UB Professor Awarded Fulbright Scholarship to Kuwait

Robert Riggs sitting at a desk with a laptop

Robert Riggs, PhD, associate professor and chair of religion and international affairs in the University of Bridgeport’s School of Public and International Affairs, has been named a Fulbright Scholar by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Riggs will spend the spring of 2020 teaching and researching as a visiting Fulbright Scholar at the Gulf University for Science and Technology’s Global Studies Center in Kuwait. The title of his research project is “Where Sectarianism Ends: Mapping Intra-religious Peace in Kuwait.”

Riggs will use various research methods that may provide explanatory power for why Kuwait has a different sectarian narrative than the one often used to describe the Middle East region.

The dean of the College of Arts and Science at Gulf University for Science and Technology, Professor Ali Ansari, states that he finds Dr. Riggs’s research proposal “a topic of great scholarly value.” Additionally, Ansari said that “His [Riggs’s] research agenda promises to yield interesting findings about the historical, economic, and social conditions of sectarian coexistence in the country.”

For the past 19 years, Riggs has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and North Africa beginning in 2000 where he departed Newark International Airport heading to Amman, Jordan. The trip transformed and reshaped the direction of his life. Riggs says the experiences abroad “set me on a path of intellectual discovery that has provided incalculable personal and professional satisfaction.” Additionally, he has personally and professionally committed to challenging stereotypes and facile assumptions through educational initiatives.

Noteworthy research and projects include The American Institute in Iraq (TAARII) Research Fellowship (2008-9), and a Research Programme Grant for Year Three of the “Clerical Authority in Shi’ite Islam” Project, funded by the British Academy (2010-12).

A well-respected scholar in his discipline, Riggs has authored many works that include “Shiascapes: The Changing Face of Contemporary Arab Shi’ism,” Lexington Books (forthcoming 2019); “Global Networks, Local Concerns: Investigating the Impact of Emerging Technologies on Shi‘i Religious Leaders and Constituencies” chapter in “Shia Minorities in the Contemporary World: Migration, Transnationalism and Multilocality,” Eds. Scharbrodt and Shanneik (2019); “Najaf: A Historical Centre of Power and Economics” (1500-1920); chapter in “Najaf: Portrait of a Holy City,” Eds. Mervin, Gleave and Chateland (2017); “Partisan and Global Identity in the Historiography of Iraqi Religious Institutions” chapter in “Writing the History of Iraq: Historiological and Political Challenges,” Eds. Bocco, Sluglett, and Tejel (2012).

Riggs earned his MA and PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. He regularly serves as an expert commentator on CTV News Channel and Aljazeera.

Riggs joins the ranks of other Fulbright alumni, including heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, and university presidents among others. Since its inception in 1946, counted among the Fulbright alumni are 59 Nobel Laureates, 84 Pulitzer Prize winners, 72 MacArthur Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, and thousands of leaders across private, public, and non-profit sectors.