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Loyola University New Orleans Scholar Wins 2017 Alpha Sigma Nu Book Award

Loyola press release - October 4, 2017

Associate Professor of History Rian Thum is one of the world’s foremost scholars in Uyghur history

Loyola University New Orleans Associate Professor of History Rian Thum has won a 2017 Alpha Sigma Nu Book Award for his book, The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History. Loyola University New Orleans joins Fordham University and Georgetown University in having faculty members who are winners of the 2017 Alpha Sigma Nu Book Awards in the category of “The Humanities.” In an announcement, the honor society for Jesuit colleges and universities said: “There were many exceptional entries, and among them, these books stood out as scholarship at its best in Jesuit education.”

“As a center of academic excellence and scholastic achievement, Loyola University New Orleans is exceptionally proud to see a member of our faculty win a 2017 Alpha Sigma Nu Book Award,” said Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs David B. Borofsky. “Associate Professor of History Rian Thum has established himself as one of the world’s experts on Uyghur history, and we are pleased to see his work recognized in such an important way.”

Each Alpha Sigma Nu award comes with a $1,000 cash prize and plaque to be awarded by the professor’s university. Alpha Sigma Nu Book Awards are open to all faculty and administrators at Jesuit colleges and universities, including emeritus faculty and administrators, who have published a book in the three years immediately prior to the year of the category.

Rian Thum, associate professor of history and an Asian Studies scholar at Loyola, is currently pursuing a yearlong research project as a Fellow of the National Humanities Center. One of the world’s leading scholars on the Uyghurs of mainland China, Thum will spend the yearlong fellowship pursuing his current book project, Islamic China, a re-examination of Chinese Islam that takes full account of the numerous Persian and Arabic sources that Chinese Muslims have used and written.

His celebrated book, The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History (Harvard University Press, 2014) argues that the Uyghurs - and their place in China today - can only be understood in the light of longstanding traditions of local pilgrimage and manuscript culture, scholars have said. The study uses manuscripts in Chaghatay and Persian, contemporary Uyghur novels, graffiti, and ethnographic fieldwork to uncover a complex of historical practices that offer new perspectives on what history is and how it works.

Thum’s research interests include historical anthropology, mobility, orality and writing, historiography, the history of money, and the place of non-Han peoples in China. The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History has already received the American Historical Association’s 2015 Fairbank prize for East Asian history, the Society for East Asian Anthropology’s 2015 Hsu prize for East Asian Anthropology, and the American Anthropological Association’s 2015 Central Eurasian Studies Society Book Award.

According to a news release, the National Humanities Center appointed only 34 Fellows for the 2017-2018 academic year from among a pool of more than 630 leading scholars. As a 2017-2018 Fellow, Thum and colleague Loyola University New Orleans Associate Professor of English Laura K. Murphy join the fortieth class of resident scholars to be admitted since the Center opened in 1978, the largest in memory.