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On Thursday 15 December, ACMES organized a special evening at the PC Hoofthuis. First, the final lecture in this year’s ACMES Lecture Series took place. Second, the winners of the first ACMES Thesis Awards were announced, so the room was filled with friends and family of the nominees.

Farid Boussaid congratulating ACMES Thesis Prize winner Thomas Bartels. (Photograph: Marieke Haagh)

Former ACMES director Robbert Woltering introduced our last speaker of the year, Khaled Fahmy. Fahmy has been involved with ACMES since its foundation: he delivered the ever first ACMES lecture in 2012 – the success of which opened the floor to the ACMES Lecture Series – and is currently a member of the Advisory Board.

Currently, Khaled Fahmy is a professor of history at the American University in Cairo and is the Shawwaf visiting professor of Modern Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. His ACMES lecture discussed the role of medicine and law in nineteenth-century Egypt. He delved into the role played by forensic medicine in the Egyptian legal system during the middle decades of the nineteenth century, i.e. the 1840s-1880s, charting how medico-legal studies became an integral part of the curriculum of the Qasr al-Ayni Medical School, which was founded in 1827.

After the lecture, it was time for the Thesis Awards Ceremony. The awards, for the best bachelor’s and master’s thesis on the Middle East of the academic year 2015-2016, were presented by the current director of ACMES, Farid Boussaid. He started his speech by thanking his fellow members  of the jury, Liesbeth Zack, Paul Aarts, Josephine van den Bent and Lucia Admiraal, for their efforts. He stressed that it had been a difficult job for the jury, as all of the submitted theses were not only very interesting and of high quality, they also covered very different topics. They did, however, manage to reach a unanimous decision.

For the bachelor’s theses, the first prize was awarded to Thomas Bartels. Farid Boussaid read the following from the jury report:

‘Thomas wrote a thesis, which contains a highly relevant and clever analysis of contemporary sectarian behaviour of Saudi Arabia and Iran. Thomas tries to see if sectarianism or power politics explain the behavior of these two countries. He does an excellent job in setting up his theory and his case selection. He convincingly points to the strength of power politics in explaining the foreign policy of these two countries.  The theoretical framework, the method and case selection plus the thorough accumulation of sources convinced the jury that this is an exceptional piece of work.’


Farid Boussaid congratulating ACMES Thesis Prize winner Thomas Bartels. (Photograph: Marieke Haagh)

For the master’s theses, the first prize was awarded to Zola Can. From the jury report:

‘Zola wrote a fantastic thesis exploring the trajectory of the Alawities in Turkey, or even before the Hatay province became part of Turkey. And how the Turkish state dealt with this minority. She did a great job in showing the main differences with other Alawites in the region. She also showed how leftist ideology in the 1970s and 1980s affected the relationship with the military in Turkey. Through a historic lens, Zola managed to show us the changing trajectory and also provide an analysis of the current situation under the rule of AKP.  Zola managed to combine history and theory on a minority on which little is written and illuminate the plight of the Alawite minority in Turkey.’

The evening was festively concluded with a drinks reception, in which we toasted to the prize winners, the other nominees, and a – once again – very successful lecture series.

(By Marieke Haagh)

Farid Boussaid congratulating ACMES Thesis Prize winner Zola Can. (Photograph: Marieke Haagh)