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AIYS Announces this Year’s U.S. Scholars Research Fellows

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

The American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS) was founded in 1978 to promote research on Yemen, preserve Yemeni heritage, and promote research and scholarly exchange between academics in the United States and Yemen. AIYS takes on varied projects within Yemen such as restoration, preservation, and architectural reconstruction and documentation as well as fellowship programs. AIYS annually holds two competitions for fellowship programs supporting research on Yemen, one for U.S. citizens and one for citizens of the Republic of Yemen.

We are pleased to announce the awardees of our latest competition. This year we had a very competitive group of applications, and we are so delighted that we were able to give two awards this year to very exciting projects. We are thankful that AIYS is able to continue to support rising scholars in Yemeni studies and hopes to encourage this trend of interest in the newer generations of researchers.

This year we have awarded the fellowship to Gokh Amin Alshaif, who plans to complete her work in The British Library in London, England, and Sara Swetzoff, who plans to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to complete her work. Their project titles and abstracts are below:


Gokh Amin Alshaif

PhD Student, Department of History, University of California, Santa Barbara

Project Title: “Black Yemenis in 19th and 20th Century Yemen”

Abstract: This project is interested in the social history of Black Yemenis in the 19th and 20th century. Specifically, it focuses on the marginalized Muhamasheen community. This community has continuously lived in Yemen for several centuries and many Muhamasheen claim Yemeni indigeneity. Yet, conventional wisdom still posits members of this community as “outsiders” and “Africans.” Native Outsiders explores what these internal outsiders can teach us about a multiplicity of “Yemens” that existed from the 1840s to the 1980s. It traces Muhamasheen subjectivity, labor relations and structures, gendered norms, and lived experiences. Throughout, the project centers race as an analytical and experiential category. It argues that the Muhamasheen’s historical and ongoing marginalization and their 'untouchability' pose hitherto unexplored intersections of caste, racialization, and anti-blackness. Situated at the intersections of Middle East Studies, Black Studies, and Indian Ocean Studies, Native Outsiders hopes to challenge our understandings of territorial and racial categories. It does so by reconceptualizing Yemen as a global anchor of the Middle East, East Africa, and South Asia.


Sara Swetzoff

Graduate Student, African Studies & Political Science, Howard University / Adjunct Faculty, Eastern Connecticut State University

Project Title: “The Ethio-Yemeni Political Imagination”

Abstract: Thousands of Yemeni refugees and Ethiopian returnees impacted by the Yemen war have forged a community in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Their networks crisscross the Red Sea and extend to Somaliland and Kenya. Their community also overlaps with longtime Yemeni residents of Ethiopia (muqeemeen) and Ethio-Saudi returnees. Despite the significant longstanding relationship between Yemen and Ethiopia, this particular migrant experience is often overlooked in the study of the Yemen war and Yemeni refugees. This project proposes to build off my dissertation research by expanding on the topic of political imagination in the context of community organizing, political advocacy, and collective subjectivities.


The next call for AIYS U.S. Scholars Fellowship will launch December, 2022. To learn more about AIYS Fellowships click here.

Support for this program comes from a grant from the State Department’s Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs through the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC).

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