Warm Congratulations to the Recipients of the Khalida Quraishi Memorial Graduate Award in Islamic Studies in 2016-2017

Nafisa Abdulhamid
MA Student, Political Science
Title of MA Thesis: Tracing the Genealogy of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

My research challenges the range of conventional Orientalist and neo-Orientalist arguments about the rise of the Islamic State and sifts through the plethora of available information on the organization to historicize and contextualize its origins and nature. Essentially, I examine the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Syrian Conflict that erupted in 2011, and the ideology of Wahhabism to answer the following question: How did the political conditions of Iraq after 2003 foster an environment for favourable for the rapid and ambitious rise of the Islamic State.
Hajar Amidian
PhD Candidate, Political Science
Title of Dissertation: Rentier State and Authoritarianism: Through the Lens of Structure, Elite Action, and Civil Society.

Does natural resource wealth promote authoritarianism and construct states immune to democratic social movements? The key to understanding this relation is to investigate the political incentives produced by resource “rents.” My research attempts to advance the understanding of the correlation between the rentier state and degrees of authoritarianism through the lens of the structural, elite, and civil society levels in the specific case of Iran (1997- 2013).
Jay Friesen
PhD Candidate, Modern Languages & Cultural Studies
Title of Dissertation: Little Mosque, Big Ambitions: When Multiculturalism Meets Comedy.

My work focuses on the intersection of social justice, multiculturalism, and comedy. Focusing primarily on the Canadian sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie, I use cultural theory to understand the themes, ideologies, and political implications of producing light-hearted laughter. I have found that while laughter is often said to be the best medicine; however, when it comes to social ills, that wisdom depends on what we’re trying to cure.

Warm Congratulations to the Recipients of the State of Kuwait Islamic Studies Graduate Award in 2016

Navid-PourmokhtariNavid Pourmokhtari
PhD Candidate, Political Science
Title of Dissertation: The Green Movement in Context: A History of Popular Resistance, Social Mobilization and Political Contestation in Post-revolutionary Iran

My doctoral dissertation examines the 2009 Iranian Green Movement from a Foucauldian perspective. The Green Movement represents the first instance in the new millennium of a mass mobilization in the Middle East, preceding the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ by two years. Examining this phenomenon will thus contribute to a theoretical understanding of social movements, democratization and politics in the Middle East. This will require, first and foremost, undertaking case studies of social mobilization and political contestation during the post-revolutionary period leading up to the Green Movement. Only then will I be in a position to determine whether the Green Movement represents a paradigm shift in the aspirations and demands of dissenting groups in Iran and throughout the Middle East.
houssem ben lazreg (1)Houssem Ben Lazreq
PhD Student, Modern Languages and Cultural Studies
Title of Dissertation: The Jasmine Revolution: Translating Voices of Dissent

Over the first few months of 2016, Tunisia celebrated and commemorated the fifth anniversary of a wave of discontent that toppled an oppressive regime and sparked off further uprisings around the Arab world. This revolutionary spirit in Tunisia and other Arab countries has manifested itself in a huge production and proliferation of cultural materials such as chants, banners, slogans, jokes, poems, street art, blogs, presidential speeches and media coverage. Although Tunisia was the cradle of this series of revolutions, very few studies have explored the linguistic aspect of the Tunisian revolution such as the inter-lingual mediation that was done by translators, artists, writers, journalists and bloggers in order to voice dissent against the repressive regime. In my thesis, I will examine first what has been translated in terms of cultural and political productions such as literature, blogs, humour, slogans, songs, and presidential speeches. Then, I will discuss how the Tunisian revolution was represented in the Francophone world trough the translation of articles by the French journal Le Courrier International.
Nataliia PesterevaNataliia Pestereva
PhD Student, English and Film Studies
Title of Dissertation: Theory of Russian Imperialism and the Case of the North Caucasus

My project examines the history of Russian involvement in the Caucasus region and the Russo-Caucasian colonial relationship from three distinct perspectives. The first is through the lens of classical Orientalism. I read the Caucasus as “Russia’s Orient,” examining the ways in which Russian writing about the Caucasus traded in stereotypes that exoticized and eroticized the Muslim peoples in the region. The second stage of my project examines anti-colonial efforts of Caucasian self-representation and assembles an archive of texts and films that record Caucasian experience of Russian imperialism. The third perspective is geopolitical, as I work to “globalize” the Russo-Caucasian relationship by asking what happens when recent events are mediated by the War on Terror. My dissertation seeks to investigate the dynamics of imperial, colonial, and postcolonial relations between Russia and the North Caucasus in order to question center-periphery model of postcolonial theory and develop understanding of the cultures that emerge out of these complex relationships.
Aryan Karimi (1)Aryan (Ahmad) Karimi
PhD Student, Sociology
Title of Dissertation: Iranian gays’ transnational identity: Life in Tehran and transitions as asylum seekers in Turkey and Canada

My research aims to contribute to LGBT-community’s rights by investigating experiences of the Iranian gay community as they move from Iran to Turkey and then to Canada. This project negotiates contemporary discourses of sexuality as refugees and immigrants. It also contributes to the field of queer migration, an academic approach to activism at intersection of queer rights, immigration rights, and social justice.

Warm Congratulations to the Recipients of the State of Kuwait Islamic Studies Graduate Award in 2015 – Value: $7000

 Abubakar AbdulkadirAbdulkadir, Abubakar
Ph.D. Student, History and Classics
Title of Dissertation: Versification of the World: The Case for Mauritania, Land of Million Poets

The project is an historical investigation into the West African tradition of Arabic poetry with a specific focus on Mauritania, known as balad milyūn shāʿir (land of million poets). It examines the emergence of this uniquely robust and influential poetic tradition, which seems to have emerged in the 18th century and marked a paradigm shift in literary and intellectual production – from prose genres to the poetic ones that have characterized Islamic scholarship and the shaping of religious/socio-political attitudes in the region over the past three centuries.  The study focuses on the influence and legacy of three 18th century Mauritanian scholars: Sīdī ‘Abd Allāh b. Muḥammad b. ʿAbd Allāh al- ʿAlawī (1644 – d. 1731), known as Ibn Rāzikah, Muḥammad b. Mukhtār b. Muḥammad al-Yadālī al-Daymānī (1680 – d. 1750) and Bū Famayn al-Majlisī (d. unknown) who are regarded as pioneers of this tradition.
 rasoul_aliakbari_photo_ECMCAliakbari, Rasoul
Ph.D. Candidate, Modern Languages and Cultural Studies
Title of Dissertation: The Thousand and One Nights and the Formation of Modern Nation-states: A Trans-national Study

This doctoral dissertation concerns a critical study of print and cinematic cultures of The Thousand and One Nights and their various utilizations in nation-building enterprises across English, Arabic, and Farsi contexts.
 Amir KhademKhadem, Amir
PhD Candidate, Modern Languages and Cultural Studies
Title of Dissertation: Endemic Pains and Pandemic Traumas: On the Literary Construction of Collective Memories

This project investigates the role of literary representations in traumatic memories at the social level, specifically focusing on three contemporary cases of post-revolutionary Iran, contemporary Palestine, and the post-9/11 United States. While the prime theoretical focus is on memory and trauma theory, all of my major case studies are deeply embedded in a Muslim cultural and political context. Focusing on works of contemporary literature in various genres to assess the significance of literary depiction of memory in the aftermath of social injuries, this study offers a comprehensive analysis of the memory struggles in the context of the Islamic world. Through this project, I anticipate to engage in the current dialogue on the problems of contemporary Muslim identity on a global scale.
MG- MEIS picGeorgis, Mariam
Ph.D. Candidate, Political Science
Title of Dissertation: Postwar Iraq (2003-2014): A Postcolonial Grassroots Approach to the Crisis of Democratic Nation Building

This dissertation will aim to identify the prospects for democratization in contemporary Iraq with special attention to Iraqi civil society. In the context of this research, Iraqis will discern the meaning of democracy in order to provide a more representative and inclusive model for democratic nation building in the Iraqi context. Since 2003, there have been periods of intense sectarian violence, the most recent of which began in June 2014 with the rise of the Islamic State. This research project aims to essentially examine what went wrong in post-2003 Iraq and more importantly, the potential of Iraqis to rebuild their country on pluralist, tolerant, and democratic values.
 Marcus MeissnerMeissner, Marcus
MA Student, History and Classics
Title of MA Research Project: From the Edge of (the Ottoman) Empire: revisiting Rifa’at ‘Ali Abou AI-Haj and Formation of the Modern State

This research project focuses on the administration of border provinces in the early modern Ottoman Empire. I will be attempting to demonstrate that the trope of Ottoman “decline” after the death of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1566 is inaccurate at best. The dynamism of Ottoman administrative policy is best revealed in the management of its borders. It is in the borderlands that Ottoman administrators had to be at their most creative and skilful. With peripheral regions located at times in Algeria, Hungary, the Crimea and the Hejaz, the makeup of the Ottoman Empire was thus extremely diverse. Administrative approaches to religion, culture and ethnicity will all be discussed. Building off of the work of Dr. Rifa’at Abou-El-Haj, I hope to provide an accurate picture of Ottoman administrative acumen by using early modern Ottoman borderlands as case studies.
 Shumaila HemaniShumaila Hemani 
PhD Student, Music
Title of Dissertation: Islamic Modernities: Singing the Poetry of Sufi Saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai Across the Borders of Pakistan and India

This research based on ethnographic field-work as well as critical reading of historical and media sources will analyze the significance of the 18th century Sufi saint Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s poetry from Sind, Pakistan in different peripatetic as well as educated communities of believers and literati in Sind, Pakistan and parts of India, and show how the processes of modernity, namely colonialism combined with anti-colonial nationalism during the Raj and post-colonial nationalism after the birth of Pakistan has shifted the place of this saint to be the national and classical poet of Sindhi in the urban spheres, and examine its impact on the ritualistic singing by the faqirs (dervish) at the shrine of Shah Latif and beyond.
MA Student, Religious Studies
Title of MA Research Project: Remembering Al-Yehud Through the Shoah: Pedagogical Approaches to Teaching the Holocaust and Jewishness Among Contemporary Moroccan Muslims

The Holocaust is a provocative measure of the Muslim memory of Jews. Though it is considered the starting point in Critical Memory studies, there is yet to be much scholarship devoted to its memory in the Islamic world. An intimate history of relatively peaceful coexistence between Moroccan Jews and Muslims has been challenged in a comparatively short time by narratives of nationalism and diaspora, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, their economic-trade policy, the rhetoric regarding normalization of Israel, and educational protocols surrounding the constructed memory of Jews in Morocco.  My working research questions are as follows: How is the Holocaust remembered by self-identified Moroccan Muslims? How is this affected by education, politics and self-prescribed ideas about the “Islamic and Jewish religions”? How does this affect overall remembering of Jews in Morocco? These questions are situated in the context of Memory literature and are used to understand how societies reconcile multi-layered cognitive dissonance.