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Khayrallah Center Announces 2023 Winner of Alixa Naff Prize

Image representing the Alixa Naff Prize in Migration Studies for 2024

The Khayrallah Center is pleased to announce the winner and honorable mention of the 2023 Alixa Naff Prize in Migration Studies. The annual prize recognizes outstanding scholarly studies from any discipline focusing on Middle East migrations, refugees, and diasporas. From a strong group of applicants, this year the selection committee awarded one prize and one honorable mention.

  • Book Prize Winner: Dr. Melissa Gatter
  • Honorable Mention: Dr. Osman Balkan

Book Prize Winner: Dr. Melissa Gatter

The 2023 Alixa Naff Book Prize is awarded to Dr. Melissa Gatter for her book Time and Power in Azraq Refugee Camp.  

The selection committee describes Time and Power as “a timely, innovative, and theoretically sophisticated contribution to studies of displacement.” Based on Gatter’s ethnographic fieldwork, which was conducted in the Azraq refugee camp in 2017–2018, Time and Power probes the politics of time and “pairs the question of power with that of temporality,” an effective approach that, one committee member notes, “helps deliver insights into how both refugees and aid workers navigated disrupted futures and everyday emergencies.” Another committee member emphasizes Gatter’s innovative “elevation of time as crucial to the analysis of power, surveillance, and individual experiences,” adding that Time and Power will undoubtedly inspire new questions and approaches for those studying migration and displacement within and beyond the refugee camp.

Dr. Melissa Gatter is a Lecturer in Anthropology and International Development at the University of Sussex. Her research centers on the anthropology of forced migration and development in the Middle East, particularly the intersection of time, space, and aid in refugee camps in Jordan and beyond. She has also worked and consulted for leading aid agencies in Jordan, including Save the Children and CARE International. Melissa completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2020. Time and Power in Azraq Refugee Camp is her debut book.

Upon receiving the news, Dr. Gatter responded, “What an honor it is to be awarded the 2023 Alixa Naff Prize in Migration Studies, named for Alixa Naff’s pioneering work in recording immigrant histories, for a book shaped by the stories of refugees in Azraq camp. I would like to thank the selection committee for this recognition and for carrying on Alixa’s legacy through this prize. I hope that this prize further amplifies the refugee and aid worker voices that shape Time and Power and are calling for a more just world for people on the move.”

Honorable Mention: Dr. Osman Balkan

The 2023 Alixa Naff Book Prize selection committee awarded Honorable Mention to Dr. Osman Balkan for his book, Dying Abroad: The Political Afterlives of Migration in Europe.

The selection committee describes Dying Abroad as “fresh, vivacious, exciting, new, and generative,” standing in “stark contrast to its subject matter.” Balkan explores how Muslim immigrants of Turkish and Kurdish origin in Germany navigate “end-of-life dilemmas” in the context of assimilation, inclusion, and belonging. One committee member shares that Dying Abroad‘s originality stems from not only detailing “how Islamic rituals were negotiated with German authorities, but also exploring what constitutes home when the dead is not repatriated.” Another adds that “Balkan’s sensitive approach to and portrayal of grief is balanced by his attention to bureaucracy, everyday necropolitics, and ‘necropatriotism’… which reflects his insight into the multiple stakeholders – families, states, and religious communities – who participate in practices of repatriation after death,” making Dying Abroad “an impressive and original work.”

Dr. Osman Balkan is Associate Director of the Huntsman Program in International Studies & Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the politics of migration, race, and collective memory with a transregional concentration on Western Europe and the Middle East. His first book, Dying Abroad: The Political Afterlives of Migration in Europe, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2023 as part of its LSE International Studies Series, a series which prioritizes transdisciplinary scholarship. His writing has appeared in numerous journals, edited volumes, and public facing outlets, and his research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Balkan holds a BA in Political Science from Reed College and a PhD in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania.

Upon receiving the news, Dr. Balkan responded, “I am thrilled that Dying Abroad has received Honorable Mention for the 2023 Alixa Naff Prize in Migration Studies and it is a special honor to be amongst the distinguished scholars whose research has been recognized by the Khayrallah Center. It is my hope that the book offers some insight into the challenges faced by minoritized communities confronting difficult end-of-life questions in countries where they continue to face structural barriers to political inclusion and equal social standing. The establishment of cemeteries where religious minorities can bury their dead in accordance with their cultural traditions and religious beliefs is an urgent public policy challenge in Western Europe, without which it remains difficult to acknowledge and accommodate the long-term settlement of Middle Eastern diasporas. Burial practices are deeply connected to place-making and ideas about home and homeland, and are an important avenue through which immigrant families and their descendants can foster a sense of belonging. I hope that this recognition helps raise public awareness about this issue and warmly thank the award committee for helping to elevate my work.”

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