SOAS University of London

SOAS scholar awarded £300k British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship

28 June 2019

Nadia Ait Said-Ghanem has been awarded a £301,723 British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship for a project on the psychology of Old Babylonian divination. She is one of only 53 successful candidates out of 632 applications.

Dr Ait Said-Ghanem, who completed her PhD in Assyriology at SOAS in February 2019 will join SOAS's Ancient Near East section led by Andrew George, Mark Weeden and Jana Matuszak, also home to current British Academy Fellow Sam Mirelman. The Ancient Near East section of SOAS University of London is part of the Department of History, School of History, Religions & philosophies.

Dr Ait Said-Ghanem’s project "The psychology of desire and anguish in Old Babylonian divination" will examine how Old Babylonian omen texts conceptualise the future as a source of desire or of anxiety by studying the figures and events they record, such as heroes, ominous births, dwindling fortunes, and the occasional trickster.

Although Old Babylonian divination texts have been studied for their grammar, historical and scientific content, they remain an unexplored source of material for the study of an ancient society’s psychology. The relevance and importance of divination texts to the study of psychology was investigated by Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, who showed how recording links between events that are unconnected (acausal events) creates relationships of meaning and doorways into psychological processes.

"The psychology of desire and anguish in Old Babylonian divination" project proposes to use Jungian psychology, and its approach to divination as a doorway into the collective unconscious, to study psychological phenomena in Old Babylonian omen texts, and explore the words and mental images that a people who lived nearly 4,000 years ago gave to stress and well-being.