Skip to main content
Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project

PEMM Update No. 3: Winning Two Large NEH Awards

By Wendy Laura Belcher and Evgeniia Lambrinaki

August 24, 2021

Update on grants awarded to PEMM: two three-year National Endowment for the Humanities major grants.

PEMM is delighted to announce that our team has been awarded two three-year National Endowment for the Humanities major grants. This is for our comprehensive resource for the miracle stories written about the Virgin Mary in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Egypt, and preserved in Gəˁəz between 1300 and the present.

The project is working to provide students and scholars with web and print access to hundreds of these vivid stories, written for centuries, about healing, reparative justice, and personal ethics in a violent world. Emerging out of the ancient African Christian tradition and in dialogue with the Islamic and Western Christian traditions, these stories are rich repositories of intellectual history and cultural knowledge, illuminating how Africans make sense of the human in the context of precarity. As a result, the project is part of ensuring that the humanities in the United States is founded on a truly global canon.

The NEH Scholarly Editions and Scholarly Translations Grant will fund the labor of experienced researchers with rare language skills to catalog stories in parchment manuscripts, translate stories into English, and write short introductions to them. The NEH Digital Humanities Advancement Grant will fund a public-facing open-access web application and data portal to share the stories in, images about, translations of, and scholarship on this crucial body of medieval African literature and to build upon our innovative prototype tool for searching in Gəˁəz.

The primary team members funded are the three experts on Gəˁəz language and literature–Mehari Worku, Dawit Muluneh, and Jeremy Brown–and the project manager Evgeniia Lambrinaki. We are now adding two other team members: Jean Bauer, who helped make the technical part of the grant sing and who will be directing the web application work, and Henoke Alemayehu, the stack developer who will be collaborating with her.

The team at the Princeton Center for Digital Humanities made the project possible, launching it through their early financial support, training, programming, and sheer genius, including Director Meredith Martin, Natalia Ermolaev, technical lead Rebecca S. Koeser, Nick Budak, Gissoo Doroudian, Kevin McElwee, and the late Rebecca Munson.

The Princeton Council of the Humanities provided three years of funding to get us on our feet, due to the terrific executive director Kathleen Crown. The Princeton Institute of International and Regional Studies also provided substantial funding, due to director Stephen Kotkin, David A. Jarvis, but especially Aly Kassam-Remtulla. Other important funders were the Princeton Department of African American Studies, directed by the unequalled Eddie S. Glaude, as well as the University Committee on Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, in addition to the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies (directed by Wallace Best), the Program in African Studies (directed by Emmanuel Kreike and now Chika Okeke-Agulu), the Center for the Study of Religion (directed by Jonathan Gold), and the Department of Comparative Literature (directed by Thomas Hare).

pricenton ethiopian eritrean & egyptian miracles of marry project

The Princeton Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Egyptian Miracles of Mary (PEMM) project is a comprehensive resource for the 1,000+ miracle stories written about and the 2,500+ images painted of the Virgin Mary in these African countries, and preserved in Geʿez between 1300 and the present.

Princeton Department of Comparative Literature 133 East Pyne, Princeton, NJ 08540

Princeton Department of African American Studies Morrison Hall, Princeton, NJ 08540

© 2024 The Trustees of Princeton University