D.Phil. 1993, Oxford University
Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
50 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
tel: (212) 998-8896
fax: (212) 995-4689
I have been interested in discourses and practices centered around the human body which were an integral part of modernity as experienced by Middle Eastern societies in the 19th and 20th centuries. At the heart of my project is a fundamental question: to whom does the body belong? Is it the “person inhabiting it or the modern state that lays a fundamentally new claim on it? Does it belong to the community in which it lives and which honors and protects it after death? Or to God who, according to classical Islamic thought, entrusted it to “man” to fulfill His wish in this world? My previous research reflected on this question by studying the regime of Mehmed Ali in Egypt in the first half of the 19th century which was squarely based on a brutal system of mass conscription whereby the modern state lay its hands on the bodies of its male citizens. My current research on 19th century Cairo (and to a lesser extent, the “Cosmopolitan” Alexandria) expands on this theme by studying the newly reconstituted domains of law and medicine and by exploring how members of the Egyptian popular classes reacted to the unprecedented encroachment of their daily lives which these new state institutions and practices entailed. My extensive experience in the Egyptian National Archives has enabled me to gather a significant amount of hitherto unconsulted material which has helped me to engage with the exciting new scholarship within Middle Eastern studies on nationalism and state building, social history and gender studies, as well as medical and legal history.