WMU News

Africana studies professor selected for NEH grant

May 23, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Dr. Mustafa Mirzeler, assistant professor of Africana studies at Western Michigan University, was recently awarded a grant to support his research on East Africa through one of the nation's most prestigious and highly competitive award programs.

Mirzeler has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for his research on the cultural history of East Africa and the intercultural exchanges that have molded that area's identity.

The NEH is an independent federal agency that provides grants to support research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities. Grant applicants are given careful consideration during the initial screening process, which includes peer and specialist reviews. The NEH national council and chairperson, appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, are responsible for the final selection of grant recipients.

Mirzeler's research examines a particular story of the Elmolo people of the Lake Turkana region of Kenya. He will travel to that region this summer to pursue his work.

His focus is on an encounter that took place during the colonial period, but was reported and interpreted by scholars just decades ago. Mirzeler conducts interviews with traditional Elmolo historians, as well as outside scientists and explorers, to better understand the interactions that took place in the retelling of the story.

Mirzeler says his research not only aims to address the links between the Western and non-Western regions of the world, but also those that exist between myth and history. He asserts that there may be a tendency for myths to enter into scientific interpretations of cultural and historical accounts.

Many historical and anthropological works have studied the West's influence on non-Western culture and history. Mirzeler's approach is distinctive because it focuses on the ways in which the non-Western world has influenced Western thought.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, 269 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

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