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Travis Zadeh Earns Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship

Associate Professor of Religion Travis Zadeh has been granted the prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship, one of only 14 that have been awarded nationally this year. This fellowship, offered to mid-career faculty in the humanities who seek to acquire training outside their own areas of special interest, funds two summers and a full academic year of work in new areas of cross-disciplinary research.

Zadeh, who earned his Ph.D. in comparative literature at Harvard University, brings to the field of Islamic studies a perspective informed by the study of history and literature. His research focuses on the role of translation in the formative stages of Islamic intellectual and cultural history, which he has developed in the course of various publications, including two books examining translation, conversion and vernacular culture in the formative periods of Islamic history. With his New Directions grant he will conduct archival research in Central and South Asia, investigating the eastward spread of Islam.

“Building on my work with early vernacular culture, Arabic and Persian literature, and networks of religious elites, I have been developing a field of study which explores the movement of Muslims from Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent and the subsequent spread of Islam during the medieval and pre-modern periods,” he says.

Zadeh will begin his New Directions-funded work this summer by conducting language training in Urdu, an important language of learning and culture for many Muslims in South Asia. He will take a leave from the College for the 2014/2015 academic year to conduct research in India. Zadeh then plans to spend the following summer in Central Asia and the U.K. to pursue further archival research.

In addition to studying the historical spread of Islam in the Indian subcontinent, where a great number of the world’s Muslims currently live, Zadeh is hopeful that this fellowship and the new research it engenders will be a boon to the College, his department and students as well.

“In the Religion Department we strive to teach the diverse ways in which religion is interpreted, enacted and understood in various historical, cultural and social contexts,” he says. “This fellowship will help me to develop coursework on Islamic civilization in broader comparative terms, further exploring the significance of Central and South Asia for the history of Islam across the world.”

-Rebecca Raber

Prof. Anita Isaacs (Political Science) and students cross Founders Green after class.

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