Sunday, April 19, 2009

Medievalist among new Carnegie Scholars

Hussein Anwar Fancy, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, has been named as one of 24 new Carnegie Scholars for his work on the trade of military soldiers between Christian and Islamic states during the Middle Ages.

Professor Fancy and the other scholars were selected for their compelling ideas and commitment to enriching the quality of the public dialogue on Islam. The award comes with a two-year grant of $100 000.

Professor Fancy offers a novel perspective on religious violence in the Middle Ages that challenges and redirects contemporary debates about tolerance. His research will center on a virtually unknown history of the Crusades in which thousands of Muslim and Christian soldiers were traded to serve in kingdoms of the other faith: Christian soldiers in service of North African sultans and Muslim soldiers in service of Catalan kings. These curious exchanges paradoxically reinforced religious violence, rather than acting to diminish them. Fancy argues that the language of tolerance, grounded in assumptions about medieval religion, has impeded both the understanding of the historical past and the mitigation of conflict. His work will examine unpublished archival material from the 13th century in an effort to bring to light rules and limits to the use of violence in the context of the Crusades and jihad across the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa.

His upcoming publications include: "Smuggling Lives and Forging Captives in the Medieval Mediterranean," and “The Last Almohad: ‘Abd al-Wahid b. Abi Dabbus in the Kingdoms of the Crown of Aragon (1262-1289)".

The Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian said, "We are cultivating a diverse scholarly community spanning a range of disciplines with the expectation that their voices will help Americans develop a more complex understanding of Muslim societies here and throughout the world--revealing Islam's rich diversity. Only through vibrant dialogue, guided by bold and nuanced scholarship, can we move public thinking into new territory."

The 2009 Carnegie Scholars are drawn from a number of disciplines. This year's awardees include:

An art historian offering a nuanced understanding of the role of contemporary mosques in the construction of modern Muslim identity.

A historian tracing the little known story of how Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers opposed dominant, negative views of Islam.

An economist exploring how pilgrims, following their return from Mecca, have an increased desire for peace and tolerance--toward fellow Muslims and non-Muslims.

A historian offering a comprehensive account of U.S.-Iran relations beginning during the time of the American colonies.

Patricia L. Rosenfield, who leads the Carnegie Scholars Program said,"America's discourse on Islam will benefit from the Scholars' enthusiastic quest to transform complex information into useful, structured knowledge. Their superb scholarship is often daring, always accessible and truly public." Rosenfield said that emerging and
established scholars alike are encouraged to orient their writing and speaking beyond purely academic audiences.