2019 Joint Winners (£300 each)
A State of Permanent Loss. War and Displacement in Syria and Lebanon
This thesis chronicles the trajectory of displacement of a Syrian community from al-Qusayr and its countryside to Lebanon. Based on thirteen months of ethnographic fieldwork, including participant observation, semi-structured interviews and the collection of oral histories, the work dissects Qusayris’ tasharrud, a term used by the community to define its own displacement and war. Veronica Ferreri has produced an outstanding piece of research, brilliantly laid out and evocatively drawing the reader into a compassionate understanding of the terrible loss which Syrians face in their displacement in Lebanon not only since 2011 but sometimes commencing decades earlier. Ferreri’s study is both original and persuasive. The redefinition of the term tasharrud as a state of permanent loss rather than the dictionary definition of homelessness, or vagabondage was both original and deeply convincing. The originality of this work lay in the manner in which Ferreri peeled back the meaning of tasharrud to show that is was a three-fold loss: loss of physical space; loss of social status; and loss of official documents. Ferreri’s clarity of exposition was faultless and she wrote with a warmth and approachability that gave the study great moral depth. The use of quotations was beautifully integrated into the discussions, supporting the analysis and not appearing as ‘anecdotal’ statements. Overall this manuscript makes a significant contrition to the field setting out the complexity first of the difficulty in distinguishing between forced and voluntary migration, and secondly in unpacking the significance of loss – as physical displacement, loss of social status as mutasharriduun, and what is so often overlooked, loss of legal documentations attesting to one’s citizenship, ownership, education, and other aspects of social and political belonging.
Timurid Manuscript Production: The Scholarship and Aesthetics of Prince Bāysunghur’s Royal Atelier (1420-1435)
(University of Cambridge)
Shiva Mihan’s thesis puts the study of classical Persian painting in its early 15th-century golden age on an entirely new footing. The thesis is beautifully laid out and very well structured and is simply magisterial and mature beyond the years of its author. Its scholarship is profound, wide-ranging and all-encompassing, and that scholarship is the bedrock of the entire – and boldly ambitious – text itself. That text is, so to speak, the visible tip of the iceberg. The bulk of the iceberg, in other words the raw data which provides the basis for some 275 pages of closely-focused discussion, comprises a further 117 pages. Mihan meticulously examines and analyses the the physical state of these manuscripts: bindings, doublures, frontispieces, carpet pages, shamsas, ‘unwans, colophons, illumination, paper, calligraphy, seals, signatures and inscriptions. In other words, codicology in its fullest sense. No earlier scholar has come close to this breadth and depth of solid information for any period of Persian painting; a huge achievement, and a challenge for all future scholars. This is not to say that Mihan avoids speculation – she knows the scholarly literature, both Western and Persian, inside out, and has her own theories about it – for example, she takes issue very convincingly with the purpose of these manuscripts, the role of the patron, the detailed workings of his atelier, the intended audience of these manuscripts, their meaning, their distinctive style and why they developed it. Altogether, this as an absolutely outstanding thesis which is ready for publication more or less as it stands.