The National University of Singapore's (NUS) Asia Research Institute (ARI) has established the Muhammad Alagil Distinguished Professorship in Arabia Asia Studies to promote research in social, cultural, historical and contemporary Arabia Asia relations. Providing a boost to the advancement of Arabia Asia studies, the Professorship aims to also offer an authoritative academic view on Arabia Asia relations.
The Professorship is made possible through a generous S$3 million gift from Mr Muhammad Alagil, CEO, Jarir Investment and Chairman, Jarir Group, Saudi Arabia.
With the growing importance of Asia, many Asian leaders and intellectuals are generating new frameworks for understanding Asian societies. Throughout history, there have been deep exchanges between Arabians and Asians. By exploring the long histories and present circumstances of Asian connections, academics and thinkers can seek to develop more relevant theories and concepts.
ARI has been at the forefront of the study of inter-Asian connections, convergences and comparisons, together with its collaborators in Asia, US, Germany and beyond.
Mr Muhammad Alagil said, “Arabia and Asia share extensive and deep commercial and cultural connections which may have been forgotten or neglected over the past two centuries. In fact, generations of Arabians have always regarded Asia as one of the places for growth, enrichment and adventure. I am heartened to note that ARI at NUS has strong expertise in inter-Asia research and I hope that the gift will contribute towards developing academic expertise in Arabia Asia studies and generate deeper insights into our deeply connected civilisations.”
Besides providing funding for the chaired professorship, the gift will also go towards developing and implementing programmes to research and document the historical and contemporary links between Arabia and Asia; to enhance the present and future course of Arabia and Asia relations through lectures and publications; to encourage participation in research activities by individuals from the Arabia peninsula; and to promote sharing of knowledge among Arabia and Asian institutions.
Professor Prasenijt Duara, Director of ARI, said, “Most of the current theories and concepts on Asian connections have mostly been derived from the North Atlantic experience, and applied to individual Asian nations. More extensive studies need to be done to generate new frameworks for understanding and narrating the past and future of the world.
We are truly grateful that Mr Alagil recognises the value of our work and has provided us with very strong support through the generous gift. ARI will strive to position Singapore well to take the lead to become the intellectual hub of the study of an emergent 'network Asia' and to consolidate its status as the social and economic hub of Asia.”
Although the research activities will be conducted over the year, the chair professor will spend a couple of months every year at ARI. ARI is in the process of selecting a leading global scholar for the appointment by April 2014.