Akin Unver Dissertation Writing

Akın Ünver, "Ideology, Political Agenda, and Conflict: A Comparison of American, European, and Turkish Legislatures' Discourses on Kurdish Question," All Azimuth 6, No.1 (2017): 49-82.

by All Azimuth : A Journal of Foreign Policy and Peace Research ve Akin Unver

Combining discourse analysis with quantitative methods, this article compares how the legislature... more Combining discourse analysis with quantitative methods, this article compares how the legislatures of Turkey, the US, and the EU discursively constructed Turkey's Kurdish question. An examination of the legislative-political discourse through 1990 to 1999 suggests that a country suffering from a domestic secessionist conflict perceives and verbalizes the problem differently than outside observers and external stakeholders do. Host countries of conflicts perceive their problems through a more security-oriented lens, and those who observe these conflicts at a distance focus more on the humanitarian aspects. As regards Turkey, this study tests politicians' perceptions of conflicts and the influence of these perceptions on their pre-existing political agendas for the Kurdish question, and offers a new model for studying political discourse on intra-state conflicts. The article suggests that a political agenda emerges as the prevalent dynamic in conservative politicians' approaches to the Kurdish question, whereas ideology plays a greater role for liberal/pro-emancipation politicians. Data shows that politically conservative politicians have greater variance in their definitions, based on material factors such as financial, electoral, or alliance-building constraints, whereas liberal and/or left-wing politicians choose ideologically confined discursive frameworks such as human rights and democracy.


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Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards

The MESA Dissertation Awards were established in 1982 to recognize exceptional achievement in research and writing for/of dissertations in Middle East studies. In 1984 the award was named for Malcolm H. Kerr to honor his significant contributions to Middle East studies. Awards are given in two categories: Social Sciences and Humanities.

2018 Award Guidelines

All students completing their dissertations between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018 are eligible to submit entries for the 2018 Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards. Entries will be read by a four-member committee. Dissertations must be nominated by the author’s advisor or someone who served on the dissertation committee.

MESA is particularly concerned that some of its awards have been shown to reflect a gender disparity. We would therefore like to encourage those making nominations to take gender diversity into consideration.

Applicants should complete the submission form (please only choose one category: Social Sciences or Humanities), provide a digital copy of the dissertation (emailable pdf) to the contact provided below. If the quality of images is greatly compromised, in addition to the emailable pdf, a link to a dropbox containing a higher res file may also be submitted. Additionally, the author must include an abstract (approximately 250 words) and a copy of the degree. If the doctoral Committee has given final approval but the student is still awaiting degree conferral, the student must provide an official letter from the awarding institution stating that all requirements for the degree have been fulfilled and that the student will receive their diploma by August 31, 2018.

Winners will be announced at the MESA Awards Ceremony in the fall. The winner from each category will receive a cash award of $1000. If the committee chooses more than one winner in a particular category, the cash award will be split. To be considered for the award, all materials must be in the hands of the Secretariat by July 1, 2018.

Please send submission form and other application materials to

Deadline: July 1, 2018

Please address questions or requests for additional information to:

Rose Veneklasen
Awards Coordinator
Middle East Studies Association
tel 520-333-2577
fax 520-207-3166

2017 Award Recipients


Seçil Yilmaz

Love in the Time of Syphilis: Medicine and Sex in the Ottoman Empire, 1860-1922, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Supervised by Beth Baron

Social Sciences

Winner: Emrah Yıldız

The Ways of Zainab: Visitations and Valuations between Iran and Syria via Turkey, Harvard University
Supervised by Ajantha Subramanian

Honorable Mention: Elise K. Burton

Genetic Nationalism: Scientific Communities and Ethnic Mythmaking
in the Middle East
, Harvard University
Supervised by Afsaneh Najmabadi

Previous Award Recipients

2016Humanities WinnerChristopher Markiewicz
The Crisis of Rule in Late Medieval Islam: A Study of Idris Bidlisi (861-926/1457-1520) and Kingship at the Turn of the Sixteenth Century
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago
Supervised by Cornell Fleischer
2016Social Sciences WinnerJames Eastwood
The Ethics of Israeli Militarism: Soldiers’ Testimony and the Formation of the Israeli Soldier-Subject

Politics and International Studies, SOAS, University of London
Supervised by Laleh Khalili
2016Social Sciences Honorable MentionAhmad Shokr
Beyond the Fields: Cotton and the End of Empire in Egypt, 1919-1956
Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies/History, New York University
Supervised by Zachary Lockman
2015Humanities WinnersSamy Ayoub
We’re Not in Kufa Anymore:  the Construction of Late Hanafism in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire, 16th-19th Centuries‎
Middle Eastern & North African Studies, University of Arizona
Supervised by Scott Lucas

Christian Casey Sahner
Christian Martyrs and the Making of an Islamic Society in the Post-Conquest Period, History Dept, Princeton University
Supervised by Michael Cook and Peter Brown
2015Social Sciences WinnerAaron Jakes
State of the Field: Agrarian Transformation, Colonial Rule,
and the Politics of Material Wealth in Egypt, 1882-1914

History and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, New York University
Supervised by Zachary Lockman
2014Humanities Winner
Nahid Siamdoust
Iran’s Troubled Tunes: Music as Politics in the Islamic Republic, Division of Humanities, Oriental Studies,
University of Oxford
Supervised by Walter Armbrust
2014Humanities Honorable MentionHala Auji
Between Script and Print: Exploring Publications of the American Syria Mission and the Nascent Press in the Arab World, 1834-1860
Art History, Binghamton University, State University of New York Supervised by Nancy Um
2014Social Sciences WinnerOmar Youssef Cheta
Rule of Merchants: The Practice of Commerce and Law in Late Ottoman Egypt, 1841-1876
Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies/History, New York University
Supervised by Khaled Fahmy
2014Social Sciences Honorable MentionMichael Farquhar
Expanding the Wahhabi Mission: Saudi Arabia, the Islamic University of Medina and the Transnational Religious Economy,
Department of Government, The London School of Economics & Political Science Supervised by John Chalcraft
2013Humanities WinnerDerek Mancini-LanderMemory on the Boundaries of Empire: Narrating Place in the Early Modern Local Historiography of Yazd, Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of Michigan
Supervised by Kathryn Babayan
2013Social Sciences WinnerFabio Vicini
Islamic Education, Reasoning Practices and Civic Engagement: The Gulen and Suffa Communities in Turkey,
Instituto Italiano di Scienze Umane at the University of Siena (SUM), Department of Anthropology and History
Supervised by Armando Salvatore
2012Humanities WinnerMatthew Melvin-Koushki The Quest for a Universal Science: The Occult Philosophy of Sa'in al-Dīn Turka Isfahānī (1369-1432) and Intellectual Millenarianism in Early Timurid Iran,
Yale University, Department of Religious Studies
Supervised by Gerhard Böwering
2012Social Sciences WinnerHanan Toukan
Art, Aid, Affect: Locating the Political in Post-Civil War Lebanon’s Contemporary Cultural Practices

School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Department of Politics and International Relations
Supervised by Laleh Khalili
2012Social Sciences Honorable MentionSilvia Pasquetti
Organized Refugees and Fragmented Citizens: A Comparative Ethnography of Marginality, Solidarity, and Politics Across the Green Line
University of California, Berkeley, Department of Sociology
Supervised by Loïc Wacquant
2011Humanities WinnerAbdel Razzaq Takriti
Revolution and Absolutism: Oman, 1965-1976
University of Oxford
2011Social Sciences WinnerOrkideh Behrouzan
Prozak Diaries: Post-Rupture Subjectivities and Psychiatric Futures
2010Humanities Winner

Maryann M. Shenoda

Lamenting Islam, Imagining Persecution: Copto-Arabic Opposition to Islamization and Arabization in Fatimid Egypt (969-1171 CE), Harvard University

2010Social Sciences Winner

Hamid Akin Unver

How to Define Turkey's Kurdish Question? A Comparative Analysis of the Discourses in the US Congress, EU Parliament and Turkish National Assembly, University of Essex

2009Humanities Winner

Ahmed El Shamsy

From Tradition to Law: The Origins and Early Development of the Shafi’i School of Law in Ninth-Century Egypt, Harvard University

2009Social Sciences Winner

Alan Mikhail

The Nature of Ottoman Egypt: Irrigation, Environment, and Bureaucracy in the Long Eighteenth Century, University of California, Berkeley

2008Humanities Winner

Ziad Fahmy

Popularizing Egyptian Nationalism: Colloquial Culture and Media Capitalism, 1870-1919, University of Arizona

2008Humanities Honorable Mentions

Mark Dickens

Turkaye: Turkic Peoples in Syriac Literature Prior to the Seljuks, University of Cambridge


Hanan Kholoussy

The Making and Marrying of Modern Egyptians: Gender, Law and Nationalism, 1898-1936, New York University

2008Social Sciences Winner

Yuksel Sezgin

The State's Response to Legal Pluralism: The Case of Religious Law and Courts in Israel, Egypt and India, University of Washington

2007Humanities Winner

Awad Halabi

The Transformation of the Prophet Moses Festival in Jerusalem, 1917-1937: From Local and Islamic to Modern and Nationalist Celebration, University of Toronto

2007Humanities Honorable Mention

Sara Scalenghe

Being Different: Intersexuality, Blindness, Deafness, and Madness in Ottoman Syria, Georgetown University

2007Social Sciences Winner

Max Weiss

Institutionalizing Sectarianism: Law, Religious Culture, and the Remaking of Shi'i Lebanon, 1920-1947, Stanford University

2006Humanities Winners

Sabri Ates

Empires at the Margin: Towards a History of the Ottoman-Iranian Borderland and the Borderland Peoples, 1843-1881, New York University


Raymond K. Farrin

Reading Beyond the Line: Organic Unity in Classical Arabic Poetry, University of California, Berkeley

2006Social Sciences Winner

Mona El-Ghobashy

Taming Leviathan: Constitutionalist Contention in Contemporary Egypt, Columbia University

2006Social Sciences Honorable Mention

Sherine F. Hamdy

Our Bodies Belong to God: Islam, Medical Science, and Ethical Reasoning in Egyptian LIfe, New York University

2005Humanities Winner

Wilson Chacko Jacob

Working Out Egypt: Masculinity and Subject Formation between Colonial Modernity and Nationalism, 1870-1940, New York University

2005Humanities Honorable Mention

Tamer el-Leithy

Coptic Culture and Conversion in Medieval Cairo, 1293-1524 A.D., Princeton University

2005Social Sciences Winner

Koray Caliskan

Making a Global Commodity: The Production of Markets and Cotton in Egypt, Turkey, and the United States, New York University

2005Social Sciences Honorable Mentions

Laleh Khalili

Citizens of an Unborn Kingdom: Stateless Palestinian Refugees and Contentious Commemoration, Columbia University


Kirsten Ann Stilt

The Muhtasib, Law, and Society in Early Mamluk Cairo and Fustat (648-802/1250-1400), Harvard University

2004Humanities Winner

Linda G. Jones

The Boundaries of Sin and Communal Identity: Muslim and Christian Preaching and the Transmission of Cultural Identity in Medieval Iberia and the Maghreb (12th - 13th Centuries), University of California, Santa Barbara

2004Humanities Honorable Mention

Maged S.A. Mikhail

Egypt from Late Antiquity to Early Islam: Copts, Melkites, and Muslims shaping a New Society, UCLA

2004Social Sciences Winner

Lara Deeb

An Enchanted Modern: Gender and Public Piety among Islamist Shi’I Muslims in Beirut. University of California, Davis

2004Social Sciences Honorable Mention

Oren Kosansky

All Dear Unto God: Saint, Pilgrimage, and Textual Practice in Jewish Morocco, University of Michigan

2003Humanities Winners

Leor Halevi

Muhammad’s Grave: Death, Ritual and Society in the Early Islamic World, Harvard University


Christopher Stone

The Rahbani Nation: Musical Theater and Nationalism in Contemporary Lebanon, Princeton University

2003Social Sciences Winner

Gavin D. Brockett

Betwixt and Between: Turkish Print Culture and the Emergence of a National Identity, 1945-1954, University of Chicago

2003Social Sciences Honorable Mentions

James R. McDougall

Colonial Words. Nationalism, Islam, and Languages of History in Algeria, St. Antony's College, Oxford University


Tamir Moustafa

Law Versus the State: The Expansion of Constitutional Power in Egypt, 1980-2001, University of Washington

2002Humanities Winner

Bogac Ergene

Local Court, Community and Justice in the Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Empire, The Ohio State University

2002Humanities Honorable Mention

Shafique N. Virani

Seekers of Union: The Ismailis from the Mongol Debacle to the Eve of the Safavid Revolution, Harvard University

2002Social Sciences Winner

Ilana Feldman

Interesting Times, Insecure States: The Work of Government and the Making of Gaza in the British Mandate and the Egyptian Administration, 1917-67, Columbia University

2002Social Sciences Honorable Mention

W. Flagg Miller

Inscribing the Muse: Political Poetry and the Discourse of Circulation in the Yemeni Cassette Industry, University of MIchigan

2001Humanities Winner

John Chalcraft

The Striking Cabbies of Cairo and Other Stories: Crafts and Guilds in Egypt, 1863–1914, Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge University

2001Humanities Honorable Mention

James Onley

The Infrastructure of Informal Empire: A Study of Britain’s Native Agency in Bahrain c. 1816–1900, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University

2001Social Sciences Winner

Jonathan Holt Shannon

Among the Jasmine Trees: Music, Modernity, and the Aesthetics of Authenticity in Contemporary Syria, Hunter College

2001Social Sciences Honorable Mentions

Paul J. Kaldjian

Urban Food Security and Contemporary Istanbul: Gardens, Bazaars and the Countryside, University of Arizona


Anthony B. Toth

The Transformation of a Pastoral Economy: Bedouin and States in Northern Arabia, 1850–1950, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University

2000Humanities Winner

Joseph E. Lowry

The Legal-Theoretical Content of the Risala of Muhammad B. Idris Al-Shafii, University of Pennsylvania

2000Humanities Honorable Mention

Mohammed Shahab Ahmed

The Satanic Verses Incident in the Memory of the Early Muslim Community: An Analysis of the Early Riwayahs and Their Isnads, Princeton University

2000Social Sciences WinnerSamer S. Shehata

Plastic Sandals, Tea and Time: Shop Floor Politics and Culture in Egypt, Princeton University

2000Social Sciences Honorable Mention

Engseng Ho

Genealogical Figures in an Arabian Indian Ocean Diaspora, The University of Chicago

1999Humanities Winner

Shirine Hamadeh

The City’s Pleasures: Architectural Sensibility in Eighteenth-Century Istanbul, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1999Humanities Honorable Mentions

Khaled Abou El Fadl

The Islamic Law of Rebellion: The Rise and Development of the Juristic Discourses on Insurrection, Insurgency and Brigandage, Princeton University


John C. Lamoreaux

Dream Interpretation in the Early Medieval Near East, Duke University

1999Social Sciences Winner

Peter C. Hennigan

The Birth of a Legal Institution:The Formation of the Waqf in Third Century A. H. Hanafi Legal Discourse, Cornell University

1999Social Sciences Honorable Mention

S. Hülya Canbakal

’Ayntãb at the End of the Seventeenth-Century: A Study of Notables and Urban Politics, Harvard University

1998Humanities Winner

Marion Holmes Katz

Purified Companions: The Development of the Islamic Law of Ritual Purity, University of Chicago

1998Humanities Honorable Mention

Heather J. Sharkey

Colonialism and the Culture of Nationalism in the Northern Sudan, 1898-1956, Princeton University

1998Social Sciences Winner

Joseph Andoni Massad

Identifying the Nation: The Juridical and Military Bases of Jordanian National Identity, Columbia University

1998Social Sciences Honorable Mention

Mona L. Russell

Creating the New Woman: Consumerism, Education, & National Identity in Egypt, 1863–1922. Georgetown University

1997Humanities Winner

Paul M. Cobb

White Banners: Contention in ’Abbasid Syria, 750–877

University of Chicago

1997Humanities Honorable Mention

Albrecht Hofheinz

Internalizing Islam: Shaykh Muhammad Majdhub, Scriptural Islam, and Local Context in the Early Nineteenth-Century Sudan

University of Bergen

1997Social Sciences Winner

Joshua M. Landis

Nationalism and the Politics of Za‘ama: The Collapse of Republican Syria, 1945–1949

Princeton University

1997Social Sciences Honorable Mention

Farha Ghannam

Remaking the Modern: Space, Relocation and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo, University of Texas at Austin

1996Humanities Winner

Najwa Al-Qattan

Dhimmis in the Muslim Court: Documenting Justice in Ottoman Damascus, 1775–1860, Harvard University

1996Humanities Honorable Mention

Cynthia Robinson

Palace Architecture and Ornament in the “Courtly” Discourse of the Muluk al-Tawa’if: Metaphor and Utopia, University of Pennsylvania

1996Social Sciences Winner

Samuel Wolfe Kaplan

Education and the Politics of National Culture in a Turkish Community, Circa 1990, University of Chicago

1996Social Sciences Honorable Mentions

Lisa Judith Wedeen

The Politics of Spectacle: Discipline, Resistance, and National Community in Syria, University of California, Berkeley


James Long Whitaker

The Union of Demeter with Zeus: Agriculture and Politics in Modern Syria, University of Durham

1995Humanities Honorable Mentions

Marlis J. Saleh

Government Relations with the Coptic Community in Egypt during the Fatimid Period (358–567 A.H./969–1171 C.E.), University of Chicago


Muhammad Qasim Zaman

Early ‘Abbasid Religious Policies and the Proto-Sunni ’Ulama’, McGill University

1995Social Sciences Winner

Lisa Hajjar

Authority, Resistance and the Law: A Study of the Israeli Military Court System in the Occupied Territories, The American University

1995Social Sciences Honorable Mention

Mohameden Ould-Mey

Global Restructuring and Peripheral States: The Stick and the Carrot in Mauritania, University of Kentucky

1994Humanities Winner

Kathleen Malone O’Connor

The Alchemical Creation of Life (takwin) and Other Concepts of Genesis in Medieval Islam, University of Pennsylvania 

1994Humanities Honorable Mention

Saleh Said Agha

The Agents and Forces that Toppled the Umayyad Caliphate, University of Toronto

1994Social Sciences Winners

Gokhan Cetinsaya

The Ottoman Administration of Iraq, 1890–1908, University of Manchester


Armando Salvatore

The Making (and Unmaking) of ‘Political Islam’, European University Institute

1993Humanities Winner

Matthew S. Gordon

The Breaking of a Thousand Swords: A History of the Turkish Community of Samarra (218-264 A.H./833–877 C.E.), Columbia University

1993Social Sciences Winner

Deborah A. Kapchan

Women in the Marketplace: Transitional Economies and Feminine Discursive Domains in Morocco, University of Pennsylvania

1993Social Sciences Honorable Mention

Andrew J. Shryock

History and Historiography Among the Belqa Tribes of Jordan, University of Michigan

1992Humanities Winner

Devin J. Stewart

Twelver Shi’i Jurisprudence and its Struggle With Sunni Consensus, University of Pennsylvania

1992Humanities Honorable Mention

Lawrence Goddard Potter

The Kart Dynasty of Herat: Religion and Politics in Medieval Iran, Columbia University

1992Social Sciences Winner

Leyla Neyzi

Beyond “Tradition” and “Resistance”: Kinship and Economic Development in Mediterranean Turkey, Cornell University 

1992Social Sciences Honorable Mention

Haggay Ram

Islamic Symbolism: The Ideology of the Islamic Revolution in Iran as Reflected in Friday Communal Sermons, 1979–1989, New York University

1991Humanities Winners

Nasser Omar Rabbat

The Citadel of Cairo 1176–1341: Reconstructing Architecture from Texts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 


Dwight F. Reynolds

Heroic Poets, Poetic Heroes: Composition and Performance in an Arabic Oral Epic Tradition of Northern Egypt, University of Pennsylvania

1991Humanities Honorable Mentions

Jamal Elias

Sufi Thought and Practice in the Teachings of ’Ala’ad-dawla as- Simnani, Yale University


Yvonne Seng

The Uskudar Estates (Tereke) as Records of Everyday Life in an Ottoman Town, 1521–1524, University of Chicago

1991Social Sciences Winner

Virginia H. Aksan

Ahmed Resmi Efendi, 1700–1783: The Making of An Early Ottoman Reformer, University of Toronto 

1991Social Sciences Honorable Mentions

Michael Dumper

Muslim Institutions and the Israeli State: Muslim Religious Endowments (Waqfs) in Israel and the Occupied Territories, 1948–1987, University of Exeter


Steven Heydemann

Successful Authoritarianism: The Social and Structural Origins of Populist Authoritarian Rule in Syria, 1946–1963, University of Chicago

1990Humanities Winner

Vincent Cornell

Mirrors in Prophethood: The Evolving Image of the Spiritual Master in the Western Maghrib from the Origins of Sufism to the End of the 16th Century, University of California, Los Angeles

1990Humanities Honorable Mention

Daniel Carl Peterson

Cosmogony and the Ten Separated Intellects in the Rahat al-Aql of Hamid al-Din al Kirmani, University of California, Los Angeles

1990Social Sciences Winner

Diane Singerman

Avenues of Participation: Family and Politics in Urban Quarters of Cairo, Princeton University

1990Social Sciences Honorable Mentions

Maha Azzam

Islamic Oriented Protest Groups in Egypt 1971–1981: Theory, Dogma and Politics, University of Exeter


Kevin Joseph Lourie

The Negotiation of Orthodoxy: An Ethnographic Study of the Assimilation Strategies of Religious Soviet Jewish Immigrants to Israel, Brown University

1989Humanities Winners

Smadar Lavie

The Poetics of Military Occupation: Mzeina Allegories of Bedouin Identity under Israeli and Egyptian Rule, University of California, Berkeley


Christopher Schurman Taylor

The Cult of the Saints in Late Medieval Egypt, Princeton University

1989Social Sciences Winner

John Francis Foran

Social Structure and Social Changes in Iran from 1500 to 1979, University of California, Berkeley

1989Social Sciences Honorable Mentions

Philip Julian Robins

The Consolidation of Hashimite Power in Jordan, 1921–1946, University of Exeter 


Michael John Reimer

Administration and Society in Alexandria, Egypt, 1807–1882, Georgetown University

1988Humanities Winner

Ola Abdelaziz Abouzeid

A Comparative Study Between the Political Theories of al-Farabi and the Brethren of Purity, University of Toronto

1988Social Sciences Winner

Rahma Bourgia

State and Rural Society in Morocco: The Qemmour and Qayan Confederations in the 19th and 20th Centuries, University of Manchester

1988Social Sciences Honorable Mentions

William Charles Young

The Days of Joy: A Structuralist Anaylsis of Weddings Among the Rashaayda Arabs of Sudan, University of California, Los Angeles

1987Social Sciences Winner

Nathan J. Brown

Peasants Against the State: The Political Activity of the Egyptian Peasantry, 1882–1952, Princeton University

1987Social Sciences Honorable Mentions

Wilhelmina Jansen

Women Without Men: Gender and Marginality in an Algerian Town, Catholic University of Nijmegen

1986Humanities Winner

Sam Isaac Gellens

Scholars and Travellers: The Social History of Early Muslim Egypt, 218–487/ 833–1099, Columbia University

1986Humanities Honorable Mentions

Eran Fraenkel

Skopje from the Serbian to Ottoman Empires: Conditions for the Appearance of a Balkan Muslim Society, University of Pennsylvania


Daniel Goffman

Izmir as a Commercial Center: The Impact of Western Trade on an Ottoman Port, 1570–1650, University of Chicago

1986Social Sciences Winner

Mary Hegland

Imam Khomaini’s Village: Recruitment to Revolution, State University of New York, Binghamton

1985Humanities Winner

Susan Slyomovics

The Merchant of Art: An Egyptian Hilali Oral Epic Poet in Performance, University of California, Berkeley

1985Humanities Honorable Mentions

Juan Campo

Muslim Homes: The Religious Significance of Domestic Space, University of Chicago


Jane Dammen McAuliffe

Perceptions of the Christians in Qur’anic Tafsir, University of Toronto 


Daniel J. Schroeter

Merchants and Pedlars of As-Sawira: A Social History of a Moroccan Trading Town (1844–1886), University of Manchester

1984Humanities Winner

Zeynep Celik

The Impact of Westernization on Istanbul’s Urban Form, 1838–1908, University of California, Berkeley

1984Social Sciences Winner

Lila Abu-Lughod

Honor, Modesty, and Poetry in a Bedouin Society: Ideology and Experience among Awlad ’Ai of Egypt, Harvard University

1984Social Sciences Honorable Mentions

Laurence O. Michalak

The Changing Weekly Markets of Tunisia: A Regional Analysis, University of California, Berkeley 


Timothy Mitchell

As if the World Were Divided in Two: The Birth of Politics in Turn-of-the-Century Cairo, Princeton University


Mary C. Wilson

King Abdullah of Jordan: A Political Biography, Oxford University

1983Humanities Winner

Margaret L. Caton

The Classical Tasnif: A Genre of Persian Vocal Music, University of California, Los Angeles

1983Social Sciences Winner

Beatrice F. Manz

Politics and Control under Tamerlane, Harvard University

1982Humanities Winner

Cornell H. Fleischer

Gelibolulu Mustafa Ali Efendi, 1541–1600: A Study in Ottoman Historical Consciousness, Princeton University

1982Social Sciences Winners

Dilworth Parkinson

University of Michigan, Terms of Address in Egyptian Arabic


Karen A. Rasler, Florida


Malcolm Hooper Kerr Biography (1931-1984)

Born in 1931 in Beirut, Lebanon, Malcolm Kerr was both a child of and a student of the Middle East. His American parents had gone to Turkey in 1919 to work with the Near East Relief and eventually went to teach at the American University of Beirut. Malcolm was raised on the AUB campus on the terraced bluffs above the Mediterranean. His earliest memories of Lebanon were formed in the pre-World War II days of the French Mandate before the establishment of the state of Israel and the full flowering of pan-Arab nationalism. His family life and his education gave him a foot in two worlds and an abiding attachment and love of the Middle East. 

The family spent the war years in Princeton, New Jersey, where Malcolm had his first taste of America. In his junior high school he was called “the boy from Syria” - an attribute he didn’t forget. When the war ended, the family went back to Beirut, and Malcolm returned to the American Community School for two years. Then in 1947, at not quite 16 years of age, he left the Middle East to spend his last two years of secondary school at Deerfield Academy in western Massachusetts, a school where many sons of AUB families were sent to learn American values and institutions. He thrived on the rigorous academic and athletic programs and always said that Deerfield made a man of him. His quick maturation might also have been due to the fact that he had to spend most of one semester in the infirmary, incapacitated by early-onset arthritis. This affliction was with him all his life, but he learned how to live with it and keep it at bay much of the time.

Malcolm went on to Princeton where he studied International Relations and specialized in the Middle East under Philip Hitti. His post-graduate plans to study at Oxford in 1953 were thwarted by a recurrence of arthritis; instead he returned to Beirut where he could live with his parents on the AUB campus and join the MA program in Middle East Studies. During that time he met his future wife, Ann Zwicker, who was taking her junior year abroad at AUB from Occidental College in California. They were married in 1956, by which time Malcolm had started work on his PhD at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Choosing to write his thesis with Sir Hamilton Gibb at Harvard, they spent the next two years in Cambridge and had to find their way to the Johns Hopkins Baltimore campus where his graduation was held in 1958.

Two books resulted from his graduate studies. His master’s thesis became Lebanon in the Last Years of Feudalism, 1840-1868; A Contemporary Account by Antun Dahir Al-Aqiqi. His PhD thesis became Islamic Reform: The Political and Legal Theories of Muhammad `Abduh and Rashid Rida.

Malcolm’s first teaching job was at AUB where he taught for three years in the Political Science Department. The first two of the couple’s four children, Susan and John, were born during that time. From AUB, Malcolm was hired by Gustav von Grunebaum to teach at UCLA in the Center for Near Eastern Studies and the Department of Political Science. He delayed that appointment by a year to do post-doctoral study at St. Antony’s College, Oxford with Albert Hourani. As with so many of Albert's students, the year of study together led to a life-long friendship. 

Malcolm had a twenty- year teaching career at UCLA, but at every opportunity the family used leaves-of-absence and sabbaticals to get back to the Arab world. In 1964-65, Malcolm received a Social Science Research Council grant to Cairo where he completed his best known book, The Arab Cold War; Gamal Abd al-Nasir and His Rivals, 1958-1970, a study of the interplay of ideology and political tactics in Arab affairs and of Nasir’s career as a pan-Arab leader. His concern was to dispel the notion of Arab politics as a projection of decisions made in Washington. The next year was spent teaching at AUB where the Kerr’s third child, Stephen, was born.

Shortly after his return to UCLA, he became chairperson of the Political Science Department, a job he declared in later years to be the best preparation for any kind of job in university administration. The Kerr’s fourth child, Andrew, was born during that time, and a beautiful house on top of a mountain overlooking the Pacific was purchased before the inflation of real estate prices began.

After the June War of 1967, Malcolm had become discouraged with Israeli-Arab politics, and so the family decided to spend time in France and North Africa during their next sabbatical in 1970-71. He obtained a grant to study the politics of higher education in North Africa. In actuality, he missed the issues of the eastern Mediterranean Arab world and neglected the politics of education in favor of working on the third edition of The Arab Cold War. His concern for the problems of the region are revealed in the preface:

 …since June, 1967 Arab politics have ceased to be fun. In the good old days most Arabs refused to take themselves very seriously, and this made it easier to take a relaxed view of the few who possessed intimations of some immortal mission. It was like watching Princeton play Columbia in football on a muddy afternoon. The June War was like a disastrous game against Notre Dame which Princeton impulsively added to its schedule, leaving several players crippled for life and the others so embittered that they took to fighting viciously among themselves instead of scrimmaging happily as before. This may be instructive for the student of politics, but as one who all his life has had friendships and memories among the Arabs to cherish, I have found no relish in describing it.

Back at UCLA, the Kerrs spent a record five-year stretch in California, during which time Malcolm continued teaching and was appointed Divisional Dean of Social Sciences. He joined the ranks of “air academics” who flew around to conferences giving papers, but, in the memories of his daughter and three sons, still managed to be a loving father who liked nothing better than to play basketball in the driveway or attend father-daughter Camp Fire Girl dinners.

In 1976-77, Malcolm was asked to be a visiting distinguished professor at the American University in Cairo. With civil war going on in Lebanon this was a good alternative to taking the family to AUB. During that sojourn, he obtained Ford Foundation support for a collaborative enterprise between the von Grunebaum Center and the Strategic Studies of Al-Ahram Foundation. This was to be a joint study by Egyptian and American scholars on the subject of rich and poor states in the Middle East. Returning to UCLA in 1977, Malcolm administered the program and became director of the von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies. Two years later the family again departed for Cairo where Malcolm ran the University of California Education Abroad Program and completed the rich and poor Arab states project with an edited book entitled, Rich and Poor States in the Middle East; Egypt and the New Arab Order. In the concluding chapter he wrote of five scenarios for the future of Egypt in the year 2,000. Reading them today, they seem remarkably on target.

As much as the Kerr family loved Cairo, Malcolm’s heart always belonged to Beirut and AUB. He had become a trustee of the university and traveled to Lebanon from Cairo during lulls in the Civil War. When he was asked to be the president of AUB in 1982, it seemed like an ideal job fit - except for the political climate - but it was easy to overlook the danger for the chance to lead the institution which stood for all the things he believed in and where his parents had taught for forty years. His enthusiasm for taking the job was summed up by his statement, “The only thing I’d rather do than watch Steve (his son who then played for the University of Arizona) play basketball is be president of AUB.” The Civil War had been going on for seven years, but it was hoped that the shuttle diplomacy of Henry Kissinger that had brought about the exodus of the PLO to Tunis would soon bring peace. Betting on those chances and feeling a sense of calling to the job, the Kerrs decided to go to Beirut. Malcolm was president for only seventeen months. The war had not been spent but kept going for seven more years. On January 18, 1984, Malcolm was shot outside his office by two gunmen. Later Islamic Jihad made a telephone call to claim the credit for his death. The irony, of course, was that they had killed a man who understood and loved the Middle East as much as any foreigner could.

Malcolm’s spirit is carried on in the American University of Beirut, where hundreds of students have studied under scholarships in his name, in the students he taught at UCLA, AUB and AUC - and in his family. His children, in their own lives, personify and continue the various aspects of Malcolm’s career and interests and reflect the values of their parents as they raise their own children.

There is probably no academic tribute that Malcolm would appreciate more than having the MESA dissertation award named after him. His own scholarship was forthright and honest to the point of sometimes getting him into trouble. While he was often thought of as “pro-Arab” in writing about the Israeli-Arab conflict, he could be as critical of the Arabs as he was of the Israelis. He spoke the truth as he saw it and was committed to the cause of Arab-Israeli peace and to building understanding between the Arab World and the West. He was a founding member of MESA and served as president in 1972. Attending the fall meetings and seeing all his colleagues and friends was one of the highlights of his year. It is fitting that Malcolm Kerr’s spirit and scholarly love of the Middle East are perpetuated in the MESA dissertation award.

Ann Z. Kerr, June 2000
State University, Conflict and Escalation in Lebanon


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