Publications by Faculty & Alumni

Contesting the Iranian Revolution: The Green Uprisings
Alimagham, Pouya. Contesting the Iranian Revolution: The Green Uprisings. Cambridge University Press, 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Most observers of Iran viewed the Green Uprisings of 2009 as a 'failed revolution', with many Iranians and those in neighbouring Arab countries agreeing. In Contesting the Iranian Revolution, however, Pouya Alimagham re-examines this evaluation, deconstructing the conventional win-lose binary interpretations in a way which underscores the subtle but important victories on the ground, and reveals how Iran's modern history imbues those triumphs with consequential meaning. Focusing on the men and women who made this dynamic history, and who exist at the centre of these contentious politics, this 'history from below' brings to the fore the post-Islamist discursive assault on the government's symbols of legitimation. From powerful symbols rooted in Shiʿite Islam, Palestinian liberation, and the Iranian Revolution, Alimagham harnesses the wider history of Iran and the Middle East to highlight how activists contested the Islamic Republic's legitimacy to its very core.

Clager, Hannah M.The "Houthification" of Education in Yemen: A Revival of Pedagogical Battlegrounds?Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2020.
Ellis, Eleanor Takenaka. “The Afterlives of Aftershocks: Collective Memory and the 1992 Cairo Earthquake.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2020.
Khoury, Maria. “Ghosts and Parallel Times: The Haunting of Palestinian Citizens of Israel.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2020.
Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader
Penslar, Derek. Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader. Yale University Press, 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

From the prizewinning Jewish Lives series, a masterful new biography of Theodor Herzl by an eminent historian of Zionism.

The life of Theodor Herzl (1860–1904) was as puzzling as it was brief. How did this cosmopolitan and assimilated European Jew become the leader of the Zionist movement? How could he be both an artist and a statesman, a rationalist and an aesthete, a stern moralist yet possessed of deep, and at times dark, passions? And why did scores of thousands of Jews, many of them from traditional, observant backgrounds, embrace Herzl as their leader?

Drawing on a vast body of Herzl’s personal, literary, and political writings, historian Derek Penslar shows that Herzl’s path to Zionism had as much to do with personal crises as it did with antisemitism. Once Herzl devoted himself to Zionism, Penslar shows, he distinguished himself as a consummate leader—possessed of indefatigable energy, organizational ability, and electrifying charisma. Herzl became a screen onto which Jews of his era could project their deepest needs and longings.

The Kizilbash-Alevis in Ottoman Anatolia: Sufism, Politics, and Community
Karakaya-Stump, Ayfer. The Kizilbash-Alevis in Ottoman Anatolia: Sufism, Politics, and Community. Edinburgh University Press, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Explores the transformation of the Kizilbash from a radical religio-political movement to a religious order of closed communities.

  • The first comprehensive social history of the Kizilbash/Alevi communities
  • Combines conventional sources with newly discovered ones generated within the Kizilbash-Alevi milieu
  • Argues for a readjustment in focus from pre-Islamic Central Asia to the cosmopolitan Sufi milieu of the Middle East when exploring genealogies of popular Islam in Anatolia
  • Offers a critical assessment of the long-standing Köprülü paradigm in the field of religious and cultural history of Anatolia
  • Provides a new perspective on the Ottoman-Safavid conflict, and on Sunni-Shiʿi confessionalisation in the early modern period
  • Opens new avenues of research in the study of other ‘heterodox’ communities in the Islamic world

The Kizilbash were at once key players in and the foremost victims of the Ottoman-Safavid conflict that defined the early modern Middle East. Today referred to as Alevis, they constitute the second largest faith community in modern Turkey, with smaller pockets of related groups in the Balkans. Yet several aspects of their history remain little understood or explored. This first comprehensive socio-political history of the Kizilbash/Alevi communities uses a recently surfaced corpus of sources generated within their milieu. It offers fresh answers to many questions concerning their origins and evolution from a revolutionary movement to an inward-looking religious order.

The Anthropology of Islamic Law: Education, Ethics, and Legal Interpretation at Egypt's Al-Azhar
Nakissa, Aria. The Anthropology of Islamic Law: Education, Ethics, and Legal Interpretation at Egypt's Al-Azhar. Oxford University Press, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Anthropology of Islamic Law shows how hermeneutic theory and practice theory can be brought together to analyze cultural, legal, and religious traditions. These ideas are developed through an analysis of the Islamic legal tradition, which examines both Islamic legal doctrine and religious education. The book combines anthropology and Islamist history, using ethnography and in-depth analysis of Arabic religious texts. The book focuses on higher religious learning in contemporary Egypt, examining its intellectual, ethical, and pedagogical dimensions. Data is drawn from fieldwork inside al-Azhar University, Cairo University's Dar al-Ulum, and the network of traditional study circles associated with the al-Azhar mosque. Together these sites constitute the most important venue for the transmission of religious learning in the contemporary Muslim world. The book gives special attention to contemporary Egypt, and also provides a broader analysis relevant to Islamic legal doctrine and religious education throughout history.

The Universal Enemy: Jihad, Empire, and the Challenge of Solidarity
Li, Darryl. The Universal Enemy: Jihad, Empire, and the Challenge of Solidarity. Stanford University Press, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

No contemporary figure is more demonized than the Islamist foreign fighter who wages jihad around the world. Spreading violence, disregarding national borders, and rejecting secular norms, so-called jihadists seem opposed to universalism itself. In a radical departure from conventional wisdom on the topic, The Universal Enemy argues that transnational jihadists are engaged in their own form of universalism: these fighters struggle to realize an Islamist vision directed at all of humanity, transcending racial and cultural difference.

Anthropologist and attorney Darryl Li reconceptualizes jihad as armed transnational solidarity under conditions of American empire, revisiting a pivotal moment after the Cold War when ethnic cleansing in the Balkans dominated global headlines. Muslim volunteers came from distant lands to fight in Bosnia-Herzegovina alongside their co-religionists, offering themselves as an alternative to the US-led international community. Li highlights the parallels and overlaps between transnational jihads and other universalisms such as the War on Terror, United Nations peacekeeping, and socialist Non-Alignment. Developed from more than a decade of research with former fighters in a half-dozen countries, The Universal Enemy explores the relationship between jihad and American empire to shed critical light on both.

Balikcioglu, Efe. “A Coherence of Incoherences: Graeco-Arabic Philosophy and the Fifteenth-Century Ottoman Synthesis of Philosophy with Sharia.” History and MES, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The fifteenth-century Ottoman world was a dynamic seedbed of philosophical and theological debates and was particularly marked by numerous adjudications produced by certain celebrated scholars who synthesized different domains of knowledge—whether it was speculative theology, philosophy or Sufism. This dissertation focuses on two important adjudications written on the renowned twelfth-century theologian Abū Ḥamīd al-Ghazālī’s (d. 505/1111) Tahāfut al-falāsifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers), which arbitrates between Arabic philosophy and theology.

Sultan Meḥemmed II ordered two prominent Ottoman scholars of his time, Ḫocazāde Muṣliḥ al-Dīn (d. 893/1488) and cAlā’ al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 887/1482), to prepare an adjudication on al-Ghazālī’s arguments. Sources indicate that the Sultan ultimately favored Ḫocazāde’s text. This study focuses on Ḫocazāde’s and al-Ṭūsī’s responses to the discussion of secondary causation and occasionalism in al-Ghazālī’s Discussion Seventeen on how existent things interact with each other and come into being in nature in concomitance with God’s all-encompassing power. Ḫocazāde particularly defended certain aspects of Graeco-Arabic philosophy (i.e. the Aristotelian-Avicennan philosophical tradition), whereas al-Ṭūsī favored the more orthodox Ashcarite approach, in which he denied the agency and the causal contribution of any being other than God. This examination argues that Ḫocazāde’s response to this discussion indicates why he was included among the seven select scholars who synthesized philosophy with Sharīca according to the seventeenth-century encyclopedist and savant Kātib Çelebi (d. 1068/1657). Ḫocazāde’s and al-Ṭūsī’s divergent approaches to the issues of secondary causation and occasionalism typify other formulations in the fifteenth-century Ottoman world that combined different aspects of Graeco-Arabic philosophy, speculative theology, and Sunnī creed, constituting a synthesis.

This study assays the works of Ḫocazāde and al-Ṭūsī in physics, metaphysics and speculative theology with regard to the common medrese handbooks studied during the fifteenth-century, as well as their responses to al-Ghazālī’s aforementioned work—in comparative perspective with a third approach espoused by Şemseddīn Aḥmed bin Mūsā, also known as Ḫayālī (d. 875/1470?). This study traces the formulations of Ḫocazāde, al-Ṭūsī, and Ḫayālī in common medrese handbooks of the time by documenting how their approaches were motivated by post-classical scholars such as Athīr al-Dīn al-Abharī (d. 663/1255?), Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī (d. 672/1274) and al-Sayyid al-Sharīf al-Jurjānī (d. 816/1413). This research highlights a new group of scholars emerging in the second half of the fifteenth century, hailed as “verifiers” (al-muḥaqqiqūn), who were able to synthesize various philosophical and theological formulations from differing textual traditions. Ḫocazāde epitomized this new scholar type, developing a coherent argument by incorporating elements from Graeco-Arabic philosophy and speculative theology.

Kurtic, Ekin. “Sedimented Encounters: Dams, Conservation, and Politics in Turkey.” Anthropology and MES, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation is an ethnography of socio-natural encounters that shape, and are shaped by, the building of dam infrastructures within the Çoruh River Watershed of Turkey. Known as one of the fastest-running rivers in the world, the Çoruh River has been converted into a hydropower “resource” over the last two decades, through the construction of fifteen large hydroelectric dams. In contrast to the imagery of dam reservoirs as giant infrastructures that simply conquer and erase the natural landscape, this dissertation traces the formulization of soil sedimentation in the reservoirs as a problem to be solved by watershed forestry, which has refashioned forests as protective infrastructures of “water resources” and hydraulic infrastructures. This refashioning, I show, occurs through sedimented histories of nation-state building, developmentalism, and authoritarian populism taking shape in material infrastructures and environments. My ethnographic research among the implementers of the Çoruh River Watershed Rehabilitation Project to prevent sedimentation in dams reveals the encounters between the foresters’ and upland villagers’ conceptualizations of abandoned mountainous farmlands as landscapes of natural recovery versus desolation. I then shift my focus to the valley floor and examine the making of the Yusufeli Dam reservoir as a process narrated and experienced by town inhabitants through the trope of (self-)sacrifice for the greater national interest. In response, local state officials intend to compensate for these sacrificed zones by relocating agricultural soil and local fruit trees. These practices of what I call salvage agriculture render the sedimented and laborious histories of working the land a resource to be tapped into for the reconstruction of a new town. Drawing on eighteen months of ethnographic research along the Çoruh Valley and its mountains, as well as five months of archival research in ministries and other institutions, Sedimented Encounters explores dam construction as a generative process that enacts and intertwines the making of “natural resources,” the nation-state and its developmental and conservationist endeavors, and the politics of negotiation and sacrifice. Along this process, I argue, socio-natural landscapes are produced simultaneously as places of natural recovery, (self)-sacrifice, and salvage.

Alrifai, Oula. “The Self-Flagellation of a Nation: Assad, Iran, and Regime Survival in Syria.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2019.
Al-Thani, Amna. “Women’s Head Covering in Islam and Judaism.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2019.
Amarir, Sahar. “Minorities and the State: A Comparative Study of Variations in Levels of Internal Dissidence within Morocco and Jordan.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2019.
Dean, Joshua. “From Oslo to Taba: Was a Resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict ever Truly within Reach?Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2019.
Dhaliwal, Tara. “Javanmardi-e Fetyān: Spiritual Chivalry in Early Modern Iran.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2019.
Falk, Fridtjof. “The Americanization of European Foreign Policy vis-à-vis Iran: How the European Union Became Beholden to the United States’ Iran Policy.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2019.
Ghanem, Mariam. “So You Think You’re Empowering Women? A Critique of NGOs through Ethnographies of Female Breadwinners in Urban Cairo.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2019.
Glavine, Amber. “Homosexuality and Same-Sex Union in Islam: An Analysis of Contemporary Debates.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2019.
Lahoud, Suzie. “Khomeini’s Philosopher King: Examining the Philosophical Origins of Vilāyat-i Faqīh.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2019.
McPherson-Smith, Oliver. “Institutional Change and Continuity in the Era of Mohammad bin Salman: A Case Study of the Solar Power Industry in Saudi Arabia.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2019.