Personal News Update

I try not to write about myself too much here, but a quick update is in order, especially since it may be relevant to DC readers.

I’ve finished my second year in the Ph.D. program in Religious Studies at Northwestern and I’ve also, now that I’ve passed all my exams, hit candidacy (which is a big relief). Now all that remains is the dissertation, but before I start that in earnest, I will be in DC for the summer, working at a political risk consulting firm with their Africa team.

One reason I came to DC is to meet people who work on Africa issues. I am thinking of organizing a happy hour or two so that people here can meet up, and I will be doing my best to attend relevant events, work permitting. If you are in the area and would like to get together to talk about Africa, or Islam, or any other topic we have in common, let me know – you can email me at alexseminal at gmail dot com. I will keep everyone posted on the happy hour once I figure out a suitable time and place.

I should also say a little about my plans for the coming academic year. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to win fellowships from the Social Science Research Council and the Wenner-Gren Foundation to conduct about nine months of dissertation fieldwork in Northern Nigeria, starting this fall. Needless to say I am deeply grateful for the opportunity – grateful to the grant organizations for selecting me, grateful to everyone at Northwestern and in my family who helped with my applications, and grateful to you, the readers of this blog. The blog has already made a major difference in my career, and I think it certainly strengthened my grant applications. The blog would not, as I’ve said before, be what it is without the support of you, the readers. So thank you.

I am mentioning the fellowships not just to offer thanks, but also to prepare the ground for a post I hope to put up later this week. This year saw the cancellation of the Fulbright-Hays competition, one of the main grants that funds doctoral students’ research overseas. The cancellation was a blow to people I know personally, to academia and, I believe, to the country. The privilege that I have now of still being able to go overseas because of support from non-governmental institutions makes me incredibly fortunate, as I said above. That privilege also makes me feel that I can and should say something about what I think the cancellation of the Fulbright-Hays means for American society. I think that’s better done in a separate post, so look out for that.

I look forward to meeting some of you in DC this summer, and even if you’re not here, let me know what you’re up to – leave a comment or send me an email. And thanks again for reading!

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