Saturday, 3 November 2012

Dr. Said Salman Abu Athera Receives BRISMES Book Prize

Dr. Said Salman Abu Athera receives
Book prize from BRISMES

Dr. Mozammel Haque
 Professor Clive Holes and Dr. Said Salman Abu Athera received prize for their book entitled “The Nabati Poetry of the United Arab Emirates: Selected Poems annotated and translated into English” from the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES).

Professor Clive Holes and
Dr. Said Salman Abu Athera
For the first time the BRIMES has launched a new book prize in Middle Eastern, North African and Islamic Studies, sponsored by Barclays Capital. This year’s book Prize Presentation ceremony was held at Barclays Building at Canary Wharf, London on Wednesday, 31st of October 2012.

About the book, The Narbati Poetry of the United Arab Emirates, one reviewer commented, “The work to collect, contextualize, record, translate poems in a dialect – and then to present translations that work for the non-specialist Anglophone reader – is truly something to laud”.

“In sum, this is an academic study that deliberately and successfully works to draw in a non-academic audience, introducing it to a pervasive aesthetic, social and political presence in the Arabic culture of the Gulf region.”

The authors of the book:  Clive Holes is a Professor for the Study of the Contemporary Arab World, University of Oxford, Professorial Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford and

Dr. Said Salman Abu-Athera is Jordanian heritage, originally Palestinian, Bedouin from the south of Palestine. He completed his PhD from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He is an independent researcher into Bedouin poetry, lore, and customs, and an Associate Member of the Sub-Faculty of the Near and Middle Eastern Studies at Oxford. He has published and broadcast extensively in Arabic and acted as a consultant for UNESCO on Bedouin affairs. He is a founder member of the Jordanian National Committee for Cultural Heritage, and established the Centre for the Preservation of Bedouin Culture, a non-Profit NGO.

I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Said Salman Abu Athera. Speaking about the background of the preparation and publication of the book, Dr. Said said, one gentleman from the UNESCO in Paris approached Professor Clive Holes and Dr. Said Salman in the University of Oxford to do a book about Bedouin (Nabati) Poetry in the Emirates. Both Professor Clive and Dr. Said made the field work. Dr. Said went several times to choose poetry and all other things. He met many poets in the Emirates and selected very good amount of poetry and finished the project and sent that to Paris.

Dr. Said Salman said to me, “The UNESCO asked us to change at least eight points and we enquired why. The gentleman said we do not deal with politics. I said it is not our poetry; it is the poetry of Abu Dhabi or the Emirati poets. Their feelings about what is happening in Gaza and what is happening in Palestine and the social problems of the Emirates. They are discussing these things in their poetry. It is not our poetry and we are not going to change. He said sorry we cannot put the UNESCO logo on it. We told him it is upto you, we don’t care.”

The book was published from Ithaca Press, Reading, April 2011.

Professor Konrad Hirschler
The BRIMES also announced another winner of the prize: Professor Konrad Hirschler for the book entitled, “The Written Word in the Medieval Arabic Lands: A Social and Cultural History of Reading Practices”.

I had the opportunity to interview Professor Konrad. Speaking about the book, Professor Konrad said, “I am looking at the two processes: on the one hand, I am looking at the Arabic society using the already written works in different context and on the other hand I am looking at what ways new social groups especially craftsmen and traders, say, the lower middle classes start to participate in the reading practices in the propagation and distribution of the written works in the contemporary new scale around the 12/13th Century in Egypt  and Syria.”

About the book, one reviewer commented, “This is a clever book looking at the writing practices amongst Arab intellectual classes during the Middle Ages. It is well researched and very detailed in its presentation.”

“The research is meticulous, the arguments and evidence are beautifully presented, and comparative references to Europe as well as further east are interesting and mean that the book should have an audience far beyond Islamic Studies.”

About the author, Konrad Hirschler studied History and Islamic Studies in Hamburg, Bir-Zeit (Palestinian Territories) and London where he also completed his PhD. After four years at the University of Kiel (Germany) he joined the History Department of the School of Oriental and African Studies in 2007 and is currently Reader in history. His research focuses on Egypt and Syria in the medieval period with a special interest in social history, intellectual history and Crusades.

Alastair Newton, President of BRISMES thanked Barclays Capital for their generous funding of the Prize, and Dr. Mohammed A. Ramady, Visiting Associate Professor, King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia who acts as the Society’s relationship manager with Barclays. He also thanked the judges Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards (Queen’s University, Belfast); Professor Marilyn Booth (University of Edinburgh); Dr Oliver Bast (University of Manchester); Professor Allan Hill (Harvard on secondment to Southampton) and Professor Rob Gleave (University of Exeter).

About the BRISMES
The British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (popularly known as BRISMES) was established in 1973 to encourage and promote the study of the Middle East in the United Kingdom. BRISMES is the UK’s premier higher education umbrella organisation for MENA studies, embracing all the top universities in the UK to promote the study of all aspects of the region. It brings together teachers, researchers, students, diplomats, journalists and others who deal professionally with the Middle East.

HRH Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
BRISMES Student Research Awards
In this connection, it may be mentioned that HRH Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has kindly agreed to sponsor research assistance funding for 5 students conducting research on Middle East related topics in the UK universities. Each successful applicant will receive a research award of one thousand pound sterling. .

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