The Middle East Institute Welcomes New Faculty and Fellows for the Spring 2015 Semester


Middle East Institute

Khaled Fahmy is this year's Arcapita Visiting Professor in Modern Arab Studies at Columbia. He is Professor in the Department of History at the American University in Cairo (AUC).  He is the author of numerous books on the social and cultural history of modern Egypt, including All the Pasha's Men: Mehmed Ali, His Army and the Making of Modern Egypt (Cambridge, 1997); The Body and Modernity: Essays in Law and Medicine in Modern Egypt (which came out in Arabic in 2004); Mehmed Ali: From Ottoman Governor to Ruler of Egypt (Oneworld, 2008). His latest book, Anatomy of Justice: Law and Medicine Nineteenth-Century Egypt is forthcoming with the University of California Press.

Professor Fahmy's current research and writing focuses on hisba, 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 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.

While at Columbia, Professor Fahmy will teach A Social History of Islamic Law: Morality, Governance, and the Market (MDES G4233) on Tuesdays 12:10 - 2:00 pm.

The course will engage with the social history of Islamic law through a detailed study of ḥisba. By closely reading key normative texts of Islamic fiqh side by side with medieval and early modern chronicles, the course aims to gain a firm idea of how ḥisba was thought of and performed in pre-modern times. The course will also engage critically with recent scholarly work on secularism to gauge what happened to ḥisba in modern times.



Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies

Moneera Al-Ghadeer is a Visiting Professor of Arabic and comparative literary studies in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS). Professor Al-Ghadeer was formerly a professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature in the Department of African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2001-2010). Most recently, she served as the Director of Postgraduate Studies and Research in the Translation and Interpreting Institute at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar (2012-2014) and as Chair of the Department of English Literature and Linguistics at Qatar University (2008-2012). 

Her work focuses on Arabic, African-American, and Francophone literature, feminist philosophy, postcolonial studies, and translation theory. Her book, Desert Voices: Bedouin Women's Poetry in Saudi Arabia (I.B. Tauris/American University of Cairo Press, 2009), is the first theoretical analysis and English translation of Bedouin women's oral poetry from Arabia. Currently, she is working on two manuscripts: The Anxiety of the Foreign and an edited book, Zoopoetics and the Politics of the Nonhuman. Her latest research seeks to investigate and translate the new writing in the Arabian Peninsula. 

While at Columbia, Professor Al-Ghadeer will teach Invisible Societies in the Contemporary Arabic Novel (MDES G4234). 

The course will explore aspects of the contemporary Arabic novel and how authors fashion literary constructions of invisible communities, radicalized others, foreign labor, disability, queerness, and tensions between modernity and tribalism. Presenting a diverse selection of Arabic novels written by Egyptian, Kuwaiti, Lebanese, Maghrebi, and Saudi Arabian authors, the course will highlight the spaces in which these texts intersect or diverge in or on the border of different communities and cultures. In addition, the class will also explore the philosophical and psychoanalytical debates, focusing on how theorists interrogate the different formations of society, community, alterity, and difference.



Center for Palestine Studies

The Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University is pleased to welcome the fourth recipient of the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Award in Palestine Studies, Omar Imseeh Tesdell. Dr. Tesdell completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Geography at the University of Minnesota in 2013 and is Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Birzeit University. He will spend spring 2015 at Columbia working on a book project based on his dissertation, Shadow Spaces: Territory, Sovereignty, and the Question of Palestinian Cultivation. A spatial history of Palestinian environmental and agricultural practice, the book explores the relationship between the work of cultivation and claims to land. 

Cultivation in the conventional sense is understood to be an abstract concept that allows institutions like the state to deploy technologies of control, whether through law, coercion, or agricultural development. Yet generally overlooked is an understanding of cultivation as the longstanding concrete practice of farmers to uphold collective claims to land. In contrast to a self-evident concept of cultivation, the practice of cultivation thus emerges as a flashpoint to consider the question of territory and sovereignty. As such, the book offers a spatial history of cultivation in Palestine and develops a theoretical understanding of it as constituted by both colonialism and oppositional political community arrayed around it.