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 politicisation and securitisation 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 instrumentalised 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)

“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.

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 emphasises 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.

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


A 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, and .  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

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 knowledges 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.

“Border Rescue”
Kieran Oberman
Edinburgh University


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.