Yale Historian Named Carnegie Scholar

Michael Gasper, assistant professor of history, has been named a Carnegie Scholar by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Michael Gasper, assistant professor of history, has been named a Carnegie Scholar by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Gasper is one of 20 scholars selected for their commitment to enriching the public dialogue on Islam. The Carnegie Corporation provides funding, with two-year grants of up to $100,000, and intellectual support to well-established and promising young thinkers, analysts and writers.  The 2008 awardees are the fourth consecutive annual class to focus on Islam, bringing to 91 the number of Carnegie Scholars devoted to the topic since the program began in 2000.

Carnegie President Vartan Gregorian said of the 2008 scholars: “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.”

Gasper’s project, “Re-Thinking Secularism and Sectarianism in the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990),” will examine the intersections of religion, politics, identity and national history in modern Lebanese society. By developing an understanding of the complex motivations of the militias that fought the civil war, Gasper will critique the notion of sectarianism as the predominant narrative explaining Lebanon’s history.  The research is considered especially timely and important because it will contribute to policymakers’ comprehension of what has been referred to as the “Lebanonization” of Iraq—the idea that Iraq will devolve into the same kind of kind of strife that marked Lebanon during its civil war.

Gasper is the author of the forthcoming book “The Power of Representation: Publics, Peasants & Islam in Egypt” (Stanford University Press), which is described by the publisher as “breaking new ground…by tying the burgeoning Islamic modernist movement in Egypt to the process of identity formation and its attendant political questions.” The book questions “the notion, common in historiography of the modern Middle East and the Muslim world in general,” that secular knowledge and sensibilities were distinct from religious ones, and, according to the publisher, will have “a major impact on thinking and teaching … about modern Egypt [and] also about the modern, ex-colonial world in general.”

The Carnegie Scholars program allows independent-minded thinkers to pursue original projects oriented toward catalyzing intellectual discourse as well as guiding more focused and pragmatic policy discussions. The program was established by Gregorian in 1999 to provide financial and intellectual support to writers, analysts and thinkers addressing timely critical research questions.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.” For more than 95 years the corporation has carried out Carnegie’s vision of philanthropy by building on his two major concerns: international peace and advancing education and knowledge. The corporation’s capital fund, originally donated at a value of about $135 million, had a market value of $3.07 billion on September 30, 2007.

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325