I am an anthropologist of religion and media with a focus on the Middle East. I am also a practicing visual ethnographer. I am interested in understanding the mass mediation of religious life and in approaching digital media as a mode of anthropological argument. More broadly, my research is informed by a conceptual attunement to difference and emancipatory politics in nonliberal traditions and within authoritarian contexts.
My upcoming book explores Islamic television channels as sites of critique in the revolutionary Egypt of the 2011 uprising. My newest research revolves around two topics: a Henry Luce funded collaborative project with Emory University on the global politics of “moderate Islam” and a co-creative, multi-modal project on Nubian cultural activism and material heritage across Egypt and Sudan, funded by the Humanities Collaboratory.
My recent journal publications have focused on subtitling on Islamic television as a form of critique (Public Culture), on what debates over new forms of Islamic media reveal about shifting theological evaluations of the religious and the secular (Cultural Anthropology), on how the conceptual history of Islamic media provincializes Euro-American decolonizing projects (International Journal of Middle East Studies) and on the changing criteria of ritual aptness in Islamic preaching in a digital media age (Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East) . I have written on the methodological approaches thick concepts such the “revolutionary” and the “Islamic” demand as well as on how to understand the stakes of an ethic of co-habitation beyond secular-religious binaries.
I am in post-production on a new ethnographic film about Nubian activism, shot between 2015-2019 in Cairo and Aswan. Through interview and observational filming as well as archival footage, the film explores how raced identities become politicized at the intersections of local power dynamics and global imaginaries. In doing so, I center race and anti-blackness as a significant, if often overlooked, terrain of struggle within the Middle East, while asking how regional histories and dynamics complicate anthropological theorizations of race and racism that take North Atlantic subordinating structures as paradigmatic. My previous documentaries include Fashioning Faith, a behind-the-scenes look at the intersections of Muslim-American piety and sartorial design, and the three-minute digital story The Women of Tahrir.
I teach undergraduate courses in the anthropology of Islam, on religion, media and politics, and on the social and political lives of everyday digital technologies and content. I have offered graduate seminars on religion, critique and the secular as well as on the ethnography of Muslim societies. With Rebecca Wollenberg in Judaic Studies I am co-convener of the sensory pedagogy program "The Abrahamic Sensorium."