Directory of current CMES M.A. Students

Salma AbdulKader

Salma is native to the San Franscisco Bay Area but is the daughter of Egyptian immigrants from Cairo. She holds a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in International Studies from Dominican University of California. As an undergraduate, she spent an academic year studying abroad at Al Akhawayn University in Irfane, Morocco studying Arabic and politics of the MENA region. Her undergraduate thesis was titled "Bread, Freedom, & Social Justice: The Effect of Colonialism in the Arab World." Following her graduation, she worked as a paralegal at various nonprofits and immigration law firms, and assisted in preventing deportations and reuniting separated families. She currently works at the Islamic Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit that aims to improve American Muslim representation by providing scholarships, grants, and internships to Muslim students and young professionals entering law, policy, film, and media. Outside of work, she enjoys writing articles on Medium about postcolonialism and the first-generation American experience. At CMES, she is interested in learning about postcolonial theory and the impact of colonialism on the modern day Arab world. Inspired by her time abroad, Salma is passionate about deconstructing and abolishing colonial-era narratives of MENA and finding long-term sustainable solutions to issues in the region. 

Thesis: "Examining The Continued Effect of Colonial Institutions in the Arab World" (working title)

Year: 1 
Track: Modern

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Amarah Alghadban

Amarah is originally from the southside of Chicago. She earned her BA in History with a double minor in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies. She is fluent in Arabic and focuses on Palestinian history and the Levant region during the early twentieth century colonial era. After completing her MA degree, Amarah plans of beginning a PhD program with the aim to research and teach. 

Thesis: "From Aliyah to Nakba: Continuities in Land Policy During Ottoman and British Rule and the Loss of Palestinian Land 1880-1948" (working title)

Year: 1
Track: Modern

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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


Kyle Bennett Capps

Kyle is from Georgetown, Kentucky, and graduated with a B.A. in History and Politics from Centre College. He focuses on late medieval and early modern Ottoman and Abbasid Caliphate history. He is proficient in Latin and plans to pursue a PhD in History upon completing his MA studies. 

Thesis: "Redefining the Balkans: Ottoman Cultural and Religious Influence in Southern Europe" (working title)

Year: 1
Track: Modern

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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


Apollo El-khatib

Apollo hails from the DC metropolitan area and grew up in a multicultural, multi-religious household. In 2019, he graduated with a BA from St. John's College. During this time, he did comparative translation work in both French and Attic Greek; each langugage teaching him a unique perspective on the relationship between culture and linguistics. Post-graduation, he opted to take a gap year working as an astronomer at the United States Naval Observatory. As he enter CMES, Apollo hopes to be able to pursue his interests in the mythology, arts, and sciences of ancient Mesopotamia, studying both Akkadian and Arabic to aide him on this path. After completing his MA, Apollo intends to pursue a PhD to continue his education and eventually become a professor of ancient Near Eastern history. 

Year: 1
Track: Ancient  

Indran Fernando

Indran graduated from Truman State University with a BA in Anthropology. He has studied Arabic in Morocco and Jordan, as well as spent time studying it at the American University in Cairo as a CASA Fellow in 2019-2020. From 2016-2019, he worked at the International Institute of St. Louis, supporting refugees access healthcare and adjust to life in the United States. He is interested in translating modern Arabic literature, particularly that of Circassian-Jordanian author Zahra Omar. After completing the MA degree, Indran plans to work as an interpreter in the fields of mental health and refugee resettlement. 

Year: 1
Track: Modern

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Ney Grant

Ney grew up in Pollock Pines, CA, a quiet little town near Lake Tahoe. He received his BA in psychology from UC Santa Cruz in 2017 and spent the following two years working as a case manager in acute inpatient mental health. He's intrigued by intersections between case management and oral history. Ney hopes to continue working in the field of mental health while pursuing his MA degree. His recent research study focused on World War II, the disparate memories of Nazi atrocities, and religious critiques of fascism more generally. He looks forward to expanding his understanding of modern Middle East history and hopes to extend this focus to the intersections of religious, social, and political life by complementing his studies with Islamic Studies. After CMES, Ney intends to pursue a PhD and end up in a career in higher education. 

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


Adrianna Layne

Adrianna is originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is currently pursuing her BA in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization as well as in Anthropology. She is interested in Egyptology and archaeology and especially in exploring Ancient Egyptian religion, magic, and mortuary practices. She has studied Arabic in the past and is now excited to expand her language acquisition to middle Egyptian once she begins her studies in CMES. After the MA program, Adrianna hopes to continue on to obtaining a PhD and get more into archaeological fieldwork. 

Year: 4th year undergraduate/1 MA
Track: Ancient


Maya Levy

Maya is a native Philadelphian. She earned her BA in Religion with a minor in Jewish Studies from Temple University, where she focused her work on deconstructing essentialized narratives of Jewishness that marginalize Middle Eastern Jews. Her current academic interests lie broadly in the histories, migrations, and nostalgias of Iraqi Jews, with respect to how cultural and social circumstances in Iraq and dislocations of place in the middle of the twentieth century impacted Iraqi Jews' perceptions of their identities. Maya has achieved intermediate proficiency in modern Hebrew and plans to study Arabic during her MA. After CMES, she intends to pursue a PhD. 

Year: 1
Track: Modern

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Julio Marcone

Julio is originally from South Florida and has spent the past several years living and working in New England. He earned a BA in Economics from Boston University. He studied Arabic and Turkish throughout his undergraduate career, including at Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey and at the Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic to Non-Native Speaker in Manah, Oman. While enrolled at CMES, Julio intends to expand his knowlegde of his target languages and dialects with a focus on facilitating research and career opportunities in the region.

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


Beth Wang

Beth hails form the Midwestern idyll of Prairie Village, Kansas. In 2018, she earned her BA in Art and Archeology at Princeton University, focusing on the art of anicent Egypt. Her research interests include representations of gender, rank, and race in Egyptian art and literature and she plans on pursuing Egyptology at the doctoral level in the future.  

Year: 1
Track: Ancient  

 


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