Mushegh Asatryan was awarded the Graduate Student Paper Prize by the Middle East Medievalists Association
Mushegh Asatryan (Religious Studies, Yale University, USA) was awarded the Graduate Student Paper Prize by the Middle East Medievalists Association for his essay “Bankers and Politics: Eighth Century Kufan Moneychangers and Their Role in the Shi`a Community,” which he presented at the Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Mushegh is the first Yale student to win this prize since it was established in 1995. In the paper, he explores the role of the network of money-changers in the Shiite Muslim community of the Iraqi town of Kufa in the eighth century. “I argue that they were involved in much more than financial transactions,” he says. “I have discovered evidence suggesting that they were the agents of two of the Shiite Imams, operating on their behalf and using their financial power to regulate inner-Shiite affairs.” His findings are based on Arabic historical chronicles, biographical dictionaries, and collections of hadith (short narrative accounts on religious and secular topics).
Mushegh is working on a dissertation advised by Gerhard Bowering and titled “Heresy and Rationalism in Early Islam: the Origins and Evolution of the Mufaddal-tradition.” In it, he examines two little-known trends in Shiite thought in the ninth and tenth centuries: the opposition between those who believed in the divinity of the Shiite Imams and those who believed them to be merely human; and the emergence of rational theological thinking in Shiite thought. He received his undergraduate degree from Yerevan State University in Armenia.