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Press Release: Award-Winning Dissertation Views Syrian Culture Through Music

The Middle East Studies Association awarded its annual Malcolm H. Kerr dissertation award to a CUNY Graduate Center alumnus in Anthropology, Jonathan Shannon. Shannon's February 2001 dissertation, "Among the Jasmine Trees: Music, Modernity, and the Aesthetics of Authenticity in Contemporary Syria," investigates cultural memory, emotion, and discourses of modernity among Syrian musicians, artists, and intellectuals. 

Based on research conducted in Syria from 1996 to 1998, Shannon's thesis examines the contradictions and the debates about modernity in contemporary Syria through an ethnographic analysis of music performance and aesthetics in the cities of Aleppo and Damascus. Employing a unique narrative style, the dissertation evokes the form of the music being studied.

Shannon's dissertation was supported by funding from the Social Science Research Council and a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship. Since graduating, Shannon taught at the University of Texas at Austin and was recently appointed assistant professor of Anthropology at Hunter College.

MESA is an international organization of scholars and other persons involved in the study of the Middle East, North Africa and the Islamic world. The award is made in the memory of Malcolm Kerr, a Lebanese expert in Middle East Studies who also studied in the United States and taught for many years at UCLA. The president of American University in Beirut, he was assassinated in 1982 outside his office during the Civil War there. A founding member of MESA, the award honors the memory of his scholarly love for the Middle East.

The Graduate Center is the doctorate-granting institution of The City University of New York. The only consortium of its kind in the nation, The Graduate Center draws its faculty of more than 1,600 members mainly from the CUNY senior colleges and cultural and scientific institutions throughout New York City.

Established in 1961, The Graduate Center has grown to an enrollment of about 3,500 students in 31 doctoral programs and six master's degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. The Graduate Center also houses 30 research centers and institutes and administers the CUNY Baccalaureate Program.

According to a recent National Research Council report, more than a third of The Graduate Center's rated programs rank among the nation's top 20 at public and private institutions, nearly a quarter are among the top ten when compared to publicly supported institutions alone, and more than half are among the top five programs at publicly supported institutions in the northeast.

Submitted on: JAN 1, 2002

Category: Anthropology, Press Room