2013 US Fellows

Liliana Carrizo, Ethnomusicology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Exiled Nostalgia: Remembrances of Iraq in the Improvised Songs of Iraqi-Jewish Women"

Carrizo’s doctoral project focuses on the improvised songs of Iraqi-Jewish women, a vibrant musical practice that persists despite the fact that most Jews left Iraq for Israel over sixty years ago. Through ethnomusicological inquiry, ethnographic fieldwork, and archival research in Israel, Carrizo explores how women voice social commentary and broach taboo subjects through song — from memories of Iraq to experiences with arranged marriage, grief, discrimination, and war. The stigmatization of Iraqi-Jewish heritage in Israel led many immigrants to publicly abandon their Arabic dialect and musical preferences. Yet despite these difficult circumstances, Iraqi-Jewish women continued to improvise songs from behind closed doors. These songs, in the Iraqi dialect of Judeo-Arabic, provide a creative realm for reconciling incompatible cultural loyalties, allowing women to covertly maintain affectionate memories of Iraq. Carrizo’s research focuses on how this powerful expressive practice helps Iraqi-Jewish women voice their subversive memory and forbidden nostalgia through the medium of song. 

Sam Dolbee, History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University

Infrastructure and Illness in the Modern Middle East"

By unearthing the environmental history of development and disease in the peripheral triangle of territory between Aleppo, Mosul, and Baghdad between 1858 and 1939, Dolbee’s doctoral project explores the connections between infrastructure and illness, between humans and non-human nature, and between the Ottoman and post-Ottoman world. The work relies on sources in Ottoman, Modern Turkish, Arabic, and French, in Turkey and England for the TAARII-funded portion of the research, to follow bureaucrats and beasts of burden, railroads and rinderpest, and peasants and Pasteur-Institute-trained scientists to tell a synthetic story of the integration and disintegration of this space under Ottoman imperial, Turkish and Iraqi republican, and British and French colonial authorities, illuminating continuities obscured in the limited temporal scope and spatial scale of nationalist accounts. Dolbee’s use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will provide a visual means of representing these transportation networks and disease pathways through maps that trace not only the empire-to-nation history of Iraq, but also its complicated relationships with its neighbors.

Dr. Maurice Pomerantz, Literature, New York University, Abu Dhabi

Arabic Fictions before the Novel: Networks, Geographies, and Literary Markets in Maqāmāt Works from Ottoman Iraq from the 15th to the 19th Centuries"

Pomerantz’s research project focuses on the tradition of maqāmāt, a native genre of fictional Arabic picaresque tales that narrate the various adventures of a trickster’s travels across cities of the premodern Islamic world. For more than a millennium throughout most parts of the Muslim world, maqāma works were among the most common forms of literary prose. Drawing upon methods of New Comparatist literary scholars Franco Moretti and Pascale Casanova to analyze the diffusion and circulation of literary genres within the context of the Global World System, Pomerantz’s research examines formal changes to the maqāma within large-scale transformations of the trans-regional trade economy over the longue durée. As part of a larger study on the circulation and spread of the maqāma genre from its pre-modern origins in tenth century to the modern period, Pomerantz hopes to concentrate in this project on maqāmāt works written in Iraq during the period of the fifteenth–nineteenth centuries. Throughout the Ottoman period, urban notables authored numerous maqāma works and collections. They addressed various features of Iraqi geography, economy, and society as well as interrelationships with other regions, markets, and economies. As the first comprehensive study of its kind on the maqāmāt of this period, Pomerantz’s research project relies on rare, hitherto unstudied manuscript sources in Cairo, Berlin, and London, and promises to uncover new perspectives on a neglected period of Arabic, Middle Eastern, and global literary history.


These fellowships are funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs through a sub-grant from the Council of American Overseas Research Centers.