The Africa Hall in Sharjah where The Africa Institute is currently located.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Sharjah based The Africa Institute (TAI), the first centre of its kind in the Arab world dedicated to the advanced study, research and documentation of Africa and the African diaspora, has announced the inaugural group of fellowships awarded through its new Research Fellowships Program. Conceived as a research-based think tank and postgraduate studies institution, the Institute offers both Masters and PhD programmes dedicated to training a new generation of critical thinkers in African and African diaspora studies, evolving a new model for academic research, teaching and documentation in the field. In advancement of these goals, TAI has inaugurated the senior fellowship named in honour of the late professor of African studies, Ali A Mazrui, as well as two postdoctoral fellowships named for scholar, curator and art critic Okwui Enwezor and for world-renowned Moroccan scholar, Fatema Mernissi.
The inaugural cohort of fellows consists of Okwui Enwezor Postdoctoral Fellow in Visual Culture, Performance Studies and Critical Humanities: Surafel Wondimu Abebe, Assistant Professor, Centre for African Studies and College of Performing and Visual Arts at Addis Ababa University; Fatema Mernissi Postdoctoral Fellow in Social and Cultural Studies: Nidhi Mahajan, Assistant Professor in Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Ali A Mazrui Senior Fellow in Global African Studies: Elizabeth W Giorgis, Associate Professor of Art History, Criticism and Theory in the College of Performing and Visual Art and the Center for African and Asian Studies at University of Addis Ababa and Senior Fellow: Dagmawi Woubshet, Ahuja Family Presidential Associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Africa Institute Research Fellowships Program provides the opportunity for both junior and senior scholars of African and African diaspora studies to focus on a research project and participate in ongoing scholarly and intellectual activities during their term at the Institute. The residency also grants fellows the opportunity to interact with scholars and academics in their area of research.
The fellowship named in honour of the late Enwezor, is open to emerging scholars whose work focuses on visual and performance studies and intersections with discourses of art history, performance studies and critical humanities. Eligible applicants must have earned their doctoral degree (PhD) within the last five years, prior to assuming the fellowship. Enwezor was a famed scholar, curator and art critic, whose contributions to the disciplines of art history, art criticism and cultural studies have left groundbreaking and dynamic impact,
Abebe is assistant professor at the Centre for African Studies and College of Performing and Visual Arts, and a researcher at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University. Mahajan’s research focuses on the intersection between transnational Indian Ocean trade networks and the dynamics of state formation in East Africa.
It includes 19th century encounters between dhow sailors and anti-slavery British naval patrols, to ivory smuggling in the 1970s; from Kenyan state regulation of the dhow trade at Mombasa’s Old Port, to everyday life on board an Indian dhow that has been pushed into the shadow economy in Somalia, and everyone or everything that is a mobile participant in Indian Ocean trade networks.
During her residency at The Africa Institute, she will be working on her book manuscript Moorings: The Dhow Trade, States and Capital Across the Indian Ocean.
Based on over ten years of archival and ethnographic research, it is an historical ethnography that focuses on encounters between dhows or wooden sailing vessels and multiple regulatory regimes, across the Indian Ocean. The Fatema Mernissi Postdoctoral Fellowship in Social and Cultural Studies is named in honour of the world-renowned Moroccan scholar, late Professor Fatema Mernissi, whose contributions to gender, feminism, sociopolitical change and Islam, have been critical and transformational.
The fellowship is open to emerging scholars in the field of social sciences with specific emphasis on gender, feminism and cultural studies and visual cultures, and their intersection with African and African diaspora studies. Woubshet is a scholar of African American literature and art and focuses on the links between African American, LGBTQ and African studies. The Ali A Mazrui Senior Fellowship in Global African Studies is named in honour of late Professor Ali A Mazrui, Kenyan-born American academic, professor and political writer on African and Islamic studies and North-South relations.
Giorgis’s current research, to be conducted during her residency at The Africa Institute, focuses on developing a book manuscript on gender, inequality and visual culture, which explores Ethiopian women’s aesthetic in the context of the wider politics of exclusion, as a case study. Adjaye Associates, the award winning architectural and design firm with studios in Accra, London and New York, led by Sir David Adjaye, founder and principal, will design a new campus in downtown Sharjah for The Africa Institute. The design will create an enclosed 343,175-square feet campus, with five wings between four and seven stories each, connected by a series of open-air interior courtyards that span the ground floor and feature fountains and landscaping with native plants. Four facades will include entryways to welcome the public and connect the Institute with surrounding institutions, organisations and public walkways. The campus includes spaces of differing character and scale for classes and seminars, a research library and climatised archive facility, a flexible auditorium and performance space, an exhibition gallery, a restaurant and cafe and a bookstore. The Institute is also commissioning artists to create site-specific installations in the public spaces of the new building.
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