Directory of current CMES M.A. Students

Wenting Xu

Wenting holds a dual BA degree in Arabic and International Political Economy from Peking University. Her research focuses on democratic transitions of authoritarian regimes and the development of existing democracies in the Middle East and North Africa. She is currenting working on a project dealing with the participation of Islamist political parties in democratic elections and its perspectives. She is also interested in the perserverance of authoritarian institutions in the region. Her previous research dealt with rentier politics in Gulf monarchies. As an academic, Wenting embrances both qualitative and quantitative research methods in the social sciences.

Year: 1
Track: Modern


Saaleh Baseer

Saaleh hails from a montane suburb in northern California. He earned his BA at Columbia University, where he studied postcolonial theory, Mughal and Ottoman history, and Sharia outside of Orientalism. He has also studied at a traditional Islamic seminary in South Africa, an institution that stressed precolonial forms of pedagogy. He studied Arabic, Urdu, Hanafi legal theory, Quranic exegesis, prosody, the theory of Hadith, logic, rhetoric, grammar, and substantive law. At CMES, he has directed time to a study of Turksih, Persian literature, and Mughal historiography. Broadly interested in the long arc of the 18th century, Saaleh seeks to explore how the Mughal sultanate fragmented epistemologically and politically amid the rise of the British. His project aims to interlace Mughal political historiography with theology and an anthropology of the Sharia courts in Mughal India, as a way of reflecting on the present condition of the human to unravel new horizons to understand the world, situating Islam not simply as a fossilized tradition, but an ethic that might speak to all of us.

Thesis: The Two Shahs: Shah Alam II and the Collapse of Mughal Political Authority and Shah Waliullah's Conceptions of Malakut Dispensations 

 

Year: 2
Track: Modern


Christian Borgen

Christian is originally from northern Minnesota. He received his BA degree from the University of Minnesota, wher he studied Classics and Philosophy. He is interested in ancient Mesopotamian history and religion, alongside approaches to the study of history more generally.

Year: 2
Track: Ancient


Meghan Bradley

Meghan is originally from East Lansing, MI, and completed her Bachelor’s Degree in James Madison College at Michigan State University. As an undergraduate student, she double-majored in International Relations and Comparative Cultures and Politics with a minor in Muslim Studies. At CMES, she plans to continue pursuing her research interests, specifically post-colonial studies with a focus on gender and media. Further, she continues her Arabic studies while also beginning Persian language. After she receives her MA degree from CMES, she hopes to go on to receive her PhD.

Year: 1
Track: Modern


Clay Catlin

Clay is a native Hoosier from Indianapolis and a graduate of Indiana University, where he majored in History with minors in Folklore and Central Eurasian Studies. His current research interests lie in the Pre-Modern and Modern Middle East, particularly Iran. He is interested in the histories of ceremony, nationalism, and the repurposing of ancient historical figures and themes by modern political regimes. He has studied Persian for several years and recently began studying Turkish as well. 

Thesis (working title): "Sleep in Peace, Cyrus:" Nationalism, Performance, and Public Memory in the 2,500 Year Celebration of Persian Empire

Year: 1
Track: Modern


Saloni Jaiswal

Saloni obtained her BA in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 2020, where she studied Arabic and wrote her senior thesis on al-Junayd's notion of tawhid. A dual BA/MA student in CMES, Saloni is now complementing her previous language study in Arabic with Urdu. Her MA thesis focuses on examining portrayals of trauma and violence in the post-Partition literature of Sa'adat Hasan Manto, and the ways in which one can conceptualize the field of postcolonial trauma theory through his work. She is also broadly interested in political thought, comparative politics, and constitutional law as it relates to the South Asian subcontinent. Following CMES, she hopes to attend law school.

Year: 2
Track: Modern


Hannah Kim

Hannah is originally from Oberlin, OH. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2018 with a BA in History. She is interested in exploring the social history of the late Ottoman Empire and early Turkish Republic, with a focus on nationalism, welfare institutions, land reform, and food. She is current taking Turkish and hopes to add Ottoman Turkish and perhaps also Persian to her courseload while at UChicago. After her MA, she intends to enter public service. 

Year: 1
Track: Modern


Christopher J. Meike

CJ was born in Yekaterinburg, Russia and has lived most of his life in Northern Virginia. He studies history at Virginia Commonwealth University and is currently expanding his knowledge of Ottoman and Modern Turkish with the goal of using these languages for researching the history of American missionary education in the Ottoman Empire. 

Thesis (tentative): American Missionary Education in the Ottoman Empire 

Year: 1
Track: Modern

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John Melling

John is originally from North Dakota and completed his BA in Classics at St. Olaf College in Minnesota before coming to UChicago. John is currently confident in English, German, Classical Greek (Attic and Koine), Sumerian, and Akkadian. After graduating from CMES, he hopes to go onto a PhD program to continue pursusing his education and become a professor of ancient Near Eastern History. 

Thesis: The 2nd Millenium Merchant in Lower Mesopotamia 

Year: 2
Track: Ancient


Matthew Rappe

Matthew is a native Chicagoan. He graduated from Michigan State (Go Green!) in 2019, receiving a degree in Political Theory and another in Arabic. He is currently interested in the philosophy of al-Farabi. He is aiming to take his Advanced Low Arabic proficiency into the Advanced Medium range by the end of his first year at the program. Following CMES, Matthew intends to travel to Jordan through a Boren Fellowship so his Arabic skills reach Superior proficiency. Long-term, he intends to work in the public sector in a job that continuously pushes his Arabic skills. 

Thesis (working title): The Metaphysics of al-Farabi

Year: 2
Track: Modern

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Lily Sadowsky

Lily is originally from Los Angeles, CA. Prior to arriving to the University of Chicago, she completed her undergraduate studies at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN. She received her dual degree in pure Math and Arabic. Her current academic interests lie broadly at the intersection of translation theory and postcolonial language politics. Lily was educated entirely in French from an early age and studied Arabic at the university level for many years. As a result, she is particularly drawn to the literature of the Maghreb. In her second year at CMES, she hopes to explore questions of identification and differentiation, of multilingualism and multicultural consciousness, of ruptures in and between langugages, and of the possibilities - or impossibilities - of translating the histories that engender such tensions.

Year: 2
Track: Modern

 


Baojun Sheng

Baojun obtained two BA degrees, the first from Sichuan International Studies University and the second from Bar-Ilan Universuty, majoring in Hebrew language and Jewish culture and history. He speaks Hebrew and has a good command of Advanced Arabic (reading). His research centers primarily on the social history of modern Israel/Palestine in the context of colonial and post-colonial history. More concretely, he specializes in socialist beliefs and practices, to the evolution of self-identification, and societal participation of marginalized groups with Arabic emblems since the rise of Zionism until current Israeli society. His research approach is highly varied, utilizing ethnology, sociology, and history. He is also interested in the intersection between China and the Middle East in terms of reciprocal soft power influence, Muslim and Jewish minority nationalities in China, and Chinese religious cult for the holy land. Post-CMES, Baojun plans to pursue a PhD. 

Year: 1
Track: Modern


Catherine Shields

Catherine is originally from Rochester, New York and holds a dual BA in History and Journalism from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo. Her research focuses on heritage preservation and its intersection with women and gender in the Levant. As a CMES student, Catherine plans to continue her study of Arabic, in addition to focusing on education and international development with the goal of engaging in policy work. 

Year: 1
Track: Modern

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Denise Ann Sprimont

Denise received her BA degree in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine, where she learned Latin and studied ancient warfare. She is am interested in the socio-political and religious complications in Middle Eastern governance. At UChicago, she studies Arabic and Turkish to further her ability to read primary source material about Kurdish and Turkish relations.

Year: 1
Track: Modern

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Tyler Tumblety

Tyler hails from New Hampshire and enjoys exploring the inside of his apartment in his free time (thanks to COVID-19). He focuses on Assyriology with respect to colonization and cultural contact. After completing his MA at CMES, he intends to continue in the field at the PhD level. 

Year: 2
Track: Ancient