2019 Undergraduate Thesis Prize Winner Announcement

May 17, 2019

Anwar OmeishThe Alwaleed Islamic Studies Program at Harvard is delighted to recognize Anwar Omeish ’19 for her outstanding thesis entitled, “Toward the Modern Revolution: Frantz Fanon, Secularity, and the Horizons of Political Possibility in Revolutionary Algeria,” winner of the of the 2019 Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Prize for Best Undergraduate Thesis in Islamic Studies.

Anwar, who is concentrating in Social Studies with a secondary concentration in Statistics, wrote a thesis that spans postcolonial theory, African studies, the history of black political thought and Islamic studies to offer an original critique of Frantz Fanon’s political theory. She not only interrogates the influences on Fanon’s concept of the problem of colonialism but also demonstrates that the assumptions underlying his anti-colonial project reinforce the very colonial structures he seeks to dismantle and sideline the Islamic discourses of Algerian revolutionaries. Anwar draws on primary sources in Arabic, French and English and critical social theory to argue that Fanon fails to acknowledge his theoretical commitments and how they are inherently problematic, instead focusing on particular forms of domination such as colonialism and capitalism that rest on those commitments.

Anwar’s primary thesis advisor, Oludamini Ogunnaike, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary, has called her thesis “a stunning work of political philosophy for an undergraduate to produce” and “arguably the most significant contribution to the study of Frantz Fanon’s work in the last decade, offering both an original and comprehensive critique of Fanon’s political theory, the epistemological commitments his politics presupposes, and the roughly seven decades of activist and scholarly commentary that has failed to properly interrogate the limits of Fanon’s approach.”

Hannah HessWe would also like to recognize, as honorable mention, Hannah Hess ’19 for her excellent thesis entitled, “Debating Misyār: Temporary Marriage in Contemporary Saudi Arabia” in which she analyzes both Arabic and English sources to explore why temporary marriage became socially desirable in Saudi Arabia, the legal discourse surrounding it and the evolution of the debate amid political and social pressures in the kingdom.

Congratulations to Anwar and Hannah! We were thrilled to receive many strong submissions but were particularly impressed by the rigorous scholarship they produced. The Alwaleed Program looks forward to continuing to support first-rate undergraduate research in Islamic Studies at Harvard in the years to come.