Noor Zaidi, history, receives prestigious NEH faculty fellowship to complete book project

Published: Jan 29, 2024

Noor Zaidi wearing a coral red blouse stands outside in front of a bed of tall flowers.
Noor Zaidi. (Marlayna Demond '11/UMBC)

Noor Zaidi, assistant professor of history, received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) fellowship to research and write Translations of Zaynab: Gender, Sectarianism, and Citizenship in Shi’a Islam. The book will analyze how the seventh-century figure, Zaynab bint Ali, granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammed, has been used in 20th-century political contexts.

“It is my great pleasure to announce NEH grant awards to support 260 exemplary humanities projects undertaken by scholars, higher education institutions, and organizations of every size,” stated NEH Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo) in the NEH press release. “This funding will help preserve and expand access to community histories, strengthen the ability of small museums and archives to serve the public, and provide resources and educational opportunities for students to engage with history, literature, languages, and cultures.”

Zaidi, a 2017 UMBC postdoctoral fellow, is a scholar of the Middle East and South Asia. She specializes in the history of gender, sectarianism, and Shi’a Islam in national and transnational spaces. Her research explores “sites of sectarianization” through the 20th century, tracing the development and evolution of pilgrimage to two female shrines in Syria and Pakistan and prisons in Iraq as sites of memory and identity construction. Based on oral interviews, fieldwork, and archival research in Syria, Pakistan, and Iraq, Zaidi’s work explores the physical and imaginative spaces in which identity is made and contested and shows how transnational narratives become embedded in local contexts.

You can read Zaidi’s articles about “green” Ramadan, the hajj pilgrimage, and the Shiite Muslim holiday, Ashura, in The Conversation.

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