Ernst Elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Religious studies Professor Carl Ernst has been elected as a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies.

Ernst is the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of religious studies and director of UNC’s Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations. He specializes in Islamic studies, with a focus on West and South Asia. His published research, based on the study of Arabic, Persian and Urdu, has been mainly devoted to the study of Islam and Sufism.

Last week, Ernst received a Guggenheim Fellowship to support his translation and study of the poetry of al-Hallaj, the Sufi martyr who was executed in Baghdad in 922. In December, he received the Farabi International Award in the Humanities from the Iranian Ministry of Science, Research and Technology for his 1996 book on the 12th-century Persian Sufi Ruzbihan Baqli.

Ernst is among 210 new academy fellows announced Monday, along with 19 foreign honorary members, that include leaders in the sciences, the humanities and arts, business, public affairs and the nonprofit sector. Other new fellows include Civil War historian James McPherson, author Thomas Pynchon, actor James Earl Jones, mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and National Public Radio journalist Susan Stamberg.

The scholars, scientists, jurists, writers, artists, civic, corporate and philanthropic leaders come from 28 states and 11 countries and range in age from 33 to 83. The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 10 at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

UNC now has a total of 37 faculty members in the academy.

Ernst’s most recent book, Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World (UNC Press, 2003), has received several international awards, including the 2004 Bashrahil Prize for Outstanding Cultural Achievement.

He was elected to the American Society for the Study of Religion in 1996 and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies, the Fulbright program and other overseas research organizations. At Carolina since 1992, he earned his doctorate in the study of religion from Harvard University in 1981.

The Academy of Arts & Sciences, an independent policy research center, was founded in 1780 to undertake studies of complex and emerging problems. The academy’s diverse membership of scholars and practitioners from many disciplines and professions gives it a unique capacity to conduct a wide range of interdisciplinary research.

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