Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Record Update First

Two from U-M named Carnegie Scholars

Two faculty members have been named 2009 Carnegie Scholars by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, an honor that recognizes “compelling ideas and a commitment to enriching the quality of the public dialogue on Islam.”

Mark Tessler, director of the International Institute and vice-provost for international Affairs, and Hussein Anwar Fancy, junior fellow of the Michigan Society of Fellows and assistant professor in the Department of History, LSA, were among 21 honorees the Carnegie Corporation described as “well-established and promising young thinkers, analysts and writers who will receive two-year grants of up to $100,000 from the foundation.”

“We are proud that two of our faculty members have been selected as Carnegie Scholars. Their work exploring historical and contemporary questions will yield new insights into Muslim societies,” Provost Teresa Sullivan says. “The university places great value on scholarly inquiry that contributes to our understanding of a diverse, multicultural world.”

Tessler, who also is the Samuel J. Eldersveld Collegiate Professor of Political Science, will take a sabbatical winter term 2010 to focus on his work titled, “Popular Conceptions and Preferences Relating to the Place of Islam in Political Life: Insights from Cross-National and Longitudinal Survey Research in the Arab World.”

Tessler and colleagues have conducted 22 national political attitude surveys in 11 Arab countries since 2002. These survey data will be used to examine the conceptions and preferences of ordinary citizens relating to the relationship between religion and politics. Systematic political attitude research has been rare in almost all Arab countries, leading Tessler to suggest that his project will help to “fill a missing dimension in political science research in and about the Arab world.”

The data to date, he says, have revealed much about popular political attitudes, values and behavior patterns, including providing some explanation as to why different individuals arrive at different conclusions about how their countries should be governed, and about whether and how Islam should play a role in political affairs.

The Carnegie award will allow Tessler to complete the analysis of the data he has collected and to report his results in a monograph and a number of articles. At the completion of the project, Tessler will make his data available for use by others.

“This gives me some time, which I very much need, to get this work done, and it creates additional visibility for work on Islam and its place in political life,” Tessler says. “It’s a wonderful honor. I am thrilled.”

Fancy’s work titled “Medieval Violence and Modern Tolerance,” will draw upon historical perspectives and previous scholarship to show that “the language of tolerance has held back our understanding of both the historical past and contemporary conflict.”

“Moving between political discourse around the ‘War on Terror,’ medieval and early modern history, as well as historiography, I hope to show that deeply rooted myths and dismissive attitudes about not only religion but also the medieval past ground the idea of tolerance,” Fancy says.

“Without negating the aims of mitigating or understanding conflict, this work urges scholars to abandon the language of tolerance, which both masks and impedes the aims of justice and equality,” he says.

Fancy, a medieval historian, will spend the 2010-11 academic year abroad, conducting archival research in Spain and North Africa.

"I was extremely honored to be recognized and am fully aware of the daunting challenge that I have set ahead of myself."

The 2009 awardees are the fifth class to focus on Islam, bringing to 117 the number of Carnegie Scholars devoted to the topic since the program began in 2000, according to a release from the corporation.

"We are cultivating a diverse scholarly community spanning a range of disciplines with the expectation that their voices will help Americans develop a more complex understanding of Muslim societies here and throughout the world — revealing Islam's rich diversity. Only through vibrant dialogue, guided by bold and nuanced scholarship, can we move public thinking into new territory," reads a statement from Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian.