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The Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize

The Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize was established jointly in 1986 by the Leigh Douglas Memorial Fund and BRISMES in memory of Dr Leigh Douglas who was killed in Beirut in 1986.

The prize is awarded annually to the writer of the best PhD dissertation on a Middle Eastern topic in the Social Sciences or Humanities awarded by a British University.

This year's prize is for the best dissertation awarded the degree of PhD in 2014.  We are delighted to list the winners below.

The deadline for submission of entries for next year's prize is 31st January 2016.

The current value of the prize is £600 for the winner and £150 for the runner up. We believe this to be a very worthwhile award and would encourage all supervisors to bring it to the attention of their students. Anyone wishing to submit his/her dissertation for consideration should send a copy by email, together with an accompanying letter of recommendation from their supervisor, before 31st January 2016 to:

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Department of Politics and International Studies
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2015 Winners

Bahmad, Jamal Joint Prize Winner [£ 300 prize]

Casablanca belongs to Us: globalisation, everyday life and postcolonial subjectivity in Moroccan cinema since the 1990s
(University of Stirling, 2014)

This is an outstanding and original work that makes a substantial contribution to diverse fields of knowledge. Using the medium of film, and an authoritative understanding of the principles of film studies, Dr Bahmad engages effectively with the social and political processes that have been so much a feature of contemporary Morocco and that are the outcome of the transformations set in motion throughout the country. By choosing as a focus the city of Casablanca he provides us with a detailed and sensitive understanding of the ways in which power, space and social fabric have interacted in the city – and the ways in which contemporary Moroccan film makers have sought to capture these emblematic changes, using them to represent and to understand these processes throughout the country, and the tensions to which they have given rise. This analysis is underpinned by a lively engagement with social theory that provides the basis for a fine-grained and richly sourced body of cinematographic evidence. This results in one of the richest and most deep-rooted interpretations of the currents of power, resistance and self-understanding in Morocco that are presently available. A real tour de force.

Issa, Perla Joint Prize Winner [£ 300 prize]

Palestinian Political Factions: an everyday perspective
(Exeter University, 2014)

A seriously interesting dissertation of considerable originality in conception and execution. It has a strong argument that is theoretically informed with an approach well suited to the support of the thesis. The ethnographic method is well thought out and justified and, most importantly, provides outstanding insights in ways that allow the writer to advance and develop the larger themes that emerge from this....It is one of the most impressive pieces of work that I have read concerning the ways in which imagined structures come to take on a reality, despite their mythic origins, through the practices of those who help to create them, even while opposing what it is that 'they' are supposed to be doing. This does two things of considerable significance for wider political arguments: it places thought in context, demonstrating how ideas of practices, and practices as the embodiment of ideas can bring new institutions and networks into being as mediators of power; it can be used as a way of developing critical reappraisals of other structures that appear to frame and bound political life, such as the state itself.....The rich and original research provides a clear setting and a substantial backing for a complex and multi-faceted argument.

Watkins, Jessica Runner Up [£ 150 prize]

Policing Disputes: power and social order in Jordan
(KCL, University of London, 2014)

This work is to be commended for its originality and for taking a question and an approach that has rarely been used before to such good effect. It opens new ground by examining aspects of power and administration in Jordan that have never been subjected before to such searching and thoughtful scrutiny. By making a close and sensitive study of policing in Jordan the writer throws light on processes of policing, authority, social interaction, state power and coercion that go far beyond the stereotypes and treats policing as a social activity with complex repercussions in Jordanian society, sometimes producing unexpected observations..... The writer is to be congratulated on the outstanding nature of the research and the excellent use made of it in the framing of the argument. The clarity of expression is also to be commended, avoiding jargon and communicating both the empirical evidence, but also some complex arguments with skill and authority.

Alqarni, Hussein Honourable Mention [£ 75 book token]

Negotiating Abbasid Modernity: the case of Al-Asma'i and the Rearguard Poets
(Manchester University, 2014)

This is a sound and meticulous piece of scholarship, demonstrating extensive knowledge of the genre. Through close reading of both the texts and the contexts of poetry and criticism in this key period of dynastic transition the dissertation throws a searching light onto an important aspect of literary production at this time. In particular, the dissertation brings out well the philological, as well as the genre-specific aspects of the work of these poets whose work has been grouped together.... there is no denying the depth and seriousness of the research that has gone into this and the extent to which it has brought together work that has rarely been subjected to such careful examination. In particular, the skill of the author in situating the works of these poets, and of the critics, within the changing cultural landscape of the early Abbasid empire is marked and goes a long way toward explaining the distinguishing characteristics of this curiously – and ambiguously – named grouping of poets. The author succeeds in linking word usage and the development of imagery to the commonalities of an oeuvre that suggested to critics a unity of style, and possibly of purpose that helps to define the grouping. The dissertation, as well as being a close and authoritative study of the poets' output, their use of language, the models they followed and the nature of their craft, also provides some key insights into a moment of transition that was to reverberate through Islamic and Arab history.


2014 Winners

Hashimoto, Chikara Joint Prize Winner [£ 300 prize]

British intelligence, counter-subversion and 'Informal Empire' in the Middle East
(Aberystwyth University, 2013)

An original and thoughtful exploration of a little studied subject...Demonstrates an excellent feel for the period and the forces at work, as well as a commendable sensitivity of interpretation. It is grounded in a good understanding not only of some of the larger issues at stake, but also of the theories of historiography and of IR
within which the argument is set...In particular, the approach to and handling of the sometimes fragmentary sources in this deliberately inaccessible field is
highly commended, showing an exemplary determination, but also developing a balanced argument that takes into account some of the inevitable silences or
absences in the archival record. Overcoming this, the dissertation nevertheless makes a very plausible case for the direction of British intelligence
operations in the Middle East during the Cold War – and lays out also some of the unforeseen consequences that followed from some of the measures taken to
deal with what were then perceived to be immediate and all-consuming dangers. A salutary warning against some of the costs of more recent responses to security
panics in the region.

Siamdost, Nahid Joint Prize Winner [£ 300 prize]

Iran's troubled tunes: music as politics in the Islamic Republic
(University of Oxford, 2013)

A real tour de force that breaks new ground in the study not simply of music in Iran, but also in the constitution and development of the public sphere in the Islamic Republic. Engaging fully in the theoretical debates that have characterised studies of cultural production and their link with various systems of power production,
the dissertation succeeds in using wholly original material effectively and well. The treatment of this material on a number of levels is thoughtful, sensitive and displays a finely attuned ear that can bring out the nuance of language, as well as musical genres.... The rich empirical material is wonderfully used, not merely to illustrate, but also to develop a set of arguments about culture and power, and about the political dynamics of contemporary Iranian society. The interpretative power of the dissertation lies in its ability to draw on a number of disciplines in order to set before the reader an enlightening thesis that restores to the study of Iranian society and
politics the full complexity that it truly merits.

Haddad-Fonda, Kyle Runner Up [£ 150 prize]

Revolutionary allies: Sino-Egyptian and Sino-Algerian relations in the Bandung decade
(University of Oxford, 2013)

This thesis revisits the era of non-aligned Third World cooperation in a way that brings the subject to life and thereby provides a balanced and productive understanding of some of the major motives and factors at work in shaping relations between China, Egypt, the FLN and then the Algerian Republic. The argument is carefully developed and sustained by a close reading of the Chinese archive...[that] allows a plausible thesis to emerge. In taking seriously both sides of these relationships, the dissertation provides original interpretations and manages to throw new light on a field that has rarely been studied in this detail.

Stremmel, Fabian Honourable Mention [£ 75 book token]

Changing approaches and new structures: German cultural diplomacy in Syria and Lebanon during the late Kaiserreich up to 1918
(SOAS, 2013)

This is a meticulous study of this era in the Near Eastern diplomacy of the German Kaiserreich, examining both the drivers of these policies in Berlin and the ways in which they played out in the Levant. Following a number of case studies with care and excellent attention to detail, the dissertation builds up a convincing picture of the motivations and the outcomes of these policies of language and technical instruction.... In doing so, it brings to light a series of developments that have been somewhat ignored in the literature, but that helped to constitute the emerging elites and intelligentsia of the Arab provinces in the late Ottoman Empire. It therefore meets an important need in the historical understanding of the Levant in the early 20th century.

2013 Winners

Burke, Francesca
Joint Prize Winner [£300 prize]

Students of Resistance: Palestinian student
mobilization at home and in exile

University of Oxford (2011)

A powerful and original
thesis that examines a subject much generalised about, but rarely studied in
such a serious way. The dissertation
makes a good case for the study of these cohorts of young Palestinians both in
theoretical terms – attaching it to larger understandings of contentious
politics – and in terms of the political history of Palestinians under
occupation and in exile. The thesis is
supported by sound empirical research that links the predicament of the
students to the larger forces shaping Palestinian consciousness and action over
the past few decades.

Detterman, Jorg Matthias
Joint Prize Winner [£ 300 prize]

Globalization, the State and Narrative
Plurality: historiography in Saudi Arabia

SOAS, University of London

This is a work of
extraordinary value and scholarly integrity. It engages effectively with larger
questions of historiography in order to bring to light aspects of Saudi history
that are often overlooked by those who do not have access to these remarkable resources. The author has made extraordinarily good use
of primary materials, assembling an impressive array of local and personal
histories that form a more plural and complex picture of the peoples of Saudi
Arabia than has often been appreciated. This is a truly impressive work that
could serve as a model of its kind and stands as a testimony to the meticulous
scholarship of the author.

Steinfeld, Rebecca Honourable Mention [£75book token]

War of the Wombs: the history and politics of
fertility policies in Israel, 1948-2010

University of Oxford (2011)

This is an original
dissertation that is ambitious in its scope...but it also deals with an important
topic that has been remarkably little studied in this particular context...It
explores a number of facets of this question that help to illuminate some of
the key processes at work in Israeli politics and society, demonstrating both a
detailed knowledge of these processes, as well as a sound understanding of the
larger questions they raise in terms of theorising about gender politics and

Zia-Ebrahimi, Reza
Honourable Mention [£75 book token]

The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism –
modernity and the politics of dislocation 1860-1940

University of Oxford (2011)

A mercifully jargon-free
exploration of some of the features of an emerging Iranian nationalism....[It]
takes its key texts seriously and subjects them to a sound contextual analysis,
demonstrating persuasively the ways in which many of their central ideas were
taken up and used in the service of the Pahlavi monarchy

2012 Winners

Joint Prize Winner [£ 300 prize]

Al-Nakib, Farah

Kuwait City: urbanisation, the built environment, and the urban experience before and after oil (1716-1986)

SOAS, London University (2011)

An extraordinarily impressive contribution to the fields with which it engages – the historiography of Kuwait and the Gulf, urban history, political economy, spatial politics and the social foundations of power...these are confidently handled, developed and integrated in ways that highlight the originality of the argument...The ambitious historical span of the dissertation allows arguments in all these areas to be fully developed, reinforced by exceptionally thorough and painstaking research, informed throughout by a determination to bring the evidence to bear on a distinct set of theses, taking it far beyond the merely descriptive...As befits such a study, a variety of disciplinary approaches were deployed but to the mutual benefit of each of them, and certainly to the great advantage of the dissertation as a whole. This is an exemplary study of the social and political effects of the dramatic transformations made possible by the exploitation of oil that never loses sight of the human element or of the environment built by successive generations of workers and planners in Kuwait.

Joint Prize Winner [£300 prize]

Leshem, Noam

Taking Place: spatial history in Israel and the case of Salama/Kefar Shalem

Birkbeck College, London University (2009)

This study of a very specific place is wonderfully deceptive in its focus: it encompasses a topic, or series of topics much greater in scope than its title would suggest. In doing so, it reveals through careful research and argument the processes that have gone into not only the shaping of this place during these years, but also the socio-political setting in which it exists, as well as the kinds of forces that have gone into the making of this reality. Thus, it provides the basis for a wide-ranging and original examination of the history and politics of space, not only in Israel, but also, through its comparative and theoretical sophistication, in very different has used the insights gained in this meticulous study of the evidence presented here to back up significant arguments about space and power. In doing so, it uses multidisciplinary approaches to excellent effect, bringing out through how space, memory and power are intertwined in ways that can be surprising and revealing of the structures, material and imaginative that shape the social world.

Runner-up [£150 prize]

Richter-Devroe, Sophie

Gender and Conflict Transformation in Palestine: women's political activism between local and international agendas

Exeter University (2011)

Ground-breaking research that brings out the many facets of women's activism in the occupied territories of Palestine....Taking a refreshingly independent approach that is nevertheless grounded in a full understanding of larger questions raised by the subject and by the methodologies so skilfully deployed, the author succeeds in bringing a fresh and original view of the forces at work in Palestine and the particular challenges facing women under occupation....This is a major contribution both to gender studies and to the understanding of the particular dynamics of the politics of Israeli occupation and Palestinian activism and the conflicts that have characterised this relationship. The author engages critically and effectively with some of the principal arguments in the study of conflict, as well as in gender studies, fruitfully interrogating both through the invaluable primary research carried out for the dissertation.

Honourable mention [£75 book token]

Thornton, Amara

British Archaeologists, Social Networks and the Emergence of a Profession: the social history of British archaeology in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East 1870-1939

University College, London University (2011)

This is a highly original achievement that maps with extraordinary skill and an eye for detail the emergence of the social and political, as well as disciplinary, field of British archaeology in the Middle East...The author is to be congratulated for using so much original material so effectively to create a fine-grained and persuasive account of the ways in which this sector of the profession came into being. It is a valuable contribution not merely to the history of this intimate and elaborate network of individuals, but also to the social history of the British Empire. The links between power and knowledge are well known, but here we have an opportunity to see in startling detail the constitution of the field, the power that went into the making of it and the norms that governed its internal regulation. This is a powerful contribution to the fields of social, intellectual and colonial history that can serve as a model for the examination of other areas and other professional networks at different epochs.

Honourable mention [£75 book token]

Abou-El-Fadl, Reem

Divergent Pasts, Diverging Choices: foreign policy and nation building in Turkey and Egypt during the 1950s

Oxford University (2010)

A well-developed thesis that successfully integrates the fields of comparative politics and international relations to produce a convincing argument about the nature of foreign policy making under particular historical conditions...It throws light on trends that were equally visible across the world in the period of decolonisation and independence and... [thereby] makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of global political processes beyond the particular case studies....These [Egypt and Turkey] are handled exceptionally well, with a good feel not only for the context of political decision-making in the two countries, but also for the aspirations of their political societies.

2011 Winners

Elvire Corboz (University of Oxford)

Negotiating Loyalty Across the Shi'i World: the transnational authority of the al-Hakim and al-Khu'i families


Abdel Razzaq Takriti (University of Oxford)

Revolution and Absolutism: Oman 1965-1976

Honourable Mention [£ 50 book token]

Laetitia Nanquette (SOAS, University of London)

The Eye Sees Not Itself? Mutual Images of France and Iran Through Their Literatures (1979-2009)

2010 Winner (awarded £500)


Dr Daniel Neep, SOAS, University of London

Colonising Violence: Space, insurgency and subjectivity in French Mandate Syria

The dissertation pursues the idea that practices of violence produce modernity….No-one has taken this approach very far with regard to Syria, or with regard to French colonialism in the Middle East, or with such a particular and developed focus on violence itself. The way in which Neep formulates his question and pursues his theme is therefore seriously distinctive….this is a thesis of striking, first class originality. The research is meticulous, the evidence rich, well-tied to the arguments, and well-organized;…The thesis is remarkably lucid;[and] clearly outstanding.

Honourable Mention

Dr Avi Raz, Wolfson College, Oxford University

The Palestinian Option:; Israel and the West Bank Leadership, 1967-1969

This affords the reader a detailed and scrupulously researched account of negotiations between Israel and various Palestinian interlocutors, as well as the King of Jordan in the eighteen months or so following the war of 1967….It provides an unparalleled insight into the ways in which the Israeli government effectively resisted external pressure to relinquish the territories occupied during the war…based on exhaustive and well organised use of a variety of archives, as well as on a wide-ranging set of interviews...It is an exceptional piece of research

2009 Winner (awarded £500)

Mark Dickens (University of Cambridge)
Turkâyé: Turkic Peoples in Syriac Literature Prior to the Seljük


This is an outstanding piece of work in a field which is grossly under-researched, the perception of the Turks as seen by the Syriac-speaking Christians of the areas they entered. It displays an extraordinary grasp of sources not only in Syriac but in several other relevant languages, combined with a historical analysis of a high order and an intimate knowledge of the Eastern Turkic/Central Asian regions involved. This is really serious scholarship of a kind which will stand for many decades, if not longer.


Honourable mention (£50 book token)


Abeer Abdullah A. al-Abbasi (University of Leeds)
Astrology in Literature: How the Prohibited became Permissible in the Arabic Poetry of the Mediaeval Period


This is an original and substantial work of scholarship that uses literary evidence effectively to illuminate social and philosophical attitudes during the Umayyad and Abbasid periods.Taking the theme of astrology, and changing views of the acceptability of its various forms, the dissertation convincingly demonstrates the enduring power of astrology in shaping beliefs about destiny, despite condemnation by orthodox religious scholars...An impressive range of primary sources adds to the authority of the dissertation.

2008 Joint Prize Winners (awarded £250 each)

Joint Winners

W. Judson Dorman (SOAS, London University)
The Politics of Neglect: the Egyptian State in Cairo, 1974-98 This is an original and theoretically engaged work which looks at the modes of governance in Egypt from a fresh perspective...The thesis develops a plausible and interesting argument about the nature of the power exercised by the Egyptian state, setting this within important current debates in the discipline....It supports this with detailed and meticulous empirical research which adds considerable credence to the thesis, investigating aspects of urban power in Cairo that have rarely been examined in this way and thereby making an original contribution to our understanding of the workings of politics in Egypt, with significant implications for understandings of the state elsewhere...It is a highly accomplished work.

Maria Petsani (University of Durham)
The Dhabih Allah as Metaphor for Self-Submission: a critical reassessment of the sacrifice narrative in Q. 37:99-113 A remarkable thesis which approaches the topic both with specialist textual knowledge and with an interpretative imagination informed by a range of different disciplines...this multidisciplinary approach results in a rich and stimulating interpretation, showing considerable innovation and originality...It sets the sacrifice narrative in a comparative setting, bringing out historical parallels, but also the symbolic and metaphorical aspects which provide a semiotic key of some power.

Honourable mention (£50 book token)

Shahira S. Samy (University of Exeter)
The Politics of Reparations in the Case of Palestinian Refugees - a comparative approach A well-constructed synthetic and comparative analysis of the question of reparations, with particular focus on the case of the Palestinian refugees...Historical and comparative material has been used to good effect to bring out the various legal and political issues surrounding the question of reparations to civilian populations....The thesis brings together in a clearly structured way a diverse set of readings on these topics and adds interpretative value to the phenomenon and to the cases explored.


The prize was not awarded in 2007.

2006 Joint Prize Winners (awarded £250 each)

Joint Winners

Fabio Caiani
"Innovation in the novels of Muhammad Barrada, Idwar al-Kharrat, Ilyas Khuri and Fu'ad al-Takarli - 1979-1999", PhD 2005, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, University of St Andrews

Jennifer Dueck
"Competing for Culture in a Levantine Mosaic: oeuvres de propagande in Syria and Lebanon, 1936-1946", PhD 2005, Faculty of History, University of Oxford



Konrad Hirschler (Department of History, SOAS)
Narrating the Past: Social Contexts and Literary Structures of Arabic Historical Writing in teh Seventh/Thirteenth Century

Honorable Mention

Simon O'Meara (Department of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Leeds)
An Architectural Investigation of Marinid and Wattasid Fes Medina (674-961/1276-1554) in terms of Genda, Legend and Law.


No prize was awarded in 2004.

2003 Joint Winners (awarded £250 each)

Joint Winners

Newson, Paul G.
'Settlement, Land Use and Water Management Systems in Roman Arabia: an integrated archaeological approach' - PhD 2002, University of Leicester

Pratt, Nicola
'Globalization and the Post-Colonial State: human rights NGOs and the prospects for democratic governance in Egypt'
PhD 2002, University of Exeter

Honourable Mentions (£50 book token each)

McDougall, James
'Colonial Words: Nationalism, Islam and Languages of History in Algeria'
PhD 2002, St Antony's College, University of Oxford

Whittingham, Martin
'Al-Ghazali and Qur'anic Hermeneutics', PhD 2002, University of Edinburgh



James Onley (University of Oxford)
The Infrastructure of Informal Empire: a study of Britain's Native Agency in Bahrain, c. 1816-1900

This is a detailed and original study of the British Political Residency in the Persian Gulf during the 19th century. In particular, it studies the role and activities of the 'native agents' employed by the British in Bahrain during this period to protect and further British interests. The Native Agency was headed during these years by a succession of affluent men from Arab, Persian and Indian merchant families who acted as agents for Great Britain in their dealings with local society, both political and commercial. Through the meticulous use of family archives and local, as well as British sources, the dissertation succeeds in rescuing from obscurity these key actors in the British imperial system. As such it also engages with larger questions concerning the historiography of British India and of the British Empire. It presents a persuasive and well-grounded study which leads the way for a re-examination of the nature of British imperial power in the Persian Gulf during the 19th century. The clarity of exposition and the detailed use of sources were particularly commended.

Honourable Mention

Recep Cigdem (University of Manchester)
The Register of the Law Court of Istanbul 1612-1613: a legal analysis

This thesis analyses in impressive detail the records of the Law Court of Istanbul - the most important court in the Ottoman Empire - during the years 1612-1613. It sheds light on the application of Hanafi law through close examination of the sicils of the court, revealing a wealth of information not only on the application of the law, but also on aspects of Ottoman society in the capital at this time.


Joint Winners

Ahmed Abdul-Kareem Saif (University of Exeter)
"A Legislature in Transition: the Parliament of the Republic of Yemen 1990-1999"
Anthony B. Toth (University of Oxford)
"The Transformation of a Pastoral Economy: Bedouin and States in Northern Arabia 1850-1950"

Honourable Mention

Francine Stone (University of Manchester)
"Tihamah Gazetteer - the Southern Red Sea Coast of Arabia to 923/1517"