Ahmet Baris Ekiz

Baris is a doctoral candidate in the Middle East Studies department. He is currently working on his dissertation on a body of commentarial scholarship by 16th-century Ottoman scholars written in the disciplines of rhetoric and law. His research revolves around a broad problem of methodology and discursive strategies in scholarly writings and addresses the repercussions of scholarly disputations on fashioning Ottoman Islam.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Fellowship?

I spent my summer in Amman, Jordan, and attended Qasid Insitute’s Arabic summer program. I covered a curriculum consisting of genres of religious literature in Classical Arabic, such as sira and tafsir. I also had a chance to immerse myself in spoken Arabic and practice the language among native speakers.

Anisha Padma

Anisha Padma is a PhD Student in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan. Originally from Hyderabad, India, Anisha holds degrees in History and Public Policy from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While there, Anisha founded Monsoon, a magazine and platform dedicated to the affairs of South Asia and South Asian diaspora. Anisha’s academic interests include migration, slavery, and race in the Indian Ocean. She engages with a Hyderabadi community of Afro-Arab individuals known as the Siddis.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Fellowship?

My project focuses on Hyderabadis of Afro-Arab descent to discover how race, caste, religion, and gender, among other markers of social differentiation, work on one another in often unspoken, embodied ways. I am traveling to Hydrabad and conducting participant observation and interviews with the descendants of the African Cavalry Guards and archival research in various state archives, private collections, and research libraries in Hyderabad. Between 2022 and 2023, I will be conducting this historical ethnography and investigating how ideas of African origins travel and get taken up in both policy and interpersonal relations to reveal how logics of racialization based on phenotype and on place of origin contribute to the racial formations of “Africans” during the colonial and postcolonial periods in Hyderabad.

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 2022 Fellowship?

For this fellowship cycle, I have been studying a particular Urdu text in order to support my ongoing dissertation research on the history of oil industry and social transformation in colonial Southeast Asia. I am in the process of producing an English translation of the text and will analyze it for a chapter of my dissertation. This particular text in question is a Urdu short biography of N. A. Khan, an Ahmadiyya leader from India who lived in the oilfield town of Yenangyaung in Burma in the early to mid-twentieth century. I first encountered this text when I was conducting research on Islam and the oil industry in colonial Southeast Asia last year while I was a recipient of the GISC Summer Fellowship in 2021. With this text, I will be able to examine the religious landscapes in late colonial Southeast Asia, especially the Ahmadiyya Movement and its migration trajectories beyond British India.

Egor Korneev

Egor is a PhD student at the Department of Middle East Studies of the U-M. He is interested in Islam in Film with a major focus on the Egyptian cinematic tradition. By studying Egyptian films and TV series, he investigates the representations of Islam in the local mass-mediated culture. Egor is also interested in Sufism and its modern history in the Middle East. As a part of the dissertation project, he wants to focus on cinematic depictions of Sufi doctrines and practices in Egyptian cinema and their influence on the Egyptian Sufi movement.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Fellowship?

I used my GISC Summer Fellowship to cover the cost of my trip to Amsterdam, where the conference on Religion and Film was taking place and where I was making my presentation on Egyptian religious movies. More precisely, I spent this money on flight tickets, a hostel, and food.

Emily Kopp

Emily Kopp is a fourth-year undergraduate student pursuing degrees in international studies and history with a minor in Islamic studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her studies focus on post-conflict reconstruction and governance in the Middle East and North Africa.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Fellowship?

This summer, I interned with the Project on Middle East Democracy, a think tank located in Washington, D.C., that supports regional efforts to advance democracy and human rights in the Middle East and North Africa. As an intern, I drafted bi-weekly newsletters covering regional current events. I also collaborated on a review of the U.S.'s foreign assistance budget to the Middle East that included collecting and analyzing data and conducting country-specific research into the allocation of funding. With my GISC funding, I was able to translate the skills and knowledge I have learned in the classroom into tangible projects.

Ibrahim Khalaylih

I am a Master's degree student at the department of Middle East Studies, in the Arabic Studies (TAFL) Program, at the University of Michigan. My original home country is Jordan, where I grew up and studied Geography and Sociology, and my graduate degree in Geography at the University of Jordan. I am passionate about learning and teaching the Arabic language and literature, which has given me a mission to connect people with cultures. My research interest is studying and improving teaching Arabic as a foreign language techniques and methods and studying different political and social issues in the Arab and Muslim regions. My mission is to promote social justice and inclusion for those who have been misunderstood, mistreated, and oppressed.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Summer Fellowship? 

My research topic was about the Syrian refugees in Jordan after a decade of homelessness. This study aimed to understand Syrian refugees; perspectives of their current status. After a decade of homelessness in Jordan, where do they stand? And what are their hopes and plans for the future? I used the GISC 2022 summer fellowship to cover the expenses of hiring a knowledgeable driver and a vehicle for several days to visit the places where Syrian refugees in Jordan reside. This fellowship was a reason to explore this topic and is a significant motive for future research.

Islam Jaffal

Islam Jaffal is a student in the Masters in International and Regional Studies Program at the University of Michigan, specializing in Islamic Studies. She is studying Lebanese Shi’i Muslim history and focuses on Islamic scholarship and its role in anti-colonial and anti-imperial resistance in the Levant in the first half of the twentieth century. She is also interested in inter-sectarian attitudes and relations in Lebanon.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Summer Fellowship?

With the help of the GISC Summer Fellowship, I was able to travel to Lebanon and conduct research for my thesis, which looks at the reactions and responses of Shi’i Muslim intellectuals to the occupation of Palestine and the independence of Lebanon in the 1940s. I visited the American University of Beirut’s archives where I was able to access original copies of the Shi‘i journal, al-‘Irfan. These copies will serve as the primary sources for my research. I also went to the Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut and the al-A‘lamy Foundation for Publications where I collected a variety of secondary sources that I would have otherwise been unable to access in the United States. Furthermore, I met with Lebanese scholars including renowned historian Sa‘dun Hamade who provided invaluable information and advice about my thesis topic. Finally, I visited various Shi’i mosques across Lebanon such as Masjid al-Shaheed al-Awwal in ‘Aramta, Jabal ‘Amil.

Jaideep Pandey

Jaideep is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. He previously finished a Bachelor’s and a Masters in English Literature and an M.Phil. in Gender Studies in Delhi, India. His dissertation looks at literary exchanges (translations, adaptations, or movement of texts) between Urdu, Persian and Arabic, and how this shaped a distinct literary modernity grounded in Islamic circulation of texts and tropes. He is particularly interested in how these practices came together around the trope of medieval Muslim Spain or Al-Andalus as a rallying point for a South Asian Urdu literary modernity.

How did you use your GISC 2022 Summer Fellowship?

The GISC 2022 Summer Fellowship allowed me to attend an intensive 2-month summer Arabic program at Qasid Institute, in Amman, Jordan. My dissertation will look at the ways in which modern Urdu writers received narratives and histories around medieval Muslim Spain from Arabic into Urdu to shape a highly distinct literary modernity in the first half of 20 th century. To this end, I intend to spend the upcoming academic year in archives in India gathering Urdu, Persian and Arabic sources around this theme. The GISC 2022 Summer Fellowship enabled me to enhance my Arabic language skills before going to the archives.

Janaki Phillips

Janaki Phillips is a 7th year Phd candidate in sociocultural anthropology. Her dissertation research is a comparative project on the digital practices of tarot readers in Mumbai, India and Los Angeles, California. She is interested in how tarot is being used as a divinatory tool, what other forms of spiritual and social practices it is embedded in, and how people negotiate their futures and uncertainty through tarot.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Fellowship?

In December of 2022 I will be accompanying a group of spiritual tourists from Los Angeles on their pilgrimage to Egypt in order to document their ritual engagement with the material heritage of ancient Egypt and engage with the growth of spiritual tourism in modern Egypt. This research is a critical piece of my dissertation research on long-term historical exchanges in ideas around spirituality between the West and the East. It examines the rise in popularity of Tarot and its incorporation into new modern forms of digital divinatory practices in the spiritually-trendsetting cosmopolitan cities of Los Angeles, and Mumbai India. Adding Egypt to this network will help me better understand how spiritual trends in the US drive “spiritual industries” globally.

Liaya Blueford

Liaya Blueford is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. She will graduate with a BS in Biology, Health, and Society and a minor in Gender and Health. She decided to take on this project in order to learn more about the ramifications of intersectionality and to become more interculturally competent.

I will be using this funding to support my work on Dream of Detroit's Storytelling Project, a collaboration between executive director Mark Crane and anthropologist Dr. Alisa Perkins which aims to promote knowledge about Dream of Detroit’s community building work along with larger histories of African-American Muslims in the city through the development of a multimedia website, publicly accessible archive, and documentary film. My role is to edit rough cuts and clips of oral history interviews for the project's public archive and website.

Merisa Bahar Sahin

Merisa Şahin is PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Her dissertation focuses on anti-colonial thought in the Ottoman Empire, with a specific focus on the early Young Turks.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Fellowship?

My project highlights an understudied line of thought the Ottoman Empire: anti-colonialism. Specifically, I examine the writings of two groups of intellectuals (liberal and anti-capitalist) within the Young Turks, both of which engaged with colonialism and European supremacy directly. The GISC fellowship allowed me to do much-needed archival research in Paris and Istanbul, giving me access to primary sources written by thinkers on which I focus, as well as their social and intellectual milieux.

Nesrien Hamid

Nesrien Hamid is a PhD student in sociocultural anthropology. Her doctoral research examines the interface between shifts in Saudi Arabia's political economy and conceptions of normative religious practice.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Summer Fellowship?

This summer I will conduct a reconnaissance of potential research sites in Saudi Arabia. As an initial visit, I will interview possible research interlocutors with the aim of ascertaining the accessibility of certain religious bureaucracies, as well as to begin building rapport and relations of trust on the ground before conducting fieldwork after my third year. I will also take advantage of my presence in Saudi Arabia to begin the archival portion of my project, which aims to trace the shifts in discourse among state-affiliated religious scholars around questions of proper ritual comportment.

Omar Masood

Omar Masood is a dual-degree Master's student in the Public Policy and International and Regional Studies programs. He is interested in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia. Though his thesis hopes to examine the early links between Buddhism and Islam during the 7th and 8th centuries.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Fellowship?

I used my funding for two purposes. I enrolled in a summer course at Northern Illinois University. The course was a survey of the first 1000 years of Islamic empire. It was helpful for a number of reasons. The other use of the funding was in my independent research. In addition to the course, I did some preliminary research for my Master’s thesis.

Razieh Araghi

Bio: Razieh Araghi was born in Iran, Tabriz. She studied for her bachelor's in English Language and Literature at the University of Tabriz. She moved to the United States in 2016, to continue her studies abroad. She finished her Master’s degree in English Literature at Texas State University. In 2019, Razieh started her Ph.D. studies at the University of Michigan in Comparative Literature. Her research interests are Translation, gender, and genre studies.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Fellowship?

This summer she was awarded both the FLAS summer language fellowship and GISC fellowship to complete a 6-week intensive program in Ottoman Turkish at ANAMED (Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations).

Razi Jafri

Razi Jafri is a recent MFA graduate from the Stamps School of Art + Design and 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. Razi is currently working on the 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.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Fellowship?

I used the funding to produce ‘Holy Rollers’ for the GISC Black Islam Fellowship to research and produce on a short film project documenting the experiences of the Black Muslim community of Detroit as it marks the Eid holiday through this stunning and unique tradition.Holy Rollers follows the story of David Hooper as he prepares to organize his annual Eid skating party at Detroit Roller Wheels, a skating rink on the west side of the city. David first skated as a child in 1976, when his family went on a group outing as members of the Nation of Islam. At the time, the skating parties weren’t a regular event in their community until his mom started organizing the Eid parties in the early 90’s. Today David is an avid skater and organizer. The Eid skating parties he organizes bring a sense of joy and “halal” entertainment to his community. The parties are a healthy outlet, they are fun without the involvement of drugs and alcohol. These Muslim roller skaters are part of a smaller group within the subculture of skating in the black community.

Sandra S. Williams

Sandra Williams is a Ph.D. candidate in the History of Art Department at the University of Michigan (U-M) and is Managing Director of Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online. She is currently writing her dissertation on gender representation in Persianate manuscripts. Prior to joining U-M,
Sandy was an assistant curator in the Art of the Middle East Department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Fellowship?

This past June and July, I used GISC funding, combined with funding from my home department, to conduct my first round of dissertation research, which is focused on Persianate illustrated manuscripts. I visited the New York Public, British, Chester Beatty, and Bodleian Libraries, where I examined and photographed numerous manuscripts that will serve as the corpus for my dissertation. Each leg of the trip deepened and expanded the ideas and questions I had put forth in my prospectus, providing the valuable primary material necessary to tease out answers to my overarching question of how gender was made legible in pre-modern Persianate manuscripts. Ultimately, where the prospectus helped me to sketch a general road map of the project, this period of research brought my questions to bear on actual objects and helped me to refine my thinking on the topic and determine my next steps, including potential further field research.

Yehia Mekawi

Yehia Mekawi is a Political Science PhD candidate at the University of Michigan and a Visiting Researcher with the Group for Research on Ethnic Relations, Migration and Equality (GERME) at the Free University of Brussels. His dissertation covers the provision of state benefits to Muslim communities at the sub-national level in Belgium and the Netherlands, with an eye towards European Islam more generally. He seeks to explain why sub-national governments vary in their accommodation of Islam despite operating within shared legal frameworks. Through his research, he turns to the political behavior of religious leaders, and examines when and how Muslim leaders decide to cooperate with or shun state-led accomodation efforts.

How are you using your GISC 2022 Fellowship?

I am currently conducting semi-structured interviews with religious leaders among Muslim communities throughout Belgium, as well as with state bureaucrats. These interviews are helping shape a survey of religious leadership in the country more broadly, for which I have begun training several survey enumerators. At the same time, I am also setting up focus groups among a handful of mosque-communities in each Belgian region in order to qualitatively explore the relationship between religious leaders and the followers they serve. The assistance of GISC has contributed to each of these three methodological approaches, which combined should shed light on the full picture of state-Islam relations in Belgium. This fieldwork will ultimately lead to similar work (though on a smaller scale) in the Netherlands, which is my other primary case.

 All students currently enrolled at the University of Michigan in an undergraduate or graduate/professional degree program (master's or doctoral level) are eligible to apply for the 2023 Fellowship Funding.

The GISC 2023 Fellowship Funding may be used for the following:

  • Language training - to offset costs of program fees for language learning.
  • Research support - to offset costs for an original project supporting Senior, Master’s, or Doctoral thesis completion.
  • Travel expenses (graduate students only) - associated with conducting original research or language training.

For more information, visit our undergraduate funding or graduate funding pages.