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Doctoral student receives prestigious national fellowship for Red Sea research

April 19, 2022

Yasir Zaidan, a second-year Jackson School doctoral student in international studies, has been selected as the recipient of a 2022 Social Science Research Council Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship for his project in the Red Sea region, “Contested Ports.” Zaidan will use the award for field research and data collection in port cities along the Red Sea region.

“I am thrilled and honored to be selected for the 2022 SSRC IDRF Fellowship,” says Zaidan. “I always dreamt of spending a fair amount of time among port communities in the Red Sea because my research engages with the people of these nodes. This award will enable me to get an in-depth understanding of port politics and dynamics in a region that is quickly evolving.”

Zaidan’s research focuses on the growing influence of Middle Eastern countries in the Horn of Africa. His work has appeared in publications such as Inside Arabia, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, World Politics Review and Utblick Magazine.

A highly rigorous national competition, The Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship offers six to twelve months of support to graduate students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences who are enrolled in Ph.D. programs in the United States and conducting dissertation research on Native American or non-U.S. topics.

“Yasir’s project has all the elements of an exemplary dissertation. It’s one thing to say that the internal politics of Sudan or Somaliland could impact trade and security around the Red Sea. Meaningful understanding of how that works requires long term investment in the languages, cultures and politics of this important region. Yasir’s project does exactly that,” says Daniel Hoffman, chair of the African Studies Program and Zaidan’s thesis adviser. “This award makes it possible for Yasir to do the extended fieldwork that will make “Contested Ports” unique. And it validates the argument at the heart of Yasir’s proposal: we won’t understand this region unless we deploy diverse tools from the social science toolkit.”

While at the University of Washington, Zaidan has received numerous doctoral fellowships, including the Richard Wesley Endowed Ph.D. Fellowship, Walter and Marie Williams Endowed Graduate Fellowship and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation Doctoral Fellowship.

“The Jackson School’s interdisciplinary approach as well as grant development seminars have helped me with grant applications by enriching my disciplinary perspectives especially in research methods and ethnographic techniques,” said Zaidan.