by Xavier Sayeed, 20C Music Research and Jewish Studies
Participating in the scholarly community offered by the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry has been a thoroughly enriching experience. Over the past year, attending Wednesday lunches whenever possible has brought me so much joy. I delighted in learning about the research of the Fox Center’s doctoral and faculty fellows and particularly enjoyed being able to ask questions and discuss so many phenomenal presentations with my peers and the center’s more senior fellows. This engagement was crucial in my approach to my own work. The funding from the Fox Center supplemented my trip to present my work at the Yallah: Judeo-Arabic Conference at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. The presentation skills I learned as a Halle Institute – FCHI Global Research Fellow in the fall semester were supplemented by my observation of weekly presentations, which allowed me to better understand the format of academic research presentations.
Beyond these practical skills, I have benefited greatly from the intellectual stimulation gained from engaging with other scholars’ research projects. The Fox Center community fostered an environment conducive to constant questioning and curiosity, which I found absolutely enlivening. I was able to translate that energy into the completion of my honors thesis, which was quite a mental undertaking. As I completed my project, I spent a significant amount of time lovingly agonizing over ideas and questions, producing around 300 hand-written journal pages of notes, thoughts, and observations. The support of the Fox Center aided my perception of myself as a budding scholar building a project instead of a student completing an assignment. This allowed me to approach my project with passion and excitement more than dread and anxiety, which was instrumental in allowing my project to flourish.
My work is the product of quite a bit of thinking and mental reshuffling. My fellowship experience has pushed me to articulate my ideas even when I felt like they were underdeveloped. This was such an important part of my project’s development as it allowed me to hone my ideas and jump-start my writing process. It also helped me overcome some of the fear that I had about how my positionality would impact the reception of my research. As an American Muslim writing about Israeli music, this fear dominated much of my early research and writing process, but the support of my peers and mentors allowed me to own my ideas and experiences and produce a project to which I am deeply and passionately dedicated. I am incredibly grateful to the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry for shaping my early experience as a scholar in such an enlivening and enjoyable way. Through this experience, I have met so many phenomenal scholars and worked with peers and mentors that have made me excited to continue to pursue academic inquiry well beyond this project.
Xavier Sayeed is a fourth-year undergraduate student studying Music Research and Jewish Studies. His project will culminate in the completion of an honor’s thesis focusing on how the evolution of Israeli society and culture impacts the positionality of those from Sephardic and Mizrahi backgrounds and in what ways that shifts the approach to Andalusian music.