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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Renowned Middle East expert at Fletcher named Carnegie Scholar

Leila Fawaz, the Issam M. Fares Professor of Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean Studies, director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies and a professor of history and diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, received a Carnegie Scholar award in April for her work in spreading understanding of the Islamic world.

The prize, which includes money for research, is presented by the Carnegie Corporation, which launched the award in order to spotlight "renowned scholars who will contribute to our understanding of Islam," according to Provost Jamshed Bharucha, who nominated Fawaz for the honor.

After her nomination, Fawaz submitted a project proposal and was ultimately chosen as a recipient of the award and grant. Fawaz's proposed project focuses on research around "The Experience of War: Muslims in the Middle East and South Asia, 1914-1920." Fawaz's grant was one of 20 given out this year and will be worth up to $100,000, according to the Cambridge Chronicle.

"I focus on World War I in the Middle East and South Asia because the Great War was a global war involving several continents and a multiplicity of people who seemed to have little in common and, yet, dealt with challenges in recognizable ways," Fawaz said in an e-mail to the Daily. She is currently traveling in Europe and Istanbul.

"I am humbled and honored by this great gift from the Carnegie Corporation," Fawaz said. "I feel immense gratitude."

In order to pursue this project, she predicted she will take time off from teaching but continue directing the Fares Center.

"The Fletcher School is proud to have Dr. Fawaz among its faculty ranks and we congratulate Leila on her recent distinction as a Carnegie Scholar," Fletcher School Dean Stephen Bosworth said in an e-mail.

Most of the grant money awarded to her by the Carnegie Corporation will finance her research and allow her to travel to archives so that she can access original sources. She will translate and extract data from these sources for her book.

"It is still rare for historians to do the history and historiography of both the Middle East and South Asia," Fawaz said.

According to Fawaz, there are economic, political, social and cultural connections between these two areas that stem from pre-modern times. "Colonial powers brought their colonized armies into conflicts that started in World War I," she said.

She further explained that South Asian soldiers and troops from other colonial holdings served in Great Power armies that fought in the Middle East during World War I, and the movement of these troops facilitated new exchanges of both people and ideas. "That war had repercussions that are still with us today," she said.

Bharucha said that Fawaz, as director of the Fares Center, demonstrated her commitment to promoting dialogue and understanding through a series of conferences she organized on the Middle East, the most recent of which was entitled "The United States and the Middle East: What Comes Next after Iraq?"

"Those conferences have brought in leading scholars and political leaders to discuss important issues relating to the Middle East," Bharucha said. "She has distinguished herself in many ways and the Carnegie Award is a testament to the contributions that she has made to understanding the Middle East."

Commenting on her conferences, Fawaz said that the "frenzy" regarding weapons of mass destruction in the most recent conflict in the Middle East "would have been calmed down by a study of the history of modern Iraq, the sanctions, the first Gulf War, the relations of Ba'thism to al-Qaeda."

According to Bharucha, all three Tufts faculty members he has nominated in the past three years have been chosen as Carnegie Scholars. Before Fawaz, the Carnegie Foundation recognized Ayesha Jalal, a professor of history, and Ibrahim Warde, a Fletcher professor. Vali Nasr, another Fletcher professor, was recognized as a Carnegie Scholar before he joined the Tufts faculty.

In an age when sound bites in television news broadcasts dominate information distribution, Fawaz warned that one must take the time to study history and understand the present.

"Ignoring history can be very costly," Fawaz said.

Giovanni Russonello contributed reporting to this article.