DSR Professors Amira Mittermaier and Kevin Lewis O’Neill have both won prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships.
Amira Mittermaier's fellowship will go towards a teaching-free year in 2022-23 to work on her next book: An Ethnography of God. While telling multiple stories about how Egyptian Muslims relate to, think about, grapple with, and live with (or without) God, the book will also ask broader questions about the stakes of approaching a figure like God ethnographically.
Kevin Lewis O'Neill's award will support his study of clerical sexual abuse in Latin America, with a focus on U.S. priests who moved (or were moved) to Central America to evade suspicion and, at times, prosecution.
A professor in both the DSR and the Department of Anthropology, Amira Mittermaier’s work weaves textual analysis with ethnographic fieldwork. Her research focuses on modern Islam in Egypt. “The question of how theologies shape lives has stayed with me throughout my career,” she says. “Working with Egyptian interlocutors with whom I have established long-term relationships, I study and write about Islam as it unfolds in the midst of their everyday lives.”
Her first book, Dreams that Matter: Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination, explores Muslim practices of dream interpretation, as they are inflected by Islamic reformism, Western psychology, and mass mediation. Her more recent work, Giving to God: Islamic Charity in Revolutionary Times, describes a religious ethics of giving in which believers engage with God by way of giving to the poor.
She describes her upcoming book, an ethnographic study of God, as her most ambitious to date. In it, she will both apply her expertise in the Islam, and work with other scholars in the Abrahamic faiths.
Says Mittermaier: “I’m thrilled and honored to have received a Guggenheim Fellowship. I look forward to getting started on my book about God and humans in Egypt today. My recent half-sabbatical was taken over by Covid-19 so I’m doubly grateful for this extra time coming my way.”
In addition to being a professor in the DSR, Kevin Lewis O'Neill is a director of the Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto. He is a pioneering scholar on the subject of clerical sexual abuse, particularly as it transcends borders, and is writing two books. The first considers clerical sexual abuse in Latin America, with a focus on U.S. priests who moved — or were moved — to Central America to evade suspicion. The second is an ethnography of traffic in Guatemala City that realigns conversations about security, mobility, and infrastructure in Latin America.
O’Neill’s examination of the moral dimensions of contemporary political practice in Latin America informs the trilogy he has written on the politics of Pentecostalism in Guatemala. Each book explores the “waning viability of disciplinary institutions and how new strains of Christian piety have become recognizable modes of governance in Central America.”
Says O’Neill: “The Guggenheim Fellowship comes at exactly the right time for me: at a moment when I need some time to consider the conceptual and political intricacies of transnational clerical sexual abuse. I’m very grateful to the Guggenheim Foundation.”
Article updated October 2021.
With files from Cynthia Macdonald, A&S News
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