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reed magazine logoSpring 2008

Anthropologist Paul Silverstein is Reed’s Third Carnegie Scholar in Five Years

Reed’s three Carnegie Scholars—Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, Paul Silverstein, and Darius Rejali—check out a new study-abroad program in Yemen.

Paul Silverstein, associate professor of anthropology, has been named a 2008 Carnegie Scholar and awarded a grant of $95,000 from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The grant will support the development of Silverstein’s forthcoming work on ethnicity, religion, and politics in the Islamic world.

Silverstein is one of 20 scholars to receive the designation in 2008. Drawn from a range of disciplines and representing public universities, liberal arts colleges, and traditional research universities, scholars are selected for their compelling ideas and commitment to enriching the quality of public dialogue on Islam. The 2008 awardees are the fourth class to focus on Islam, bringing to 91 the number of Carnegie Scholars devoted to the topic since the program began in 2000. Twelve of these represent liberal arts colleges. Reed is the only liberal arts college with three awardees.

Silverstein’s project, titled “The Ethnic Politics of Muslim Secularism: North Africa at the Crossroads,” will build on his 2004 book, Algeria in France: Transpolitics, Race, and Nation (Indiana University Press). The project will focus on the ways in which claims to indigenous secularism and non-orthodox religious practice by minority Muslim ethnic groups have gained new political currency. By tracing the intersection between Berber-speaking secularists and Islamic politics in the transnational space that links countries across the western Mediterranean, Silverstein will investigate how the Berber Diaspora in secular Western states influences new developments in ethnic and religious affairs in their Muslim-majority countries of origin. The project will contribute to a deeper understanding of the intersection of ethnic and religious politics within the Islamic world and will result in a book-length study.

“The new project will attempt to chart the ways in which a particularly Islam-inflected secularism intersects with the politics of ethno-nationalism in an emerging cross-Mediterranean, transnational public sphere of ideology and engagement,” said Silverstein. “These two issues—the religious and the cultural—are too often treated separately by scholars and policymakers, and my project seeks to understand these two types of politics as mutually transforming.”

Silverstein joins fellow Reed faculty members Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, associate professor of religion and humanities, and Darius Rejali, professor of political science, who received the honor in 2005 and 2003, respectively. GhaneaBassiri has worked extensively in Morocco in the past several years; he is a preeminent scholar of Islam in America. The author of Competing Visions of Islam in the United States: A Study of Los Angeles (Greenwood Press, 1997), GhaneaBassiri is working on a book-length study of the history of American Islam from the colonial period to the present. Rejali is a leading scholar of torture. His books include the comprehensive Torture and Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2007) and Torture and Modernity: Self, Society and State in Modern Iran (Westview Press, 1994).

Every year since 2000, Carnegie Corporation of New York has selected as many as 20 Carnegie Scholars following a rigorous and highly competitive process. Nominations are invited from more than 500 nominators representing a broad range of disciplines and institutions, including academia, research institutes, nonprofit organizations, the media, and foundations. Nominators are asked to identify original thinkers who have the ability—or promise—to spark academic and public debate, and whose works transcend academic boundaries.

reed magazine logoSpring 2008