Middle East history, cultures and religions of the modern Middle East, Globalization, the role of music in political struggles, culture jamming, critical theory
I completed my Ph.D. at NYU's Dept. of Middle Eastern Studies in 1999, after which I held postdoctoral positions at Cornell University's Society for the Humanities and the European University Institute's Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, in Florence, Italy before coming to UCI.
My research and teaching focus on the following issues: histories, theologies and political and cultural economies of the Middle East and Islam in the modern and contemporary periods; Palestine/Israel; cultural production, revolution and resistance in the Middle East and Africa; modern and contemporary Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco; art and conflict in West Africa (especially Ghana and Nigeria, but also Senegal, Mali and Kenya); comparative studies of imperialism and colonialism, urban planning and architecture (history and theory); critical theory and globalization studies with a comparative focus on popular cultures and religion in Europe and the Muslim world; peace and conflict studies; and comparative nationalisms.
My first book, Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine, was published by the University of California Press in 2005. My second book, Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil, was published by Oneworld Publications in 2005. My third book, Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance and the Soul of Islam, was published by Random House in 2008 and expanded into an award-winning PBS documentary, “Before the Spring, After the Fall” as well as an album, and my fourth single-authored book, Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine since 1989, was published by Zed Books in 2009.
I have also co-edited half a dozen books. The first, with Viggo Mortensen and Pilar Perez, is Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation, was published in 2004 by Perceval Press and features leading scholars and activists from around the world (including the Muslim world) discussing the roots, present dynamics and possible solutions to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. My second edited volume, Religion, Social Practices and Contested Hegemonies: Reconstructing the Public Sphere in Muslim Majority Societies, was co-edited with Armando Salvatore, and was published by Palgrave Press in 2005. My third volume, Reapproaching the Border: New Perspectives on the Study of Israel/Palestine, was co-edited with Sandy Sufian, and was published by Rowman Littlefield Press in 2007. My fourth edited volume, Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel, was co-edited with UC San Deigo sociologist Gershon Shafir and published by UC Press in 2012. My fifth, Heavy Metal: Controversies and Countercultures was co-edited with Titus Hjelm and Keith Kahn-Harris and published by Equinox Books in 2012. My sixth is One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States, was co-edited with Ambassador (ret.) Mathias Mossberg and published by UC Press in 2014. Finally, my seventh edited volume, Islam and Popular Culture, co-edited with leading scholars of the subject Martin Stoke and Karin van Nieuwkerk, is in press with the University of Texas Press.
I am presently working on a book for the University of California Press, with the working title The Five Year Old Who Toppled a Pharoah. It chronicles my travels through the Arab world in the last five years of uprisings and revolutions in the longue durée of history that produced the present moment of upheavel. I am also co-producing an international project bringing together revolutionary artists from the Arab world and Iran to record covers of Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti's most political songs. Our first production, of his seminal hit, “Zombie,” was released in May 2015 and features Fela's son Seun Kuti, as well as Egyptian revolutionary singer Ramy Essam, Moroccan rapper El Haqed, Egyptian rapper Karim Rush from Arabian Knightz, Palestinian rap duo Refugees of Rap, from Yarmouk Camp in Syria, and Iran's first female (and best) rapper, Salomé MC. It was released through the Copenhagen-based international anti-music censorship organization Freemuse, and is available for download here. We are presently working on other Fela songs and hope to perform at this year's Felabration festival in Lagos.
This work is part of a larger project with my colleague at UCI, Drama professor and theater maker Bryan Reynolds, with whom I'm collaborating on a long-term, multi-country project titled “Art at the Edge: Creativity and Culture in the Middle East and Africa.” Our project both studies how cultural is produced, circulated and experienced/consumed in societies in the midst of intense social and political stress and, as important, involves our collaboration with local artists, particularly musicians and theater makers, in the production of local, grass-roots inspired art, in the countries where we are engaged in research. Thus far we have worked in Baghdad, the West Bank (with the Jenin Freedom Theater), Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Cairo, and will be returning to Africa soon to continue our work. We have several publications already resulting from this collaboration, which will be posted as they become available online.
As a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University's Center for Middle Eastern Studies I am helping to lead a research team with the American University of Beirut to study the evolution of human rights discourses in the Arab world. I am co-principal investigator of a team of scholars that will produced the largest body of scholarly research yet done on human rights in the Arab world, and will focus on the relationship between research, advocacy and the shaping of public policy, which we bring together under the acronym RAPP. Our case studies include Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Bahrain, and the Gulf sheikhdoms. With my colleagues at Lund University I'm also continuing to develop the ideas surrounding the concept of “parallel sovereignty” as developed in One Land, Two States.
With colleagues at Uppsala University's Nordic Africa Institute I am developing a multi-year project studying the origins and affective dynamics of “suspicion,” “ambivalence” and “familiarity” as every day modes of interaction and communication in societies with antagonistic state-society relationships, with Nigeria and Egypt as our case studies.
As journalist I have presently a senior columnist at al-Jazeera English and a regular contributor to al-Jazeera America as well, appearing on the various English and Arabic news shows. I have also written for publications including Jadaliyya, Le Monde, The Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, and TIKKUN (where I am a contributing editor).
As a professional musician and have worked with artists such as Mick Jagger, Dr. John, Johnny Copeland, Albert Collins, Chuck D, Michael Franti, Ozomatli (which won a Grammy), world music artists Hassan Hakmoun, the Kordz, Lazy Wall, Cafe Mira, Ramy Essam, Arabian Knights, Armada Bizerta, MC Rai, Tanboura, Sara Alexander and others. I have spent the last two years working with many of the main revolutionary musicians in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine, and Iran. These days I play mostly a combination of Middle Eastern, Balkan/Romani, funk, Latin and blues (although not always all at the same time). My most recent album was Flowers in the Desert, featuring music from artists from my book Heavy Metal Islam, released by EMI Records in 2009. I am also producer of the documentary film version of Heavy Metal Islam, Before the Spring, After the Fall, directed by Jed Rothstein, which aired on PBS in 2013 as well as winning international awards during its theatrical festival run.
My scholarship, activism and music are all tied to my commitment to struggles for social justice in the United States and around the world. I attempt to bring these three fields together through the practice of "culture jamming," which brings together leading artists, scholars and activists in critical dialog and performance on issues of concern to young people. I have held these culture jams in LA, NYC, Philadelphia, Paris, Rome, Baghdad, Casablanca, Beirut, Cairo, Tunis, Prague and other cities. More are planned for Lagos, Kabul and Lahore in the near future.
Islam and Popular Culture, co-editor with Karin van Nieuwkerk and Martin Stokes, forthcoming.
Before the Spring, After the Fall, writer, co-producer; directed by Jed Rothstein, Global Voices, PBS, summer 2014, theatrical release, fall 2013.
The Five Year-Old Who Toppled a Pharaoh and Other Stories Along the Arab Revolutionary Road, UC Press, forthcoming.
One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States, co-edited with Ambassador Mathias Mossberg, UC Press, 2014.
“Theory and Praxis of the Arab Uprisings,” special issue of Middle East Critique, Editor, Winter Fall 2013.
“Theorizing Revolutionary Practice: Agendas for Research on the Arab Uprisings,” Middle East Critique, Winter 2014.
“Rap and the Stages of Revolution: From Subculture to the Lonely Grind in the Arab World,” Cyber Orient, Fall 2013.
Ghana and Afrobeat, the History of a Music and a Continent, documentary co-produced/directed for NPR's Afropop, NEH Award, 2013.
“Music and the Aura of Revolution,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, #44 (2012).
Heavy Metal: Controversies and Countercultures, co-edited with Keith Kahn-Harris and Titus Hjelm, London: Equinox Books, 2013.
“Music and Resistance in the Arab Spring,” in Larbi Sadiki, ed., Resistance Cultures and Politics in the Arab World, Routledge, forthcoming.
“Culture Jamming and the Return of the Aura in the Arab Uprisings,” Marilyn DeLaure, ed., The Culture Jamming Reader (NYU Press, forthcoming).
“Immediacy, Emurgency, and Revolutionary Praxis,” in Performance Studies: Key Words, Concepts, and Theories, edited by Bryan Reynolds, NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013.
“How a music about death affirms life: Middle Eastern metal and the return of music's aura,” in Ian Peddie, ed. Popular Music and Human Rights, Vol. II, London: Ashgate, 2011.
Struggle and Survival in Israel/Palestine, co-editor with Gershon Shafir. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.
Manshurat, 2nd album of Egyptian revolutionary singer Ramy Essam, guitarist, 2012.
“New Hybridities of Arab Musical Intifadas,” Jadaliyya, October 16, 2011.
Headbanging Against Repressive Regimes: Censorship of heavy metal in the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia and China, Report #9, 2010.
“Doing the Devil’s Work: Heavy Metal and the Threat to Public Order in the Muslim World,” Social Compass, December 2009 56: 564-576.
Flowers in the Desert, producer and composer, released by EMI Records internationally, November 2009.
“Rock, Resistance and the Rise of New Muslim Public Spheres,” in Olivier Roy and Amel Boubekeur, eds., Beyond Islamism, Columbia University Press, 2009.
Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989, London: Zed Books, 2009.
“Heavy metal Muslims: the rise of a post-Islamist public sphere,” Contemporary Islam, Vol. 2, #3, 2009, pp. 229 - 249
Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam, NY: Random House, 2008.
Reapproaching Borders: New Perspectives on the Study of Israel/Palestine, co-editor, Rowman Littlefield, 2007.
Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil, Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2005.
» "Fateful Triangles: Modernity and its Antinomies in a Mediterranean Port City," in Thomas Bender and Alev Cinar, eds., Locating the City: Urban Imaginaries and the Practice of Modernity, University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming
» "Chaos, Globalization and the Public Sphere: Political Struggles in Weak-State Countries," in Vali Nasr, ed. Political Islam, the State and Globalization, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Submitted
» "Islam and Urban Politics in Israel: The Muslim Association and the struggle for autonomy in Jaffa," in Dan Rabinowtiz and Daniel Monterescu, eds., Mixed Towns/Trapped Communities: Historical Narratives, Spatial Dynamics Gender Relations and Cultural Encounters in Palestinian-Israeli Mixed Towns, London: Ashgate Publishing.
» "Reforming Muslim Public Spheres: A methodological Genealogy," in Seteney Shami, ed., Approachig Public Spheres: Theory, History, Gender, Conflict, manuscript under review.
» "Crossing the Borders: Labor, Community and Colonialism in the Jaffa-Tel-Aviv Region during the Mandate Period," in Gil Gonzalez and Gil Gonzalez, et al, eds., Labor and Empire, NY: Routledge, 2004.
» "Planning to Conquer: Modernity and its Antinomies in the New-Old Jaffa," Haim Yacobi, ed., Constructing a Sense of Place: Architecture and the Zionist Discourse, London: Ashgate, 2004.
» "Popularizing the Public and Publicizing the Popular: Contesting Popular Cultures in Mandatory Jaffa and Tel Aviv," in Ted Swedenburg and Rebecca Stein, eds., Popular Palestine: Palestine, Israel and the Politics of Popular Culture, Ralley Durham: Duke University Press, 2005.
» "Land, Law, and the Planning of Empire," in Huri Islamoglu, ed., Constitutions of Property in Comparative Perspective, London:I.B.Tauris, 2004.
» "Socio-Religious Movements and the Transformation of 'Common Sense' into a Politics of 'Common Good'" in Religion, Social Practice, and Contested Hegemonies: Reconstructing Muslim Public Spheres, ed. by Armando Salvatore and Mark LeVine, NY: Palgrave, 2005.
» "'Human Nationalisms' versus 'Inhuman Globalisms': Cultural Economies of Globalization and the Re-Imagining of Muslim Identities in Europe and the Middle East," in Stefano Allievi and Jorgen Nielsen, eds., Muslim Networks and Transnational Communities in and Across Europe, Leiden: Brill, 2003.
» "Locating Home: Overthrowing Geography, Misreading Modernity and Other Adventures in the Search for the Routes that Divide Us," in Bo Strath, ed. Homeland, Brussels: Peter Lang, 2003.
» "The 'New-Old Jaffa': Tourism, Gentrification, and the Battle for Tel Aviv's 'Arab Neighborhood," in Nezar AlSayyad, ed., Global Norms/Urban Forms: On the Manufacture and Consumption of Traditions in the Built Environment, New York, Spon/Routledge, 2000, pp. 240-72.
» "A Diplomatic History of the El Salvador Peace Process," in Johnstone & Doyle, Eds., The Future of UN Peace-keeping: El Salvador and Cambodia and the Secretary-General's Agenda for Peace, London, Cambridge University Press, 1997.
al-Jazeera English 2007—2014