Meet the Fellows: 2017 Newcombe Fellow Arthur Zárate

The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. The 2017 class of Fellows includes Arthur Zárate, a doctoral candidate in history at Columbia University.

When I was young I would have never imagined myself as an academic. I very much disliked school. Upon high school graduation, I had no intention of pursuing my education further. I was fortunate and privileged enough to have parents who allowed me to follow my aspiration of backpacking across parts of western Europe and later, Central America. That experience opened my intellectual horizons enough so that when I returned to the U.S., I enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Waukesha—a small community college in my hometown. There I had the extraordinary opportunity to take classes with an Egyptian professor who first introduced me to the study of Islam, Arabic, and the Middle East. I grew up in a household of American Tibetan Buddhists and I think my interest in exploring different religions and ethical systems comes from the inspiration of my Egyptian mentor and also my own desire to make sense of my family background.

Mr. Zárate’s dissertation title is Disciplining the Soul: Materialities of Belief and Moral Technologies of Self on the Eve of Islamic Revival in Egypt, 1947-1967. For more information on the 2017 Newcombe Fellows and to see a list of their dissertation titles, click here.


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