Arighna Gupta

Arighna Gupta is a PhD Candidate at the Department of History at the University of Michigan. He completed his Master’s and M.Phil from the University of Delhi, India before joining Michigan. In a political climate that has sharpened identitarian politics in South Asia, his dissertation project seeks plural and political expressions in Islamic reform movements in colonial South Asia. It encompasses both a connected history of Islam and a political history of religious reform in the eastern provinces of Bihar, Bengal, Bangladesh, Assam, and the Rakhine province of Myanmar. 

How are you using your GISC 2021 Summer Fellowship? 

The GISC fellowship will allow me to continue my research on “Islam at Imperial Frontiers: People’s Sovereignty in South Asia”. Premising a social history of motley actors—religious reformers, peasant rebels, ascetic warriors, and educated politicians - my dissertation proposes a history of popular sovereignty through an Islamic idiom in the eastern provinces of Bihar, Bengal, Assam, and Burma between the 1780s-1900s. It envisions an entwined history of people’s rule - which did not foreground territoriality - through practices of sovereignty, faith, justice, space - and claims-making mediated by an Islamic discourse. I trace a transformation from a plural form of sovereignty to a territorial kind underscored by a Muslim-majority province of East Bengal in 1905. Using the GISC fellowship, I will be conducting research in London to collect documents from the British Library that will help me with my dissertation.

Chantal Croteau

Chantal Croteau is a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her doctoral work examines the subtle dynamics of intercommunal relations in southern Thailand through a focus on local practices of history-telling and the verbal, sensorial, and embodied ways that histories are shared, remembered, and elided. Chantal completed her MA in Asian Studies from Cornell University in 2016, and she is the current co-coordinator of the Southeast Asian Studies Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop. 

How are you using your GISC 2021 Summer Fellowship? 

I will conduct four months of digital participant observation and archival research on the dynamics of intercommunal relations in the ethnically and religiously diverse province of Phang Nga, Thailand. This digital project will serve as a key component of my larger dissertation research, in which I approach dynamics of intercommunal relations in Phang Nga through a focus on the (re)telling of histories. In my work, I attend to the temporal multiplicities of historical accounts, the myriad forms of history-telling – including verbal, embodied, and sensorial – practiced in Phang Nga, and the gendered differences in the way histories are both remembered and shared.

Chao Ren

Chao is currently a PhD candidate in History. His research focuses on the history of colonial Southeast and South Asia, especially the social and legal transformations in the colonial resource frontiers of Southeast and South Asia around the turn of the twentieth century.

How are you using your GISC 2021 Summer Fellowship? 

My dissertation project examines the colonial legal configurations of multinational corporations in the colonial resource frontier in Southeast and South Asia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Focusing on the multiple parties and agents involved in this early scramble for oil, including multinational corporations, indigenous oil lords, the colonial state, and knowledge practitioners, this research examines the historical interplay between corporate, geological, and legal practices in the colonial transition of the oil frontier. With the assistance of the GISC, I plan to expand the current project to consider the colonial transformations of property law in the Malay archipelago, especially British Malaya and Borneo, where multinational companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and the British Malayan Petroleum Company had a significant presence and impact in the early oil industry.

Kamal Gasimov

Kamal Gasimov is a doctoral student at the Department of Middle East Studies at the University of Michigan. His academic interests lie in the area of Islamic studies, Islamic social history, Islamic law, and mysticism (Sufism).

How are you using your GISC 2021 Summer Fellowship? 

My research project examines the relationship between mystical ethics and Islamic law by considering key Sufi texts of the Middle and Early Modern period of Islamic history in a comparative perspective. I plan on conducting virtual research in Egypt and Turkey by consulting and examining several manuscripts. Among the sources that I will examine, there is a cluster of manuscripts of intriguing work in which al-Sha‘rani responds to the numerous questions posed by the supernatural creatures (jinns), trying to find the most suitable language to communicate them the legal and theological concepts embraced by humans.

Matthew Hiller

Matt Hiller is a fourth-year doctoral student in the social work and Anthropology program at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on the intersections between devotional healing and psychiatry in Southeast India and has been supported by the Fulbright IIE Program and the American Institute of Indian Studies. Prior to starting his doctoral program, he worked as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist in Chicago, Illinois. 

How are you using your GISC 2021 Summer Fellowship? 

My doctoral research focuses on the "medicine and prayers" program at a Sufi shrine in Southeast India, which aims to integrate government-run psychiatric care with Islamic devotional healing. Through ethnographic research, I will explore how visitors to the shrine engage with different healing practices and understandings of mental illness. Additionally, I will also examine how interrelations between shrine leadership and government mental health providers are linked with the political context of contemporary India. I will be using this fellowship to take summer classes on Islamic history and theology at Al-Hujjah Islamic Seminary & the Muslim Unity Center in preparation for my future ethnographic research.

Omar Masood

Omar Masood is a dual degree student, pursuing a Master's in Public Policy and International and Regional Studies. He focuses on international and educational policy and Islamic Studies. He is currently studying the Arabic language and speaks German. 

How are you using your GISC 2021 Summer Fellowship? 

I will be researching education as a humanitarian intervention to help Syrian refugees resettled in Jordan. In particular, I aim to examine early education in Jordanian public schools, which utilize the dual-shift system. My research plans to address the gender disparity in higher education attainment for displaced peoples. This fellowship allows me to enhance my language learning at Sijal Institute, in Amman, Jordan

Razi Jafri

Razi Jafri is a Detroit-based documentary photographer, filmmaker, and producer whose work focuses on race, religion, immigration, human rights, and politics. His recent documentary HAMTRAMCK, USA, premiered at SXSW and was broadcast on the PBS program America ReFramed. He’s currently working on a multimedia exhibit project HALAL METROPOLIS about Muslim visibility in southeast Michigan, and LOYALTY, a documentary film that explores what life is like for three Muslim chaplains in the US military.  Razi is a second-year MFA candidate at the Stamps School of Art + Design. 

How are you using your GISC 2021 Summer Fellowship? 

I will be using this fellowship to assist me with research and interviews for a documentary I am working on in Seoul, Korea.  This documentary film, ISLE OF REFUGE, explores the lives of a small group of Yemeni refugees who arrived in South Korea in 2018 after fleeing a violent civil war. About 500 Yemeni refugees arrived in South Korea after being denied asylum and facing hardships in Malaysia. The film aims to document the lengths to which these refugees have gone to in order to find security and build relationships over the past few years.

Salman Hussain

Salman A. Hussain is a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan’s Anthropology and History program. His dissertation focuses on transnationalism, class, and small cities. He is a contributing editor at Chapati Mystery and American Anthropologist.

How are you using your GISC 2021 Summer Fellowship?

My dissertation research investigates the social lives of Pakistani migrants to the Arab Gulf in Sahiwal, a small city in Punjab, Pakistan. The visa and labor regimes in Gulf states necessitate Pakistani migrants’ episodic returns home. My dissertation addresses migrants as social actors in their home cities, rather than absent remitters, to explore questions of transnationalism and class in the processes of social differentiation operating in Sahiwal. This fellowship is allowing me to conduct research over the summer on Gulfees’ engagement in respectability politics to raise their familial honor/prestige through forms of public piety and conspicuous patronage of religious festivities.

[Photo: Saquib Usman at the ruins of Oudane, Adrar Region Mauritania. Photo by Salmah Rizvi, 2018]

Saquib Usman

Saquib Ali Usman is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. His research broadly studies blindness in social life to reflect on the concepts of “seeing” and “knowing” at the core of anthropological knowledge.

How are you using your GISC 2021 Summer Fellowship?

“Blindness and Qur’anic Water Divination in the Mauritanian Sahel” is an ethnographic research study of an African village regionally known for the predominance of congenital blindness inherited by its inhabitants. My research examines how blindness becomes an honored and socially recognized status and is understood to exist alongside other types of physical and spiritual compensations. It explores the social function of "water divination" with special persons who work to locate subterranean bodies of water in the desert and ideal sites for wells. This fellowship allows me to study everyday interactions, discourse, and environments to learn how blindness and sight become signs of social difference in Dali Gimba, Mauritania.

Shahla Farghadani

Shahla Farghadani is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Middle East Studies at the University of Michigan. Her work focuses on the history and literary historiography of the Persianate world with a particular focus on the early modern period. Her research interests include literary culture, Persian literary criticism, and medieval sexuality.

How are you using your GISC 2021 Summer Fellowship?

My research project centers upon a neglected Persian literary genre known as the shahrāshūb (the city disturber) in order to show how it offers new perspectives about the city in specific temporal and geographic moments unavailable in other literary materials. I plan to explore the circulation and reception of these texts across early modern imperial boundaries in order to reveal the trajectory of shahrāshūb writing from the medieval era to its proliferation and institutionalization in the fifteenth century and beyond, and the relationship of that process with the emergence of early Persianate modernity. The GISC fellowship will allow me to examine the late seventeenth-century Persian manuscripts in London, France, and Italy.

Yehia Mekawi

Yehia Mekawi is a PhD student in Political Science at the University of Michigan, specializing in Comparative Politics. He studies issues of religion, identity and representation, with a focus on how the state interacts with minority populations in advanced democracies. Yehia is currently interested in state-led institutionalization as an integration policy for Muslim communities in Belgium and France.

How are you using your GISC 2021 Summer Fellowship?

With the help of GISC, I am currently enrolled in the Middlebury Summer Language Program in order to develop my French language skills. I plan to follow-up this program with fieldwork in France and Belgium. My project asks what determines the success of state-led efforts to impose centralized institutions onto Muslim communities in European states. I also consider the consequences of institutionalization and how it affects integration efforts, anti-Muslim discrimination, and political representation for Muslim minority populations.

Zayd Elkahlah

Zayd Elkahlah is pursuing a Master's in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Islamic studies. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2020 with a BA in history and economics. Having lived in Amman, Jordan, during the Arab spring, Zayd gained firsthand experience of what Islam meant as a religion, its role in politics, and how ordinary Muslims view it. His current research interests include the relationship between Islamic fundamentalism or Salafism, Pan-Arabism, and Nationalism.

How are you using your GISC 2021 Summer Fellowship?

I am using the GISC fellowship to study the Russian language (second-year) to assist me with my master's thesis. My thesis will explore the idea that modern Salafism is connected to Pan-Arabness and use the experiences of Russian-speaking Muslims who joined Salafist groups such as ISIS as evidence to support my claims. These new language skills will reduce my reliance on translations of Russian sources, including scholarly articles, interviews, and propaganda messages, some of which have not been translated yet. These new sources will further his understanding of why Russian and Central Asian Muslims joined certain fundamentalist groups and whether they experienced any kind of "Arabization" while they were there.