Each year, the American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS) holds a competition for U.S. scholars of all disciplines to apply for a fellowship to conduct research overseas on Yemen. AIYS provides essential resources for the support of research on Yemen and the development of academic ties between the Yemeni and American academic communities. The purpose of this fellowship is to encourage and support scholarly research that fosters greater understanding of Yemen, its history, culture, and impact.
AIYS’ fellowship program for U.S. scholars invites proposals from graduate and post-graduate scholars in all disciplines. Collaborative or group projects are also invited. Research funded by this fellowship award must be conducted outside the U.S. and Yemen, the latter due to current travel restrictions. Therefore, applicants should propose a project related to Yemen for research to be conducted outside Yemen or the U.S. For example, it would be possible to travel to the United Kingdom to research documents on Yemen in the archives of Great Britain or to a European country to research Yemeni manuscripts in a particular library.
There are many aspects that make this fellowship a true hidden gem. This is a unique funding opportunity to carry out research on Yemen and, for many, to have their first fieldwork experience. This type of hands-on involvement can positively impact researchers and help them gain valuable experience. This opportunity enables interaction with research and data. Fellow Jason Weimar described how it impacted his understanding:
“... the opportunity for field experience that AIYS provides can really change the perspective that you have on your field. It is one thing to read publications about the data with which you are working but it is another thing to have to generate your own data. In addition to interpretive issues of analyzing the information presented to you, you also see how factors such as time, money, and facilities can shape what a scholar is able to produce.”
Gaining experience and understanding is important as is gaining connections. Fellow Neama Alamri described how this fellowship allowed her to meet many in the Yemeni community during her fellowship,
“The opportunity to conduct research abroad was a wonderful experience that not only expanded my findings but connected me to a broader Yemeni diasporic community.”
In terms of eligibility, applicants must be United States citizens, who are currently full-time graduate students or post graduate professionals, and wish to complete research on Yemen outside of the U.S. and Yemen. AIYS is now accepting applications and will continue to do so until February 8, 2022 and will notify awardees at the end of May, 2022.
Past fellows have carried out fascinating research in a variety of locations around the world. Here are just a few stories from recent awardees who have completed their fellowships.
Jason Everett Weimar, completed his work in the Netherlands at Leiden University Library where he was able to use their resources and even handle the artifacts that were essential to his research. His work centered around stick inscriptions from ancient Yemen from the 11th Century B.C.E to the 6th Century C.E. and during his time he was put in contact with another scholar whose research was affiliated with his and they were able to meet and discuss their work and this interaction helped him further understand scholarship in this field.
Photo Description: Jason Weimar at the Leiden University Library examining ancient stick inscriptions.
Not only was he able to network and conduct his research, but he also made a huge discovery:
“When I was in Leiden on the AIYS grant, I was able to take photographs of one stick inscription in an odd script that some previous scholars had written off as ‘practically indecipherable’ and furthermore did not publish any images of. I was able to view this inscription directly, take high quality pictures of it, and eventually decipher it. The text was written in an Ancient South Arabian language called Minaic, which was thought to die out in the 1st century BC or AD. However, notably this inscription appears to be the latest dateable Minaic text and might date to after when most scholars believe the language died out. Interestingly, the text also had the first instance of the word "we" in Ancient South Arabian (for context, there are well over 10,000 South Arabian texts)”.
From this he published “The Minaeans after Maʿīn? The latest presently dateable Minaic text and the God of Maʿīn" in Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy.
Photo Description: Two ancient sticks used as a way of preserving vital information that Jason Weimar studied and photographed during his fellowship, found at Leiden University
The AIYS grant additionally gave him the opportunity to publish another article on the stick inscriptions titled “Taxes and Letter Genres in Ancient Yemen: New Insights from the Leiden Collection of Ancient South Arabian Stick Inscriptions”. His work has already had many interesting publications and outputs. Jason told us in greater detail what this fellowship has helped him accomplish:
“The AIYS fellowship also provided me an opportunity to acquire otherwise unavailable detailed photographs of the texts with which I work. These factors have allowed me to better interact and evaluate the work of previous scholars on whose shoulders I stand and given me insight into how the field may be improved in the future by my research. The photographs that I took will also serve as the basis for future publications that I intend to make in the field”.
His work will undoubtedly lead to a greater understanding of linguistics and Yemeni history and will be the building blocks for future Yemen researchers.
Gabriel Lavin, another Fellow, just recently completed his work in London, England and authored “Music in Colonial Aden: Globalization, Cultural Politics, and the Record Industry in an Indian Ocean Port City, c. 1930-1960.” His research was archival and took place mostly in the India Office Records and the Recorded Sound Archives at the British Library. Not only was his work incredibly important to further understanding of this time period in Yemen and its transformative music culture, but it enabled him to give a public zoom talk titled, “Yemeni Culture: An Exploration of Adeni Music in the late Colonial Period”, with the British Yemeni Society and publish an essay in their journal about his work.
Gabriel said that this fellowship allowed for wonderful networking and outreach opportunities and that the highlight of the fellowship ended up being his Zoom lecture:
“People from all over the world tuned in--from Malaysia to the Netherlands--including many Yemenis from Yemen as well as in the diaspora. Since I gave the talk in New York, I was invited by the Yemeni American community in Brooklyn to hang out there for the afternoon and got to meet Jab Zanta, the owner of the new Diwan cafe on Atlantic Ave (which everyone in the area should visit, by the way). It felt great to have my otherwise more academic work reach and impact such a broad audience, including here in the United States”.
Last, but certainly not least, Neama Alamri examines and explores histories, labor, and empire in the Yemeni diaspora, specifically in England, California, and Michigan, throughout the 20th century. Her dissertation “Long Live the Arab Worker: A Transnational History of Labor and Empire in the Yemeni Diaspora” uses her work during her AIYS Fellowship to complete a piece that looks at the struggles and activism of Yemenis in diaspora and how their local struggles paralleled global politics, specifically through the lens of imperialism and empire. A wonderful way to get a greater understanding of the impact of Yemeni immigrants and the diaspora. She traveled to England for her research and was able to go through documents in archives in South Shields, Sheffield, and London, including the British Library.
Photo Description: Neama Alamri going through documents at the British Library
This was much more than an academic interest for Neama, being a Yemeni-American her motivations were familial as well, “This was my first time visiting Britain which was very exciting. My most memorable moment during this research trip was having the opportunity to speak with folks in the Yemeni community. I even had the chance to meet some of my own relatives in Britain for the first time!”.
Photo Description: ”Document of Identity Issued to an Applicant Who Cannot Obtain a National Passport,” from The National Archives folder titled “Adenese Seamen, General”
Neama’s work continued after her travels; her dissertation as mentioned above, after her graduation she held a postdoctoral fellowship with the Society of Fellows at Princeton University, and she has plans to continue her research and turn her dissertation into a book! When we talked with her about her experience she had something to say for those considering the fellowship,
“Apply! The AIYS fellowship is such a wonderful opportunity to support scholars doing research related to Yemen and its diaspora. I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to be a recipient of this fellowship which greatly improved the scope of my research”.
AIYS is currently accepting applications until February 8th, 2022. For more information or to apply, click here.