2014 US Fellows

Isacar Bolaños, History, Ohio State University

“Dates, Tides, and Plague: Environment and Administrative Reform in Basra and the Ottoman Gulf, 1839–1909”

Isacar Bolaños’ project examines how environmental factors specific to Basra and the Persian Gulf (or Basra Körfezi) littoral informed Ottoman administrative practices and foreign interests (mainly, the development of quarantine stations along the Persian Gulf, and improved irrigation systems for the cultivation of dates in Basra) in the region between 1839 and 1909. Bolaños argues that primary among such environmental factors were: (1) the cultivation of and trade in dates; (2) the development of an irrigation system based on tidal patterns (medd ü cezir) specific to the Persian Gulf; and (3) attempts to stop the spread of plague and disease in the region. In 2014, Bolaños conducted archival research in Istanbul and London. 

Dr. Samuel England, African Languages & Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Iraqi Stones and Ink Beneath the Spanish Century of Gold

In his research project, Samuel England shows how ‘Abbasid Iraqi texts provided a conceptual basis for European theories of the world in the Middle Ages. He will analyze Arabic works that, issued in tenth-century Baghdad and translated in Europe 300 years later, defined empirical knowledge. England conducted archival research in Spain, Germany, and Canada, investigating ‘Abbasid manuscripts and their translations by medieval European scholars. The first phase was to locate the specific folios upon which his research is based, from which point he would obtain the necessary facsimiles for the project’s textual-analytic component. He spent two months studying the scientific and literary prose that developed from the ‘AbbasidEuropean period of cultural contact. The goal of England’s project is to examine these Arabic and Romance works in a comparative framework, and to publish the first book-length study of Iraqi Arabic texts’ role in the beginnings of the Spanish “Golden Age” and the European Renaissance more broadly. 

Willis Monroe, Ancient Western Asian Studies, Brown University

“Innovation in Seleucid Astrology: Re-investigating the

M. Willis Monroe studied cuneiform material in three European museum collections to create a new comprehensive edition of an enigmatic text dealing with the Babylonian zodiac, called the micro-zodiac. This material has long fascinated both scholars and the wider public with its illustrated depictions of the zodiacal signs. Monroe’s research will attempt to reconstruct the text as fully as the current material allows and investigate multiple issues surrounding its content, format, and composition. The composers of these tablets were well versed in thousands of years of cuneiform culture as well as remarkably current regarding the developments in astronomical and astrological knowledge happening around them. In addition, they developed new methods for organizing knowledge that have bearing on our modern spreadsheets. Traveling to these collections in Berlin, London, and Paris allowed Monroe to re-study the published material and incorporate new fragments into a new edition shedding more light on the developments in late Babylonian scholarship. 

Kali Rubaii, Anthropology, University of California-Santa Cruz

Futurity in Fallujah: An Anthropological Study of Possibility in a Landscape of Counterinsurgency

Kali Rubaii’s comparative research project addresses the radical transformation of infrastructure and social structure in Iraq and Palestine over the past four decades. She will map an uncertain trajectory of possibility and social aspiration in a landscape permanently altered by chemical saturation and military infrastructure. Her ethnographic fieldwork includes participant observation and in-person interviews about people’s sense of the future, the scope of their aspirations, and the limited possibilities for rural Iraqis and Palestinians as a result of infrastructural damage and chemical saturation on the landscape. For the TAARII-funded portion of her research, Rubaii interviewed families living in Amman, Jordan, who travel back and forth between Iraq and Jordan. She also interviewed military strategists in Amman, and visited weapon, chemical, and cement manufacturing sites, military training facilities, and archives. This supplements her fieldwork inside Iraq and Palestine. Rubaii’s dissertation will explore how the immaterial qualities of futurity, hope, possibility, and aspiration are materialized through the landscape.

Zackary Wainer, Assyriology, Brown University

The Series Šumma Sîn ina tāmartišu and its Position within Mesopotamian Scholarship of the First Millennium B.C.E.

Zackary Wainer’s larger project will center upon an edition of the ancient Mesopotamian commentary series Šumma Sîn ina tāmartišu (SIT). Wainer’s TAARII research fellowship allowed him to visit the British Museum, the Netherlands Institute for the Near East, and the Louvre to better reconstruct and edit the text of SIT, which will be the backbone of his dissertation, by taking new photographs, collating texts he has already edited, and searching for parallel texts amongst the museum collections. Once he has edited the series, he will employ SIT to address some important questions and assumptions concerning commentaries, scholarship, and canonization in Mesopotamia. Specifically, he will focus on canonization in light of commentary formation, the place of SIT within Mesopotamian scholarship of the first millennium, and how SIT fits into the larger Mesopotamian commentary tradition and other ancient Near Eastern exegetical practices. 


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.