fellowship will launch in August, 2023. Learn more about CAORC Fellowships.


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