Assistant Professor of Anthropology
234-D West Hall
BSc, International Politics, Georgetown University, 2003
MA, Middle East Studies, SOAS, 2005
PhD, Anthropology, NYU, 2015
I am an anthropologist of religion, race, and media with expertise in the Middle East. I am also a visual and multimodal ethnographer. My upcoming book explores the role Islamic television played in Egypt’s 2011 revolution. My newest research revolves around two topics: a Henry Luce funded collaborative project with Emory University on the global politics of “moderate Islam” and a co-creative, multi-modal project on Nubian cultural activism and material heritage across Egypt and Sudan, funded by the Humanities Collaboratory.
My recent journal publications have focused on subtitling on Islamic television as a form of critique (Public Culture), on what debates over new forms of Islamic media reveal about shifting theological evaluations of the religious and the secular (Cultural Anthropology), on how the conceptual history of Islamic media provincializes Euro-American decolonizing projects (International Journal of Middle East Studies) and on the changing criteria of ritual aptness in Islamic preaching in a digital media age (Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East) .
I have written on the methodological approaches thick concepts such the “revolutionary” and the “Islamic” demand as well as on how to understand as radical the stakes of an ethic of co-habitation at a time of political polarization beyond established ideological formations.
I am in post-production on a new ethnographic film about Nubian activism, shot between 2015-2019 in Cairo and Aswan. Through interview and observational filming and archival footage, the film explores how raced identities become politicized at the intersections of local power dynamics and global imaginaries. In doing so, I center indigeneity and race as a significant, if often overlooked, terrain of struggle within the Middle East, while while adding a comparative ethnographic lens to their critical theorization beyond paradigmatic North Atlantic histories and structures.
I explore some of the issues in a essay reflecting on the community politics of narrating Nubia between solidarity and sentimentalism, including within my own family histories.
A second multimodal project centers on the social life of the visual ethnography of Nubia and has resulted in a short animated film. The film examines how Nubians in Egypt remember the loss of this ancestral homeland when the Aswan High Dam was built in 1964. The basis of the animation consists of ethnographic photos of Nubia taken by anthropologists in the 1960s. These photos are an important archive for Nubians seeking both to provide a thicker account of displacement in the face of state erasure and to revitalize traditions and languages for new generations. We reimagined these photos as visual accompaniment to an iconic displacement song to ask what it could like to salvage sentiment from salvage anthropology.
You can read more about this collaboration in the LSA Magazine feature "Nubia is a Place Inside Us."
My previous documentaries include Fashioning Faith, a behind-the-scenes look at the intersections of Muslim-American piety and sartorial design, and the three-minute digital story The Women of Tahrir.
I teach undergraduate courses in the anthropology of Islam, on religion, media and politics, and on the social and political lives of everyday digital technologies and content. I have offered graduate seminars on religion, critique and the secular as well as on the ethnography of Muslim societies. With Rebecca Wollenberg in Judaic Studies I am co-convener of the sensory pedagogy program "The Abrahamic Sensorium," including its adaptation for pandemic-era virtual learning.