Graduate Research

The Institute is proud to support the research of Boston University graduate students whose work falls within the scope of Muslim Studies. These small-scale research stipends have allowed MA and PhD students in a variety of disciplines to fund short-term field work abroad.

Past recipients of the research stipends include:

Awardees for the Academic Year 2017/2018

• Calynn Dowler, PhD, Anthropology. Research location: India.

“Calynn Dowler is a PhD candidate in cultural anthropology at Boston University. Her research focuses on environment, space/place, and identity in the Sundarbans of West Bengal, India. Calynn holds a BA in Political Science and German from Gettysburg College. She completed her MA in Migration Studies as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Sussex in 2011-12. “

• Emily Williamson, PhD, Anthropology, Research location: Ghana.

“Emily Williamson is a PhD student in anthropology at Boston University. She is currently using her Fellowship funding towards carrying out her dissertation research in Nima-Accra, Ghana. Emily’s project asks how people living in Nima – a Muslim migrant community in the heart of Accra – inhabit, create, and sustain multiple modalities of belonging in a place defined my movement.”

• Feyza Burak Adli, PhD, Anthropology.

“Feyza Burak-Adli is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at Boston University. She holds a joint MA in Anthropology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (Brandeis University), and an MA in English (Wake Forest University). Her dissertation project examines Islam, Sufism, modernity, and gender through the ethnographic research on an upper middle class Turkish Sufi society (Rifaiyye) which is led by an unveiled female shaykha. She is exploring issues such as the transformations of Sufi tradition in Turkey, new hybrid public, ethical plurality, the revitalization of the classical Sufism, female religious authority, Islamic feminism, and alternative ways of cultivating ethical pious subjectivities. I was awarded SMSC travel fellowship in summer 2018 that enabled me to attend the WOCMES (World Congress for Middle East Studies) 2018 international conference held in Seville, Spain on 16-22 July 2018.”

• Gana Ndiaye, PhD, Anthropology. Research location: Brazil.

” I am a PhD student in the Social and Cultural Anthropology program here at  BU. I work with Senegalese Sufi migrants in Brazil and used the SMSC fellowship to fund my summer 2018 field research in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.”

• Gokhan Mulayim, PhD, Psychology. Research location: Turkey.

“My research examines how private security is marketed in Istanbul by asking two interrelated questions: (1) How is the incommensurable made commensurable, the elusive quality quantified, the priceless priced in the markets, and (2) How are the markets organized as the fields of production, dissemination, and consumption of the incommensurables? Asking both at once, my aim is to look at the mutual constitution of the processes of commensuration and the processes of marketization. Private security is a relatively recent phenomenon in Turkey, legalized in 2004. Despite its novelty, however, it is one of the most rapidly growing private security industries in the world. As Turkey’s largest and most populous global city, Istanbul provides a fertile ground to track down these transformations underlying the security discourse and to examine the processes of production, distribution, and consumption of security in the market of private security services.”

• Hafiz Asad, MA, International Affairs and Religions. Research Location: Indonesia.

“I am Indonesian and currently doing Master in International Affairs and Religions with specialization in Islam at Pardee School of Global Studies. The fund fellowship I got was used for my research project related with Cyber Sectarian in Jakarta from May to June 2018.”

• Julia Barrington, PhD, English. Research Location: England.

“Julia Mix Barrington is a PhD candidate in the Department of English, where her dissertation project focuses on representations of the ocean in early modern English literature. She received a grant from SMCS in the spring of 2018 to travel to London and present a paper entitled “Brass Wall and Silver Sea: Assailing the Fortified Island in Early Modern English Drama” at the conference Elizabeth I: The Armada and Beyond hosted by the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House. The paper challenged a critically accepted view of early modern English xenophobia by interrogating the widespread literary image of England as a fortified island, reminding listeners that foreigners, including Western Europeans, Jews, Muslims, and North Americans, were more welcome in England than earlier scholarship might admit.”

• Ladin Bayurgil, PhD, Sociology. Research location: Turkey.

“Ladin Bayurgil is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Boston University. Her research interests center on urban and economic sociology, sociology of work and occupations, and particularly questions of urban precarious labor. She is a recipient of Campagna-Kerven Graduate Fellowship and Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations conference and research travel grants that supported her travel to the European Sociological Association Urban Network conference in Madrid, in addition to multiple fieldwork travels to Istanbul. SMSC fellowships allowed Ladin to conduct ethnographic fieldwork for her dissertation that analyzes how a new trend of earthquake risk-driven urban transformation impacts community and employment relations in Istanbul’s residential neighborhoods at times of political and economic turmoil.”

• Laura Tourtellotte, PhD, Anthropology. Research location: Kazakhstan.

“Laura Tourtellotte is a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology, where she researches how gender politics and reproductive politics affect maternity and work in crisis centers for victims of domestic violence in Kazakhstan. She received funding from SMSC for preliminary field research in Almaty in the summer of 2016, and for her ongoing dissertation research in 2018. During these periods, she has been collecting interviews from feminist activists, NGO workers, policymakers, and academics, as well as engaging in participant observations at various domestic violence shelters and crisis hotlines.”

• Omar Sharifi, PhD, Anthropology. Research location: Afganistan.

“Omar Sharifi is the former Senior Research Fellow and Kabul Director of the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies. He is also a member of the advisory board of the Civil Society Development Center (CSDC) and member of the Board of Directors of the Afghan Alumni Association and Afghanistan 1400.  In addition, he worked as National Consultant for UNICEF Afghanistan. He is Asia Society Fellow and member of Afghan 21 Young Leaders Forum. He is graduated from Kabul Medical Institute in 2003. Following his medical studies, he worked as Head of research and publications for the Foundation for Culture and Civil Society in Kabul, and as Director of the Open Media Fund for Afghanistan. From 2006 to 2008, he studied Cultural Anthropology at Columbia University in New York under a Fulbright Fellowship. He also received a fellowship at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University. Currently he is a PhD Candidate at Boston University in the department of Anthropology.  Omar Sharifi has written several essays on social and political issues in Afghanistan, and his articles are published in national and international journals.”

• Alaz Kilicaslan, PhD, Psychology.

“I defended my dissertation titled graduated in August, 2018 and graduated from BU Sociology PhD program in September. I received funds from the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilization twice. I used the first one for the 2016 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Seattle, WA, where I presented a paper titled “Image of the state, image of the profession: explaining the puzzling popularity of MRI in Turkey. I used the second one for the 2017 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Montreal, Canada, where I presented a paper titled “Moral Economy of Professional Practice: Diffusion of Managerialism in Healthcare Organizations. Currently, I work as an Assistant Professor of Global Health and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.”

• Hyunjin Cho

• Mehrdad Babadi

• Mustapha Kurfi 

Awardees for the Academic Year 2016/2017

• Claire Lim, PhD, Political Science. Research location: Senegal.

“My research focuses on women in politics in Africa, and more specifically in Senegal. I especially look into the political and societal effects of the Gender Parity Law enacted in 2010, where I try to understand the influence of a law that is still seen as ‘modern’ and ‘European’ within the democratic and strongly Muslim society that is Senegal. I immensely benefited from the fellowship for my first field trip to Senegal in the summer of 2016. I was able to conduct many interviews with women and men in the country, and get their opinions on their understandings of the law but also on how they situated the law within their culture and traditions. In an era where Islam is too often seen as a barrier to religious freedom and gender equality, and sometimes even democracy, the case in Senegal offered a unique and refreshing case, alongside countries like Indonesia, of a harmonious co-habitation of politics and religion. I believe further exploration and research in the intricacies of the Senegalese society and gender dynamics in the political arena will contribute to the broader literature and academic world of political science, gender studies, and religious studies. “

• Lydia Harrington, PhD, History of Art and Architecture. Research location: Turkey.  “Lydia Harrington is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at BU. Her areas of interest are, broadly, Islamic art and architecture history and modern architectural history, and more specifically, history of modern institutions in the Late Ottoman Empire. She received funding from SMSC in the summer of 2017 to attend the Ottoman Studies Foundation’s Intensive Ottoman and Turkish Summer School in Cunda, Turkey. At the six-week summer school, students take daily courses in Ottoman Turkish, which is combination of Turkish, Persian, and Arabic and written in Arabic script, and supporting courses in Persian and modern Turkish. Lydia focused on reading 19th- and early 20th-century hand-written documents, such as imperial edicts, and printed documents, such as newspapers.”

• Tazeen Ali

• Ekaterina Anderson

• Hyunjin Cho, PhD, History of Art and Architecture. Research location: India. 

“Hyunjin Cho is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History of Art and Architecture. Her dissertation examines illustrated Shahnama manuscripts produced in nineteenth-century Iran. Last year, she received generous funding from the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations to conduct her pre-dissertation research in Tehran, Iran. With the funding, she visited museums and galleries in Tehran. This trip allowed her to narrow down her topic and see some of the available artworks in person. “

• Ladin Bayurgil

• Vicky Kelberer

• Gokhan Mulayim

• Calynn Dowler

• Alaz Kilicaslan

• Kevin McLaughlin

Awardees 2016

Ladin Bayurgil, PhD, Sociology. Research location: Turkey

“This research aims to explore the ways in which a new form of urban transformation takes place in Istanbul’s upper-middle income neighborhoods, where urban rent is increasing through demolition and reconstruction of residential buildings under the auspices of earthquake proofing. More specifically, this research strives to focus on the experience of this transformation among doormen as an occupational group, most of whom are migrants from Anatolia and live rent-free in the basement floors with their families in return of their minimum wage paying work serving as building superintendents.”

Calynn Dowler, PhD, Anthropology. Research location: Sundarbans, West Bengal, India

“My project speaks to two distinct areas of inquiry. Firstly, how do people in the Sundarban islands of West Bengal, India understand their experiences of environmental instability and migration in relation to “climate change” at a global scale? Secondly, how are processes of religious and political identity-making linked with cultural constructions of “nature” and “environment” in this fluid, religiously diverse landscape?”

Victoria Kelberer, MA, International Affairs. Research location: Turkey & Lebanon

“Beirut and Istanbul are case studies that build on research I conducted in Amman, Jordan in 2015. The three cities offer three very different models of humanitarian responses in urban spaces: in Turkey, the humanitarian response has been led and dominated by the government; in Lebanon, the government has been almost completely shut out of the humanitarian response; in Jordan, a more collaborative approach has been adopted, in which the government sets the agenda while IOs carry out agreed-upon urban projects. The variation in the approaches to urban humanitarianism allow for a comparison of successes and failures in each case, and help to assess best practices for urban refugee planning.”

Lydia Harrington, PhD, History of Art and Architecture. Research location: Turkey

“My project analyzes the architecture of new government offices, military academies, and schools in the nineteenth-century Ottoman Arab provincial context. Such institutions were a part of the government’s larger administrative, military, educational, and cultural reform program called the Tanzimat (1839-76), which was implemented to ensure that the declining empire could compete with other powers. Examining the purposes and everyday realities of such buildings provides a window to see how the center and periphery interacted on a micro-level.”

Jessica Lambert, PhD, Anthropology. Research location: Morocco

“All sex outside of marriage is illegal in Morocco and sex workers and men who have sex with men face additional criminal charges if they are arrested. Despite social stigma, religious discourse that condemns sex work, the instability of illegal work, and the real threat of violence they face, male and female sex workers often live in tightly knit communities, remain close with their families, and work in public spaces. Given these contradictions, my research examines how men and women who engage in transactional sex push boundaries around gender and sexuality in their personal and professional lives.”

Tina Parvaresh, MA, Global Development Policy. Research location: Iran

Annika Schmeding, PhD, Anthropology. Research location: Afghanistan

“This dissertation explores the social, religious and political engagements of Afghanistan’s Sufi orders and networks. The focus on contemporary intellectuals and teachers/pirs enables an exploration of the interplay of personal biographies of learning and the networks of dissemination of Islamic knowledge. How have their contemporary positions been (re-) shaped through times of social as well as political upheaval, armed conflict and large-scale migration? What characterizes their intra-religious position vis-à-vis ulema, other Sufi tariqas and their stances to state as well as non-state actors in a polarized religious environment such as today’s Afghanistan?’

James Souza, MA, International Affairs. Research location: United Arab Emirates

“One key aspect of my thesis revolves around analyzing the physical manifestations of the nation-building process by looking at the investment in the building of cultural institutions. This will primarily be achieved by examining the rationale behind the development of cultural districts in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah and the museums and related institutions that will comprise them. Visiting these projects will be key to understanding the state’s rationale for investment and their role in shaping national identity and building a state brand.”

Laura Tourtellotte, PhD, Anthropology. Research location: Kazakhstan

“I plan to investigate official, community, and development responses to addressing violence against women in Kazakhstan in addition to examining how women negotiate their roles as mothers and wives while maintaining bodily autonomy and health. Moreover, this research in Kazakhstan will contribute a locally-specific Central Asian perspective to current international research on women’s health, corporeal agency, and religious affiliation as members and contributors to the global economy.”

Patricia Ward, PhD, Sociology. Research location: Lebanon & Jordan

This project seeks to examine how staff relationships within and between UNHCR and other NGO organizations shape refugee relief policies and practices within the Middle East Context. In a non-signatory, multi-actor field, how do staff interactions shape interpretations of mandated “public relief” and “assistance to refugees and other people of concern” in daily practice? How do these relationships between and among staff inform constructions of what “responses” to refugees should “look like” more broadly? How do these relationships reify—or challenge—global inequalities along class, gender and racial lines? Refugee relief operations within the context of Jordan are used as a point of departure to examine these questions.


Awardees 2015

Ladin Bayurgil, PhD, Sociology. Research location: Turkey

“Deriving from my observations of and participation to Anti-Capitalist Muslims’ events, demonstrations and iftar meals during Gezi Park protests, I aim to further develop a sociological understanding to decipher the political ideology and cultural habits of the organization. I aim to understand how the organization pursues morals and values that are embedded within the Islamic tradition, and transforms religiously informed virtues into an anti-systemic political movement that advocate boycott of the elections.”

Kevin Boueri, PhD, Anthropology. Research location: Lebanon

While much scholarship has been produced about the Lebanese state, this body of work has tended to focus on macro level analyses of the country’s political economy and confessional political system, rather than looking at how people experience the Lebanese state. This ethnographic research project explores water distribution as a lens to develop a more nuanced picture of the Lebanese state and its everyday iterations in the lives of Lebanese people. Two questions animate this research project: 1) how do patterns of water abundance and water scarcity in Mount Lebanon map onto the social categories of class and sect? and 2) what are the societal impacts of the existing distribution scheme?”

Victoria Kelberer, MA, International Affairs. Research location: Jordan

“I will be traveling to Jordan to conduct research on housing urban-based Syrian refugees in Amman. My research focuses on housing in particular because it is an understudied area of humanitarian aid provision but will likely continue to grow in importance as refugee crises (especially in the MENA region) become increasingly urban-based. Housing is also consistently cited as the primary concern and driver of expenditure of urban Syrian refugees in Jordan, and rising housing prices, lack of housing stock, and mismatched goals and projects between international and local actors have led to a worrisome housing situation in Amman. Finally, housing also is an interesting case study because it highlights the tensions between refugee communities’ supposed “temporariness,” and the more permanent nature of refugee crises in reality.”

Tina Parvaresh, MA, Global Development Policy. Research location: Iran

Noha Roushdy, PhD, Anthropology. Research location: Egypt

“My doctoral dissertation project focuses on the impact of educational privatization on state-society relations in Egypt. It aims to examine ethnographically the changing educational practices and discourses of middle-class Egyptians in order to understand the impact of a new education market on the formation of national and political subjectivities in post-2011 Egypt.”