Professor Siraj Ahmed’s Towering Study Honored

cover of Graduate Center Professor Siraj Ahmed's book, "Archaeologoy of Babel"Professor Siraj Ahmed (GC/Lehman College, English) was awarded the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies for his book Archaeology of Babel: The Colonial Foundation of the Humanities. The MLA lauded the book a “masterfully organized and analytically precise … a work that should be read widely.”

The Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize, in its 26th year, is awarded annually for an outstanding scholarly work that is written by a member of the MLA and that involves at least two literatures. The citation praised Archaeology of Babel as “informative, insightful, and provocative,” stating that, “Ahmed makes theoretical and methodological contributions that will be of great importance to many fields, from comparative literature and postcolonial studies to legal theory and European philosophy.”

The book is a study of multiple literatures and ideas, including British, Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit literature, as well as German, French, and Italian philosophy. Ahmed said that his book, “argues that British scholars in late 18th-century colonial India fundamentally transformed Islamic and Hindu religious, legal, and literary traditions, thereby helping lay the foundations of the modern humanities. In the process, this study excavates the radically different approaches to textual authority that had constituted those traditions before colonial rule.”

Ahmed is also the director of the comparative literature program at Lehman College. His scholarly work has appeared in numerous publications, and he is the author of the book, The Stillbirth of Capital: Enlightenment Writing and Colonial India. He has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon and the Whiting Foundations, the Huntington and the Clark Libraries, and the University of London Institutes of English and of Commonwealth Studies.

Ahmed confessed that the MLA award, which will be formally presented at the association’s January 2019 convention, was unexpected. He said, “Archaeology of Babel was especially difficult to write and is, I fear, equally demanding to read. So, I'm surprised and encouraged — touched even — when scholars tell me they like it. The prize makes me feel the same way but even more.” 

Submitted on: DEC 13, 2018

Category: Diversity | English | Faculty Awards | General GC News