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 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.”