Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cairo Geniza scholar receives MacArthur Fellowship

CONGRATULATIONS! Rustow receives MacArthur Fellowship (Daily Princetonian).
Marina Rustow, the Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East at the University, is among the 24 scientists, artists, scholars and activists who received this year’s MacArthur Fellowship.

The distinction, sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, comes with $625,000 grants distributed in quarterly installments over a five-year period. ...

Rustow joined the University faculty this past July and specializes in Jewish studies of the medieval Middle East. Rustow has analyzed Cairo Geniza, a collection of more than 300,000 folio pages of legal documents, letters and literary materials once preserved in an Egyptian synagogue. These documents now reside in about 200 libraries and private collections.

Rustow explained that because of the complexity of their language, the Cairo Geniza texts are often difficult to understand and only a limited number of scholars have received sufficient training. The texts mostly include legal transactions and other day-to-day records preserved in a range of languages, particularly Judeo-Arabic ones.

Studying those texts, she said, provides a more insightful understanding of the Medieval Islamic state, especially the lifestyle of Jews, a minority in the empire that stretched from Egypt to Palestine.

“I am interested in the internal history of Jewish communities between the 11th and 13th centuries, a period that they documented so well,” she said. “Reading these accounts allow me to get a sense about the lives of Jews living under Islamic rule on every level from breakfast to poetry to marriage choices.”

This is later than PaleoJudaica's normal range of interest, but I always like to keep track of what is happening in Cairo Geniza studies. On which, more here with many, many links.