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Director, Middle East Institute

Brinkley Messick is Professor of Anthropology and of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University. He was the Chair of the Department of Anthropology from 2004-2011; was a founding co-Director of the Center for Palestine Studies (2010-15); and currently is the Director of the Middle East Institute. In 2009, he received the Outstanding Senior Scholar Award from the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association. He is the author of The Calligraphic State, which won the Albert Hourani Award from the Middle East Studies Association. His recently published book is Shariʿa Scripts: A Historical Anthropology (2018). Read more.


Associate Director

Astrid Benedek has been the Associate Director of the Middle East Institute since December 2003. Holder of an M.A. from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and a B.A. in Middle East and African Studies from Georgetown University, she previously spent 12 years in the not-for-profit sector managing international education programs, including teacher-training programs in the Former Soviet Union for the Open Society Institute.


Academic Program Director

Kathryn Spellman Poots is a Visiting Associate Professor at Columbia University and Academic Program Director for the MA in Islamic Studies. She is also Associate Professor at Aga Khan University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations in London. Kathryn convenes Columbia's MA core course: Foundation to Islamic Studies and  Muslim Societies. Her research interests include Muslims in Europe and North America, the Iranian diaspora, transnational migration and gender studies.

Her publications include the monograph: Religion and Nation: Iranian Local and Transnational Networks in Britain (Berghahn, Oxford and New York, 2005); the co-edited volumes: Gender, Governance & Islam: Women, Islam and the State Revisited (Edinburgh University Press, 2018); The Political Aesthetics of Global Protest: The Arab Spring and Beyond (Edinburgh University Press, 2016) and Ethnographies of Islam: Ritual Performances and Everyday Practices (Edinburgh University Press, 2014); and book chapters:  “Second-Generation Muslims and the Making of British Shi’ism” in Kasinitz, P. & Bozorgmehr, M. (eds.) Growing Up Muslim in Europe and North America, Routledge; and Spellman Poots, K. & Gholami, R. (2018) “Iranians in Great Britain: Integration, Cultural Production and Challenges of Identity” in Mobasher, M. (ed.) Iranians in Diaspora: Comparative Perspective on Iranian Immigrants in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe, University of Texas Press.

Kathryn consults for organizations that focus on the rights and experiences of refugees and minority groupings, including the UNHRC (Geneva), UNESCO (Paris) and London Detainee Support Group.