Hakem Al-Rustom returned from the American University in Cairo to join the History faculty this past fall. He earned his doctorate in anthropology from the London School of Economics. We caught up with him over Spring Break.
How does it feel to be back at Michigan?
Michigan became a home to me very quickly when I was here back in 2012-13, and I have visited every year since. So I am excited to return! Having moved from Cairo, I do miss being in a big city sometimes, but I’m enjoying the ordered and traffic-free life in Ann Arbor. I especially enjoy walking around the downtown area and continue to discover new places serving good espressos and varieties of tea. The Crazy Wisdom tearoom is my current place to get away and find inspiration.
What are you working on?
Having moved from anthropology to a history department, I have been working on designing new courses around history and memory in the aftermath of the destruction and post-genocide experiences of Armenians in Turkey. Currently I am working on a book manuscript on silenced histories to rethink the sources and the historiography of this period and the people who have lived through it.
What are you reading these days?
Besides the London Review of Books, most of my recent reading has focused on justice and theology. I just finished Martin Luther King’s classic Stride Towards Freedom. I was amazed at how Leo Tolstoy and Gandhi influenced King’s non-violent resistance! I am at the moment reading Thomas Merton’s “Christianity and Totalitarianism” and his conversations with Buddhist spiritual figures, and have just started the inspiring story of Mother Maria of Paris in Pearl of Great Price: The Life of Mother Maria Skobtsova.