Zachary Foster’s paper identified and explored an environmental tragedy that led to mass starvation in Greater Syria, and the death of 500,000 people there during World War I. Zachary Foster, a MAAS 2011 graduate and now a PhD student in the department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, won the Graduate Student Paper Prize at the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association in Denver, Colorado, held November 17-20, 2012. The paper, titled “Can the Locust Speak? Explaining the Famine in Greater Syria During World War I,” argues that a locust attack in 1915 acted as the “tipping point” in driving Greater Syria into a famine that caused mass starvation during World War I, leaving 500,000 dead out of some 3.5 million people. Scholars, Foster argues, generally have neglected the environment “as an independent agent of change (or destruction) in the history of the Middle East.” The broader goal of the paper, then, “is to urge historians of the Middle East to consider environmental issues not as marginal footnotes to the otherwise triumphant exploits of human agency but rather as central actors in their own right.”
CCAS would like to congratulate Mr. Foster on this achievement and wishes him the best in his study at Princeton.