The Middle East Institute and MESAAS Welcome Carnegie Centennial Fellows to Columbia

Thanks to a generous grant from the Carnegie Corporation, the Middle East Institute and the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies will be hosting three eminent social scientists this fall at Columbia: Dr. Khaled Fahmy from the American University in Cairo (AUC), Dr. Rema Hamammi from Birzeit University, and Dr. Rabab El-Mahdi (also of AUC). The Carnegie Centennial Fellowship program makes available scholar mobility fellowships to support social scientists from the Arab region to spend up to 6 months at select U.S. universities.

This grant could not have come at a more opportune time as the Middle East Institute, working in cooperation with the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS), has been seeking ways to strengthen our global connections and to foster more exchange of research and theory with our counterparts in the region. The three fellows were selected on the basis of synergies between their work and ongoing faculty research initiatives. We look forward to their contributions to the thriving scholarly community that is seeking to make Columbia a center for multi-regional and interdisciplinary research and social theory.


American University in Cairo

Khaled Fahmy is Professor and Chair of the Department of History at the American University in Cairo (AUC). After graduating from AUC with a BA in Economics and an MA in Political Science in 1985 and 1988, respectively, he went to Oxford where he received a DPhil in Modern History in 1993. He then taught in the US, first at Princeton and then at New York University, before returning to his alma mater in 2010.

Professor Fahmy's research interests revolve around the social and cultural history of modern Egypt. His first book, All the Pasha's Men: Mehmed Ali, His Army and the Making of Modern Egypt (Cambridge, 1997), offered a critical social history of Egypt's first standing army in modern times. His second book, The Body and Modernity: Essays in Law and Medicine in Modern Egypt came out in Arabic in 2004. His third book, Mehmed Ali: From Ottoman Governor to Ruler of Egypt (Oneworld, 2008) offered a critical account of Mehmed Ali Pasha, usually considered the 'founder of modern Egypt'. His latest book, Anatomy of Justice: Law and Medicine Nineteenth-Century Egypt is forthcoming with the University of California Press.

Since the outbreak of the January 25, 2011 Revolution in Egypt, Professor Fahmy has been actively engaged in many public forums. In addition to appearing frequently on Egyptian and international TV stations to talk about current affairs in Egypt, he has also written numerous newspaper articles on such diverse topics as the campaigns against torture and capital punishment, free speech, freedom of information, salafi thought and the Muslim Brotherhood.

During his residency at Columbia, Professor Fahmy will continue his research and writing on Ḥisba a cardinal Islamic principle which is based on the Quranic call to "command right and forbid wrong" (Q3.104). Many Islamists consider it to be a form of jihad, and they believe that both principles, jihad and ḥisba, have been neglected and forsaken by modern-day Muslims in their attempt to catch up with the West. Fahmy's research engages with the Islamists' charge and attempts to understand when, why and how ḥisba lost its centrality in the daily life of Islamic societies. Cutting across the disciplines of economics, political science, religious studies and history, Fahmy's research shows that that calls by present-day Islamists to resurrect this "neglected duty" are connected more to contemporary identity politics than a careful reading of the historical record.

Professor Fahmy will also give the keynote address at the 43rd Annual Conference of the North American Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies (NAAIMS)  at Columbia on September 20, 2014. 



Birzeit University

Rema Hammami is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Birzeit University based in the Institute of Women's Studies Institute since 1995. Her publications cover an array of issues as they relate to the Palestinian context, including: gender, nationalism and armed conflict; NGOs, politics, and civil society; and ethnographies of spatial control and resistance. Recent publications include: Who Answers to Gazan Women? A Study in Economic Rights and Security (forthcoming with Penny Johnson) and Change and Conservation: Family Law Reform in Court Practice and Public Perception in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She is a contributing editor to Middle East ReportDevelopment and Change; and The Arab Studies Journal and is on the editorial board  of Jerusalem Quarterly. Awarded the Prince Claus Chair in Equity and Development at the ISS (the Hague) for 2005, she currently serves on the jury of their awards for culture and development.

Her current research focuses on issues at the interface between liberal peace building/ neo-humanitarian intervention and the logics of Israeli military occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the ground. During her fellowship she will be completing studies of how the aid industry deploys "gender" in its techniques across the fragmented geo-political projects and spaces called the occupied territories in which Gaza is framed as a "humanitarian crisis"; of Ramallah as a site of state-building and liberal governmentality; and of how Israel's colonial frontier (the majority of West Bank territory) has been marked off as "Area C" -- a zone of international non-intervention.



American University in Cairo

Rabab El-Mahdi is Associate Professor of Political Science at the American University in Cairo. She works on social movements and mobilization, including women, labor and political Islam. She is the author of a number of publications including, most recently: "Working Class, Youth, and the Revolution" in Taking to the Streets (Ed. Ellen Lust) 2013, and "Women in the Revolution" (with Lila Abu-Lughod) Feminist Studies, 2012. She also joined and co-founded a number of opposition groups in Egypt. El-Mahdi is a frequent commentator on AJE, BBC, CNN, ABC and writes op-eds for both Egyptian and international newspapers.

During her fellowship she will be working on a research project analyzing the tumultuous path of the Egyptian revolution as a function of three factors.  The first is the historical question of post-coloniality as a condition, not a transient moment, which shapes the current divisions along the lines of identity politics rather than class divisions. The second is the distribution and growth in a country that is on the periphery of global capitalism which is in a moment of prolonged systemic crisis. The final factor is the lack of organization of revolutionary forces.   Unlike revolutions of the twentieth century, no revolutionary organization or force has been able to lead the process in Egypt.  While youth movements have vanished, and independent labor unions, newly formed political parties and pre-2011 social movements continue to be marginal, football fan clubs known as the 'ultras' have played a major role in mobilization and political confrontations. This conundrum is part of the challenge of the Egyptian case for theorizing about what types of  organization can succeed in twenty-first century revolutionary milieus. The research is part of a book manuscript that will be completed during the coming two years.