For over 100 years, providing fellowships for scholars in the humanities and related social sciences has been one of the signal activities of ACLS. The DCF award supports PhD candidates in their final year of dissertation writing. 

With the generous support of the ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship, during the upcoming year, Saquib Ali Usman will finish writing his dissertation in sociocultural anthropology, titled “Blindness and Qur’anic Water Divination in the Mauritanian Sahel”. The research presents an ethnographic look into an African village regionally known for the predominance of congenital blindness inherited by its inhabitants. In his fieldwork, Usman discovered how this unique condition is locally honored and socially recognized as a kind of miraculous compensation that links physical blindness with perceptive capacities such as the ability to locate subterranean bodies of water in the desert used to find ideal sites for wells. By studying how blindness becomes a sign of social difference through everyday multi-sensorial interactions, local discourses, and environments, the project not only finds new possibilities for understanding blindness, but in turn, reflects on the concepts of “seeing” and “knowing” to reframe questions at the core of anthropological practice.