National Humanities Center selects two A&S professors as 2024-25 Fellows

Two faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences have been named as National Humanities Center (NHC) Fellows for the 2024-25 year. Kim Haines-Eitzen, the Paul and Berthe Hendrix Memorial Professor of Near Eastern studies, and Mostafa Minawi, associate professor of history and director of Critical Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Studies, will pursue research projects in residence at the NHC in Durham, North Carolina.

“NHC fellowships are highly selective. It is a real honor to have two scholars from Cornell Arts and Sciences recognized with fellowships in the same year,” said Deborah Starr, professor of Near Eastern studies and chair of the department. “Near Eastern Studies is particularly excited to see the research of our department and graduate field faculty supported by this prestigious fellowship.”

Minawi and Haines-Eitzen are among 31 Fellows appointed for the 2024-05 academic year, chosen from among nearly 500 applications.

As an NHC fellow, Haines-Eitzen will develop her book project “Crossing the River of Fire: Apocalypse, Transformation, and the Elements in Late Antiquity. With a possible alternative title, “A Field Guide to the Apocalypse,” the book extends her interest in environmental and sensory history, tracing themes of kinesis, convergence, and transformation in the writings of late antiquity.

“From creation to the apocalypse, early Christians assembled a set of texts that traversed between the natural elements–earth, air, water, fire–and the imagination, merged the sensational with the contemplative, crossed the sublime with the violent,” Haines-Eitzen wrote in a summary of the project. “The transformational potency of flowing waters and blazing fires, living stones and dissonant earthquakes, howling winds and thundering voices offered Christian writers evocative and compelling images to breach new identities formed in the meshwork of Jewish, Zoroastian, Greek and Roman cultures and worldviews.”

“Having the opportunity to spend a full academic year at the National Humanities Center provides uninterrupted time for research and writing in a way that is increasingly difficult to find,” Haines-Eitzen said. “It allows me to deeply immerse myself in the project.”

During the residency, Minawi will work on a book tentatively titled “Ottoman-Ethiopian Relations and the Geopolitics of Imperialism in the Red Sea Basin and the Horn of Africa at the End of the 19th Century.” The research relies on a set of recently released Ottoman archival documents on Ottoman involvement in the Horn of Africa at the turn of the 20th century.

The short-lived province of Abyssinia was established in 1517, when the Ottomans occupied the African Red Sea coast, including the important cities of Massawa (Eritrea), Suakin (Sudan), and Zeila (Somalia). Following the 1884-85 Berlin Conference, the Ottomans, along with a number of European empires, were back in the Horn of Africa to compete over territories in the Red Sea Basin and northern coast of Somalia. Minawi’s book, under contract with Stanford University Press, is the first to investigate this Ottoman-Ethiopian-European competition for Northeast Africa between 1885 and WWI.

“Thinking, discussing ideas and writing is a true privilege that we rarely get to enjoy anymore,” Minawi said. “After the year we have had, I am looking forward to returning to the life of the mind. The Center will provide the space to concentrate on writing my third book and to engage with faculty in the Research Triangle and other fellows.”

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