Professor of Anthropology Catherine Besteman was awarded two fellowships for 2012-13: one from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and one from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). Besteman received the awards in support of her book project, “An Unexpected Life: Somalis, Mainers, and the New Global Normal.”

In the international competition for ACLS fellowships, 65 of 1,191 were funded this year. The Guggenheim awarded fellowships to 181 scholars, artists, and scientists from among almost 3,000 applicants. The grants will allow Besteman to take a yearlong leave of absence from teaching to write her book.

Besteman joined Colby’s faculty in 1994. Focused on Somalia, South Africa, and the United States, her teaching and research interests analyze power dynamics that produce and maintain inequality, racism, and violence. She also studies activist and community efforts for social change. Her book will offer historical analysis of the philosophical, literary, and political origins of the concept of refuge through the experiences of Somalis who emigrated to Maine and of the communities where they have settled.

The Guggenheim Fellows were announced April 13 in a full-page ad in the New York Times. Edward Hirsch, president of the Guggenheim Foundation, called the 181 new fellows “the best of the best,” in a press release. The foundation has granted more than $298 million to more than 17,300 individuals, including scores of Nobel laureates, since its establishment in 1925.

The American Council of Learned Societies is the leading private institution supporting scholars in the humanities and related social sciences at the doctoral and postdoctoral levels. The goal of the ACLS fellowship that Besteman received is a major piece of scholarly work.