How has PUF funding helped you achieve your research goals?
Propinquity is a powerful force; simply spending time together, made possible by the generous travel support in our PUF funding, has done a lot to further our work. Perhaps the biggest impact on our research goals is that they have become more complicated as a result of the opening up of new perspectives from sharing data and ideas. We keep discovering new areas of similarity but also contrast, as on the environmental side: what look like very similar landscapes actually turn out to have different drivers and different histories. Our entire notion of the history of the oases has become more localized and less essentialized.
Your partnership was born out of a desire to come together and tackle ambitious fieldwork as a team, while also creating educational opportunities for students. How has this partnership these learning opportunities—formal and informal—for students and researchers involved?
The students have benefited tremendously both academically (see items 2 above and 7 below on ceramics) and in building an international network. They have also been able to conduct research in the other country, and in one case a member of the US team had a member of the French team as co-director of her dissertation. For the more advanced researchers, the lasting benefit is the enriched network of people who share interests and have data complementary to our own.
To share the significant achievements resulting from your collaboration as Partner University Fund grantees, you recently presented a two-day conference, “Oasis Magna: Kharga and Dakhla Oases in Antiquity,” at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. Could you tell us about the results of the project that make you most proud?
The single most rewarding outcome is perhaps none of the fascinating scholarly results but on the human dimension, the creation of an international (France, USA, Italy) team of young ceramicists guided by Pascale Ballet; they promise to give what has been an understaffed and under theorized field an exciting new impetus.
Your 22-member team has made discoveries in areas as diverse as landscape, administration, economy, literature, paintings, and society. What are your aspirations for the future of the Oasis Major project?
We expect that the personal scholarly links built by the project will continue to strengthen, for example in the involvement of faculty in one team in the doctoral dissertations of students from the other. We are also planning grant proposals to other agencies that will continue the research agenda in a collaborative fashion.