About the Presenters Spring 2018

“Muslims in America: Lessons in the Globalization of Islam in the Modern Era."
Kambiz Ghaneabassiri
Reed College

The presence of Muslims in the United States dates back to colonial times when tens of thousands of Muslims arrived as slave in the Americas. While popular discourse on American Muslims continue to see them as outsiders or recent arrivals, scholars of Islam in America have been uncovering the diverse ways in which Muslims have participated in shaping distinctly American Muslim practices and institutions in the United States. This scholarship has shown that the phenomenon of American Islam, by virtue of being both Islamic and American, challenges the ways a binary opposition between Islam and the West has been constructed for tell a particular story about what it means to be modern, Muslim, and American. This talk builds on this scholarship to ask what lessons we could learn about the practice of Islam in the modern era by examining the ways in which Islam was globalized through Muslims’ arrivals and settlement in the United States.

Kambiz GhaneaBassiri is a professor of religion a Reed College.  He is the author of Competing Visions of Islam in the United States which looks at the self-identity of Muslims, both immigrant and indigenous. It is the first in-depth study Los Angeles County's large Muslim population. The book was published in 1997
His other book, A History of Islam in America was published in July 2010. It is a historical look at Muslims in the United States. It also looks at their immigration across the different centuries. He is also one of the founding editors of a book series on Islam of the Global West published by Bloomsbury Academic Publishing

“Envisioning the Arab Future: Modernization in US-Arab Relations, 1945-1967."
Nathan Citino, Professor of History
Rice University

Decades before 9/11 and the “Arab Spring,” U.S. and Arab elites contended over the future of the Middle East.  Through research in Arabic and English, historian Nathan J. Citino details how Americans and Arabs –nationalists, Islamists, and communists – disputed the purpose of modernization within a shared set of cold-war-era concepts.  Faith in linear progress, the idea that society functioned as a “system,” and a fascination with speed united elites otherwise divided by language and politics.  By uncovering a shared history of modernization between Arabs and Americans, Professor Citino challenges assumptions about a “clash of civilizations” and profoundly reinterprets the antecedents of today’s crises.

“Rule of Experts in the Nile Basin – Can they change the hydropolitical trajectory?”
Ana Cascao,
Independent Researcher

Transboundary water politics in the Middle East region are by nature the realm of high-level political decisions, dominated by technocrats, politicians and diplomats that are the masters in defining the ‘ins and outs’ of the discourse, agenda, negotiation and decision-making processes.
In the Middle East, water is a powerful resource in the national, regional and even global political economies, with an exceptional geopolitical importance that has been underpinning complex processes of politicization and securitization of shared water resources. The historical trajectory in the Nile Basin provides several vivid examples on how the hydropolitics have been strongly influenced by power relations, and how hegemonic and counter-hegemonic strategies have been deployed to maintain and/or contest control over shared water resources.
But what is the role of experts and scientific knowledge in this trajectory? Is knowledge – technical, legal, economic, political, etc. – a tool that supports and drives policy-making processes? Do the experts (be it scholars or other informed members of civil society) have the ability and power to influence the debate, negotiations and decisions over water?  
The Nile Basin provides very good examples on how scientific knowledge has been historically sanctioned and/or instrumentalized to serve entrenched interests and the maintenance of status quo frameworks. However, in the last decade we have been witnessing a new era, where knowledge (and the experts generating and disseminating it) are growing increasingly influential and having actual impacts the political agenda towards a more effective, transparent and inclusive process of transboundary water management. The experts are not yet - and perhaps will never be – ruling, but they are already having a crucial role in unveiling hidden political dynamics.

Ana Elisa Cascão is an independent consultant and researcher, who has been working on the topic of hydropolitics in the Nile Basin for the past 15 years. She holds a PhD from King’s College London and has been advisor to international, regional organizations and governments in the Middle East, East Africa and Southern Africa on transboundary water resources management. She recently launched a multi-author book entitled “The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the Nile Basin: Implications for Transboundary Water Cooperation” (Routledge, 2017)

War is Coming: Between Past and Future Violence in Lebanon”
Sami Hermez
Northwestern University in Qatar

From 1975 to 1990, Lebanon experienced a long war involving various national and international actors. The peace agreement that followed and officially propelled the country into a "postwar" era did not address many of the root causes of war, nor did it hold main actors accountable. Instead, a politics of "no victor, no vanquished" was promoted, in which the political elite agreed simply to consign the war to the past. However, since then, Lebanon has found itself still entangled in various forms of political violence, from car bombings and assassinations to additional outbreaks of armed combat. In War Is Coming, Sami Hermez argues that the country's political leaders have enabled the continuation of violence and examines how people live between these periods of conflict. Hermez's ethnographic study of everyday life in Lebanon between the volatile years of 2006 and 2009 reveals how people engage in practices of recollecting past war while anticipating future turmoil. With an attention to the details of everyday life, War Is Coming shows how even a conversation over lunch, or among friends, may turn into a discussion about both past and future unrest. Shedding light on the impact of protracted conflict on people's everyday experiences and the way people anticipate political violence, Hermez highlights an urgency for alternative paths to sustaining political and social life in Lebanon.

Sami Hermez, PhD, is assistant professor of anthropology at Northwestern University in Qatar, where he teaches classes in anthropology that include topics such as violence, gender and anthropology in the Middle East. He obtained his doctorate degree from the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University. His research focuses on the everyday life of political violence in Lebanon, and his broader concerns include the study of social movements, the state, memory, security, and human rights in the Arab World. He has held posts as visiting scholar in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, visiting professor of Contemporary International Issues at the University of Pittsburgh, visiting professor of anthropology at Mt. Holyoke College, and postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Lebanese Studies, St. Antony’s College, Oxford University.

The Last Ottoman Generation and the Making of the Modern Middle East
Michael Provence
University of California San Diego


The modern Middle East emerged out of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, when Britain and France partitioned the Ottoman Arab lands into several new colonial states. The following period was a charged and transformative time of unrest. Insurgent leaders, trained in Ottoman military tactics and with everything to lose from the fall of the Empire, challenged the mandatory powers in a number of armed revolts. This is a study of this crucial period in Middle Eastern history, tracing the period through popular political movements and the experience of colonial rule. In doing so, Provence emphasizes the continuity between the late Ottoman and Colonial era, explaining how national identities emerged, and how the seeds were sown for many of the conflicts which have defined the Middle East in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Michael Provence teaches modern Middle East history. He received the Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2001. During 2017-2018 he will be  Chercheur Résident (Research Fellow in Residence),  Institut d’Etudes Avancées de Nantes, France.  In 2010-11 and 2014 Provence was an Alexander von Humboldt fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin, Germany.
He is the author of two books: The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism(2005). Also in Arabic. And The Last Ottoman Generation and the Making of the Modern Middle East (2017)
His research focuses on the Ottoman, colonial, and post-colonial Arab world. Provence lived and studied over the course of many years in several Middle Eastern countries, particularly Syria and Lebanon between 1998 and 2006. He returns as often as possible.

"Logic and Critical Thinking: An Introduction for Muslim Students"
 Edward Moad
Qatar University

Logic and Critical Thinking: An Introduction for Muslim Students is the product of the author's years of experience providing training in core thinking skills for an ethnically diverse range of mostly Muslim students, in the Arabian Gulf. While the basic principles of good reasoning entail at least an aspiration to universality, their presentation will invariably reflect a specific cultural context. This book responds to the need for a critical thinking curriculum free of the uncritical western cultural and ideological presumptions present in much of the currently available material, the effect of which is to assert (implicitly if not explicitly) that the use of logic and reason is an exclusively western cultural practice. This textbook presents reason and the life of the mind as both universal and an integral feature of the Islamic intellectual and cultural heritage, but makes it operational in contemporary Muslim life by approaching the subject properly, as a set of intellectual skills requiring rigorous practice rather than simply a historical or theoretical subject matter.

Dr Edward Moad is Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Program at the Department of Humanities, Qatar University. He earned an MA and PhD in Philosophy from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a BA in Philosophy from Northwest Missouri State University. Dr Moad’s research is in Islamic philosophy, with a focus on the metaphysical issues at the heart of the encounter between the philosophical paradigms of Ibn Sina, al-Ghazali, and Ibn Rushd that emerge in Ghazali's Incoherence of the Philosophers and Ibn Rushd’s Incoherence of the Incoherence. His research interest includes Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion, Meta-ethics, and Comparative Philosophy. Dr Moad has also taught at the National University of Singapore, University of Texas-Pan American, and at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His journal essays include: “On the First and Second Proofs of the Eighteenth Discussion of Tahafut al-Falasifa” (Turkish Journal of Islamic Studies, 2010); “Comparing Skeptical Phases in al-Ghazali and Descartes: Some First Meditations on Deliverance from Error” (Philosophy East & West,January 2009); “A Path to the Oasis: Shari’ah and Reason in Islamic Moral Epistemology” (International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, April 2007); “A Significant Difference Between al-Ghazali and Hume on Causation” (Journal of Islamic Philosophy, July 2007); and “Al-Ghazali’s Occasionalism and the Natures of Creatures” (International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 2005).

"The Gendered Executive:  The American Presidency, Human Rights, and Women."
Janet Martin
Bowdoin College


To discuss Professor Martin’s most recent edited book, a comparative analysis of gender and executives.

Janet Martin is Professor of Government and Legal Studies at Bowdoin College.  She is author of The Presidency and Women, which won the Neustadt award for the best book on the Presidency. She is coeditor of The Other Elite: Women, Politics and Power in the Executive Branch. Her latest co-edited book The Gendered Executive: A Comparative Analysis of Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Chief Executives.

'What it means to be Lebanese' in the voice of Hizbullah"
Nadine Hamdan
Georgetown University in Qatar

Language variation, and positioning of the Self, the audience, and the Other are linguistic choices that index social meanings relevant for purposes of identity construction. Based upon an analysis of these discourse linguistic markers in Hizbullah’s public discourse from 2005-2009, I argue that the movement promoted an alternative reading of ‘What it means to be Lebanese’. More specifically, Hizbullah managed to not only articulate an identity for its Shia constituency situated firmly within rather than on the fringes of Lebanese national identity, but communicated a version of a Lebanese national identity aimed at the Lebanese population as a whole. My analysis demonstrates that Nasrallah, Hizbullah’s Secretary General, seemingly acts as a voice and agent for Lebanon’s perceived subaltern communities. He challenges not only the legitimacy and authority of established elites, but also existing conceptualizations of Lebanese identity. By substituting religion with a shared understanding of moral values, he promotes a secularized version of Hizbullah’s Resistance ideology as national identity to appeal to the Lebanese across sectarian divisions.

An Arabic linguist, Nadine Hamdan researches how language and linguistic choices contribute to the creation and communication of identity in public and political discourse, especially in that of movements of Political Islam. Nadine received her PhD from Georgetown University, and her M.A. from the University of Bayreuth, Germany. She currently works as a Research Fellow with the Department of Arabic at Georgetown's Qatar campus.

The Palestinian Bedouin in Israel: Negotiating Loyalty and Critique in the Settler-Colonial State
Sophie Richter-Devroe
Doha Institute for Graduate Studies


For the Naqab Bedouin, a community of ca. 200.000 Arab Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship, negotiations of loyalty and critique are part and parcel of their everyday life. Often accused by other Palestinians for being ‘too Israeli’ (because of their engagement with the Israeli state and its institutions), and by Israelis for being ‘too Palestinian’ (particularly since the Naqab rose as new symbol of Palestinian resistance against Israeli settler-colonialism), most ordinary Naqab Bedouin do not uphold stiff binaries between resistance and compliance. Instead they navigate through and merge, seemingly without much contradiction, the demands placed on them as members of the Palestinian nation and ‘citizens’ of the Israeli state in their daily and mundane routines.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the Naqab between 2014 and 2016, this paper traces the everyday positionalities, subjectivities and agencies of Naqab Bedouin women in this complex context. As women, as Palestinians in Israel, and as Bedouin Palestinians, they are among the most vulnerable to accusations of disloyalty. The focus is on women’s healing practices (tibb ‘arabi), but rather than approaching this field through a functionalist-medical perspective (asking, for example, whether healing practices benefit patients), read as a highly political site. Tibb ‘arabi practices such as wet cupping or treatments against the evil eye run parallel – and sometimes counter - to the Israeli state’s medical healthcare system. While some, following Israeli modernist discourse, try to cast Bedouin alternative healing practices as ‘traditional’, ‘dangerous’ or ‘backwards’, others celebrate them as indigenous and/or Palestinian resistance against Israeli biopolitics. The medical thus is a field where political actors compete to gain control over their subjects’ (in particular women’s) bodies and intimate lives. But it is also a space in which women find ways to maneuver through these different systems of control.
Interestingly, most healers and patients combine so-called ‘modern’ medicine with ‘traditional’ healing, and consider the question of whether their practices resist or accommodate either Palestinian or Israeli, indigenous or colonial, traditional or modern agendas irrelevant. Tibb ‘arabi, for them, is not related to tradition or modernity, or indeed to backwardness or progress. Rather it relates to the land and the community they live in, i.e. to the sources that provide them with the knowledge and materials that constitute their healing practices. As such, by continuing and hybridizing their tibb ‘arabi, Naqab Bedouin women are carving out in-between spaces that lie not only beyond the binaries of loyalty and critique, but also outside of nationalist and state agendas aimed at controlling their bodies, lives, and epistemes.

Sophie Richter-Devroe is associate professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Qatar, and an honorary fellow at the European Centre for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter, England. Her broad research interests are in the field of everyday politics and women’s activism in the Middle East. From 2014 to 2016, she held an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Early Career Fellowship for her project “Gender and Settler Colonialism: Women’s Oral Histories in the Naqab,” which documents the oral histories, memories, and narratives of women from the often forgotten Palestinian Naqab Bedouin population. She has done research and published work on Palestinian and Iranian women’s activism, Palestinian refugees, Palestinian cultural production, and the Naqab Bedouin.

“Halal, Qingzhen and Toyyiban; Everyday Practice of Islam in China”
Jianfu Ma
North Minzu University of China


Islam has experienced over 1000 years of localizing processes within China. While practicing the Islam in their everyday lives, Chinese Muslims have formed cultural Islams with local characteristics. In this presentation, Jianfu Ma will discuss Islam in China from the perspective of food and foodways in order to understand how Chinese Muslims negotiate their identities externally with their non-Muslim Chinese and internally as they attempt to differentiate Sino-Muslim Shariah schools and other localized Muslim communities. Chinese Muslims use the Chinese expression Qingzhen to refer to Islamic practices of Halal. However, for Chinese Muslims, Qingzhen also has broader connotations that include elements of Chinese culture and philosophy. Meanings of Qingzhen also vary greatly by time and place among Chinese Muslims. Ma will consider how the idea of Qingzhen relates to the concept of Toyyiban. Professor Ma will examine these shifting and slippery concepts through concrete case studies drawn from his extensive fieldwork in China.

Jianfu Ma graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2012 with a PhD. in anthropology. He currently teaches courses on the Anthropology of Food and Political Anthropology at North Minzu University of China (Yinchuan City, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region). His book The Practice of Islam in Everyday Life in China was published in 2016 and was translated into Arabic in 2017. He has published several articles about Hong Kong Muslims, and Ethnic Relations in China.

"Muslim Identity Politics"
Khadijah Elshayyal

University of Edinburgh

The rise of divisive and far-right politics and growing Islamophobia in Britain poses new challenges for Muslim advocacy organizations. In the last fifty years, Muslim identity politics has worked to preserve religious identity, lobby the state and offer concerted responses to the political establishment. This is the first book to critically chart the national and global factors influencing the political mobilization of British Muslim activists as Muslims. From analyzing the establishment of regional organizations after 1960, Khadijah Elshayyal traces the changes of thought, direction and method for Muslim identity politics. She argues that the Rushdie affair experience was highly formative, bringing with it international media attention, the opportunity for negotiation with the government and prompting new debate around the subject of freedom of expression. This issue has continued to be a point of contention, evident in significant 'turning points', including the 9/11 attacks in the US, the 7/7 London bombings in 2005 and the current conflict in Syria and the rise of Daesh/ISIS.
Drawing on history and taking a socio-legal perspective, Elshayyal studies these periods with regards to political interaction and the impact of governmental policy on Muslim communities. The book identifies an 'equality gap' experienced by Muslim citizens and recommends where transformation and progress in Muslim identity politics can be made. Based on primary sources and in-depth interviews, this book will be a vital resource for government officials, policy-makers and researchers interested in multiculturalism, Islamophobia and security issues in Britain.

Dr Elshayyal was awarded her PhD in History from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2014. She studied History at King's College London, followed by an MA in Legal and Political Theory from UCL. Khadijah has experience working in the Muslim media sector, and has also conducted research on various aspects of ethnic minority political engagement. Her PhD thesis looked at the development of identity politics among UK Muslims between the years 1960-2010, with a specific focus on issues relating to freedom of expression. She has particular interests in the ongoing development of identity and political expression among British Muslim groups and networks that are less often in the public spotlight, such as those working with women and young people.
Additionally, she is interested in how the discourse around, and practise of representation is developing within and between Muslim communities, as well as externally.

“Legal Pluralism and Religious Piety in 19th-Century Tibet.”
Max Oidtmann
Georgetown University in Qatar

During the late Qing, Tibetans in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands made extensive use of Qing legal forums to resolve local conflicts—conflicts that often resulted from the complexities and tensions that arose from the attempt to reproduce political authority, religious prestige, and property over time through the establishment of reincarnate estates (la brang). This paper investigates a particularly thorny case: the reincarnation of the Ta’ dbon ba bla ma of Mdzod dge smad ma Monastery. The monk had been executed by his home community for criminal activity but then reincarnated thirty years later in a neighboring community, triggering extensive litigation. This paper not only seeks to explain how Tibetan legal culture was transformed through the encounter with Qing colonialism, but also why archival sources in Chinese and Tibetan-language chronicles present starkly different narratives of this event.

Max Oidtmann graduated from Harvard University with a PhD in History and East Asian Languages in 2014. He teaches at Georgetown University Qatar and is broadly interested in the social history of Tibet and China during the 17th through 19th centuries.

"Refugee Discrimination – The Good, the Bad and the Politically Expedient"
Kieran Oberman
University of Edinburgh


Every year, thousands of refugees and asylum seekers die trying to cross borders. The dangers are many. People die from exhaustion while crossing deserts, suffocate in the backs of lorries, fall overboard while at sea. One way states can try to reduce deaths is by operating rescue missions. This chapter asks whether states of destination have any special duty to do so. The idea of a “special duty” here can be brought out with the following question: do states of destination owe a duty to rescue people attempting to cross their borders that they do not owe other needy people? In answering this question, the chapter starts with an important yet easily overly looked point: crossing borders is not inherently dangerous. Millions do it every day. The danger results from the denial of safe, legal entry. People die crossing borders because states of destination try to stop them doing so. This fact, in itself, does not mean that states of destination have a special duty to rescue, but it does mean that states of destination cannot claim that border deaths are nothing to do with them. The question we need to ask is whether states of destination bear any moral responsibility for border deaths rather than simply causal responsibility. The chapter goes in search of, and finds, several arguments for why states of destination are morally responsible under current conditions. Because states of destination have violated prior obligations and because they benefit from border enforcement, they have a special duty to rescue. States of destination would have to radically reform their current policies to stand in such a position that they could treat border deaths like any other misfortune.

Kieran Oberman is Lecturer in Political Theory at Edinburgh University. He obtained his PhD from Oxford in 2009. Since then he has worked at Leuven, Stanford, the Asian University for Women and University College Dublin. His research is in the ethics of immigration and just war theory.