Research Fellows, Faculty, and Staff

The Center’s research staff reflects its broad geopolitical focus. During its 15 years of operation, scholars with high-level expertise about Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the smaller GCC states, as well as Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya, have conducted research at the Center. The Center’s core faculty also teach undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in numerous departments at Brandeis University.

Hayal Akarsu
Hayal Akarsu
Junior Research Fellow

Akarsu holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Arizona. Her dissertation, "Reforming the Police: Violence, Security, and the Social in Turkey," analyzes the gradual imbrication of European Union inspired police reforms with authoritarian governance in Turkey, in a global context where the proliferation of human rights violations by the police bring police reform into the spotlight. This year, Akarsu is working on a book project tentatively titled "Afterlives of Police Violence: Liberal Reforms and Popular Authoritarianism in Turkey." The book demonstrates how a seeming aspiration for democratization and police reform can provide governing regimes with a new toolkit to extend their power into novel social domains, manufacture legally-sanctioned impunity, craft loyal state-security subjects, and garner popular support. Her recent publications include, "Citizen Forces: The politics of Community Policing in Turkey" American Ethnologist (2020); and "Proportioning Violence: Ethnographic Notes on the Contingencies of Police Reform" Anthropology Today (2018). She is teaching the course "Policing, Militarization, and Surveillance" in the anthropology department this fall.

Mohammad Ataie
Mohammad Ataie
Junior Research Fellow

Ataie holds a PhD in history from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His research interests include the 1978-79 Iranian revolution, Iran’s foreign policy, Islamic movements, transnational Shi‘a politics, and sectarianism. His dissertation is a transnational history of the 1978-79 revolution and its regional ramifications in the 1980s. Conceptualizing revolutions as international and ideological forces, the dissertation explores the intellectual and political impacts of the Revolution and the Iranian endeavor in the 1980s to export the Revolution. While at the Crown Center, Ataie is developing his dissertation research into a book on the intellectual, political, and military impacts of the Iranian Revolution on Afghanistan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, as well as the Palestinian and Lebanese Islamic forces in the 1980s. Prior to his PhD training, he was a diplomatic correspondent at the United Nations. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, The Guardian, LobeLog, Middle East Policy, Irna, Diplomacy-e Irani, Syria Comment, and at the JIME Center, the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan.

Eva Bellin
Eva Bellin
Myra and Robert Kraft Professor of Arab Politics
781-736-5336 Olin-Sang American Civilization Center, 202

Bellin is the author of Stalled Democracy: Capital, Labor, and the Paradox of State-Sponsored Development (Cornell, 2002) and the co-editor of Building Rule of Law in the Arab World (Lynne Reinner Press, 2016). She has written extensively on authoritarian persistence in the Middle East, the political economy of development, the evolution of civil society, and the politics of cultural change. She has been a Carnegie Scholar (2007), a Princeton University Fellow (2006), and has served as an editor of the journal Comparative Politics since 2005. In 2015, she won the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Mentorship of Graduate Students at Brandeis. Before coming to Brandeis, Bellin taught at Johns Hopkins/SAIS, Harvard University, Hunter College, and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She earned her BA at Harvard University and her PhD from Princeton University.

Alex Boodrookas
Alex Boodrookas
Harold Grinspoon Junior Research Fellow

Boodrookas holds a PhD in history and Middle Eastern & Islamic studies from New York University. His dissertation, "The Making of a Migrant Working Class: Contesting Citizenship in Kuwait and the Persian Gulf, 1925-1975," examines how debates over migration and citizenship shaped politics, state formation, and everyday life in the midcentury Gulf. While at the Crown Center, in addition to turning his dissertation into a book, Boodrookas is working on an article about the connection between private landownship and autocratic governance in the 20th-century Gulf, as well as conducting research for a second book project on the impact of the Persian Gulf on global theories of migration.

Kristina Cherniahivsky
Kristina Cherniahivsky
Associate Director
781-736-5322 Lemberg Hall, 229

Cherniahivsky earned an MBA from Simmons School of Management in 2001. Previously, she managed the International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University and worked in Eastern Europe on issues around democracy and civil society in post-communist states.

Robert L. Cohen

Cohen has edited reference books, scholarly and general-interest non-fiction, and public policy and think tank publications on international relations, urban affairs, and other specialties for over a quarter-century. He has also written and edited definitions for the Random House Unabridged and other dictionaries; contributed a monograph on anti-poverty policy history to “Inventing Community Renewal: The Trials and Errors That Shaped the Modern Community Development Corporation;” written a documentary for NPR and feature stories and reviews for magazines and newspapers; and produced a compilation CD and over 100 radio programs.

Youssef El Chazli
Youssef El Chazli
Junior Research Fellow

El Chazli holds a PhD in political science from the Universities of Lausanne (Switzerland) and Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne (France). El Chazli was previously a postdoctoral researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research working on a transnational archive of protest movements in the Arab Mediterranean. His dissertation, “Becoming a Revolutionary in Alexandria,” examines the emergence and development of a protest arena in Egypt’s second city during the 2000s and how the revolutionary upheaval unfolded in early 2011. His dissertation turned monograph, Devenir révolutionnaire à Alexandrie [Becoming a Revolutionary in Alexandria], was published in July 2020 by Dalloz in Paris. This year, El Chazli is working on a book manuscript on urban transformations and revolutionary politics in Alexandria as well as starting a new research project on the politics of urban and infrastructural development in Egypt and Tunisia.

Shai Feldman
Shai Feldman
Founding Director and Professor of Politics
781-736-5321 Lemberg Hall, 201

Feldman is president of Sapir Academic College in Sderot, Israel. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and is a fellow of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London. In 2001-2003, Feldman served as a member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters. In 1997-2005, Feldman was Head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. He is the author or co-author of numerous books among which the most recent is Arabs and Israelis: Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East, with Abdel Monem Said Aly and Khalil Shikaki (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) — the first-ever university textbook on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict to have been co-authored by an Israeli, a Palestinian, and an Egyptian presenting a broader Arab perspective.

Chuck Freilich
Chuck Freilich
Goldman Senior Fellow and Lecturer in Politics

Freilich, a former deputy national security adviser in Israel and long-time senior fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center, has taught political science at Harvard, Columbia, NYU, and Tel Aviv University. He is the author of Zion’s Dilemmas: How Israel Makes National Security Policy (Cornell University Press, 2012); Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change (Oxford University Press, 2018); and Israel and the Cyber Threat: How the Startup Nation Became a Global Cyber Power (forthcoming 2021). He has published numerous academic articles and over 170 op-eds and appears frequently on U.S., Israeli, and international TV and radio stations.

Huma Gupta
Huma Gupta
Neubauer Junior Research Fellow

Gupta holds a PhD in history, theory, and criticism of architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her dissertation, "Migrant Sarifa Settlements and State-Building in Iraq," historicizes the dialectical relationship between Baghdad’s reed and mud settlements populated by rural migrants and the development of state institutions in Iraq. While at the Crown Center, Gupta is writing a book titled "Dwelling and the Architecture of Dispossession." Her second book project, "Dwelling and the Wealth of Nations," explains how dwellings constructed from natural materials were reconfigured as a problem of national income by architects and economists from the Scottish Enlightenment to the 20th century. Her most recent article, "Staging Baghdad as a Problem of Development," appeared in the International Journal of Islamic Architecture (2019).

Nader Habibi
Nader Habibi
Henry J. Leir Professor of the Economics of the Middle East
781-736-5325 Lemberg Hall, 226

Before joining the Center in 2007, Habibi was managing director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at IHS-Global Insight. He holds a PhD in economics and a MS in systems engineering from Michigan State University. He has also worked as a research fellow at the Middle East Council at Yale University. His recent publications include "Preventing Overeducation and Graduate Surplus: What Can West Asia Learn from Singapore and Hong Kong?" Asian Education and Development Studies (2019); and "The Politics of Development and Security in Iran’s Border Provinces," with Erik Lob, The Middle East Journal (Summer 2019).

Sarah Han
Sarah Han
Doctoral Student

Han is a PhD student in anthropology at Brandeis. Her research focuses on the experiences of Baloch women in the United Arab Emirates, examining themes of migration and belonging. With a background in ethnographic research, Han is interested in how personal and family narratives can challenge and reframe conceptions of mobility, borders, and belonging, particularly in experiences of precarity and categorical illegibility. She holds an MA in sociocultural anthropology from Columbia University and a BA from Wheaton College.

Marilyn R. Horowitz
Marilyn R. Horowitz
Senior Department Associate
781-736-5320 Lemberg Hall, 200

Horowitz is a native of New York City and now lives in Waltham, MA. She is an avid photographer, designs jewelry, and is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America (her 2007 Sunnybank Calendar won the Calendar Category of the 2006 DWAA Writing Contest).

Hadi Kahalzadeh
Hadi Kahalzadeh
Doctoral Student

Kahalzadeh is a PhD candidate in social policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. He studies the impacts of economic sanctions on Iran’s social welfare particularly poverty, inequality, and impoverishment in Iran. He holds an MA in sustainable international development from Brandeis, an MA in energy economics from the Islamic Azad University, and a BA in economics from Allameh Tabatabai University in Tehran. Prior to joining the PhD program, Kahalzadeh worked as an economist with the Department of Economic and Social Planning in the Social Security Organization of Iran (SSO) for eight years. He also served as a member of the board for several political parties and civil society pro-democratic organizations in Iran.

Ekin Kurtic
Ekin Kurtic
Junior Research Fellow

Kurtic holds a PhD in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies from Harvard University. She was previously a postdoctoral scholar and teaching fellow in the Department of Middle East Studies at the University of Southern California. Her dissertation, "Sedimented Encounters: Dams, Conservation, and Politics in Turkey," critically examines the entanglement of seemingly contradictory politics of development and environmental conservation by focusing on practices of forest and soil conservation to protect dams against sedimentation. While at the Crown Center, Kurtic is working on turning her dissertation into a book analyzing the making of state, expertise, and landscape in Turkey through the governance of infrastructure and ecology. She is also beginning a new project, "Soil as Carbon Sink: A Historical Ethnography of Soil Conservation in Turkey," which investigates the technopolitics of reframing soil as a "carbon sink" against the backdrop of the climate crisis and its implications for regulating rural spaces and human and non-human lives.

Kanan Makiya
Kanan Makiya
Senior Fellow and Professor Emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

Born in Baghdad, Makiya left Iraq to study architecture at MIT, later joining Makiya Associates to design and build projects in the Middle East. In 1981, he left the practice of architecture and began to write a book about Iraq. Kanan has written several books and is widely published. Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq (University of California Press, 1989) became a best-seller after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. In 2003, he founded the Iraq Memory Foundation, a NGO based in Baghdad and the US that is dedicated to issues of remembrance, violence, and identity formation. The Iraq Memory Foundation has collected and digitized nearly 10 million pages of Ba’th era documents and has been supported by both the Iraqi and US governments as well as many foundations. Makiya recently authored the novel, The Rope (Pantheon, 2016), which quickly became an international bestseller.

Andrew March
Andrew March
Goldman Faculty Leave Fellow

Andrew F. March is an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He previously taught in the political science department at Yale University and has taught Islamic law at Yale and NYU law schools. While at the Crown Center, March is working on a number of projects. He is finishing an edited volume with Tunisian political philosopher and party leader Rashid al-Ghannushi. The volume consists of newly-translated essays by Ghannushi and a series of philosophical-theological dialogues between March and Ghannushi on themes related to law, pluralism, democracy, and the future of Islamism. He is also working on his third book, which is a study of the political philosophy underpinning the ideology of "Muslim Democracy" and the contours of a post-sovereigntist Islamic political thought. His research and teaching interests are in the areas of political philosophy, Islamic law and political thought, religion, and political theory. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar. His first book, Islam and Liberal Citizenship (Oxford University Press, 2009), is an exploration of the Islamic juridical discourse on the rights, loyalties, and obligations of Muslim minorities in liberal politics and won the 2009 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion from the American Academy of Religion. He has published articles on religion, liberalism, and Islamic law in, amongst other publications, the American Political Science Review, Philosophy & Public Affairs, Journal of Political Philosophy, European Journal of International Law, and Islamic Law and Society. His second book, The Caliphate of Man: Popular Sovereignty in Modern Islamic Thought, was published by Harvard University Press (Belknap) in September 2019.

Pascal Menoret
Pascal Menoret
Renée and Lester Crown Professor of Modern Middle East Studies
781-736-5313 Lemberg Hall, 227

Menoret is the author of The Saudi Enigma: A History (Zed Books, 2005), L’Arabie, des routes de l’encens à l’ère du pétrole (Gallimard, 2010), Joyriding in Riyadh: Oil, Urbanism, and Road Revolt (Cambridge University Press, 2014), and Graveyard of Clerics: Everyday Activism in Saudi Arabia (Stanford University Press, 2020). An ethnographer and historian, he is interested in infrastructure, urban planning, and grassroots activism. He earned his PhD in 2008 from the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

Alaa Murad
Alaa Murad
Doctoral Student

Murad is a PhD student in history at Brandeis. Her current research focuses on the transition away from traditional Islamic historiography in the 19th-century Levant and the historiography of al-nahḍa in relation to the historical fiction of Jurji Zaydan and his contemporaries. She is interested in the pedagogical aspects and socio-political characteristics of nahḍa intellectualism as well as in the competing historical claims over national and religious identities emergent during the same period. Murad holds a Joint MA in Near Eastern and Judaic studies and conflict and coexistence studies from Brandeis.

Houman Oliaei
Houman Oliaei
Doctoral Student

Oliaei is a PhD candidate in anthropology at Brandeis. His research examines the nexus between religion, displacement, and secular humanitarianism by focusing on the lived experiences of internally displaced Yezidis (Êzidî) who have sought refuge in the Kurdistan region in Northern Iraq in 2014. In particular, he is exploring various modes of representation and identification among Yezidis for gaining cultural and legal recognition, both as an ethnoreligious minority and as refugees. Oliaei received a BA in music from the University of Tehran and an MA in anthropology from Brandeis.

David Siddhartha Patel
David Siddhartha Patel
Associate Director for Research
781-736-2981 Lemberg Hall, 112

Patel’s research focuses on religious authority, social order, and identity in the contemporary Arab world. He conducted independent field research in Iraq on the role of mosques and clerical networks in generating order after state collapse, and his book, Order Out of Chaos: Islam, Information, and Social Order in Iraq, is being prepared for publication by Cornell University Press. Patel has also recently written about the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood; ISIS in Iraq; and dead states in the Middle East. He teaches courses on Middle Eastern politics, research design, and GIS and spatial aspects of politics. Before joining the Crown Center, Patel was an assistant professor of government at Cornell University. Patel received his BA from Duke University in economics and political science and his PhD from Stanford University in political science. He studied Arabic in Lebanon, Yemen, Morocco, and Jordan.

Abdel Monem Said Aly
Abdel Monem Said Aly
Founding Senior Fellow

Said Aly is chairman of the Board, CEO, and director of the Regional Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo. He is also the chairman of Al-Masry Al-Youm, a leading Arabic language daily newspaper in Egypt. Previously, he was the president of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo and the chairman of the Board and CEO of the Al-Ahram Newspaper and Publishing House. He was a distinguished visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in 2004 and a research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University in 2003. He co-authored Arabs and Israelis: Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East (London: Palgrave, 2013).

Gary Samore
Gary Samore
Crown Family Director and Professor of the Practice of Politics
781-736-2967 Lemberg Hall, 201

Samore previously served as executive director for research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He also served as President Obama’s White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) for four years, including as US Sherpa for the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. and the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Korea. He was a National Science Foundation Fellow at Harvard University, where he received his MA and PhD in government.

Khalil Shikaki
Khalil Shikaki
Founding Senior Fellow

Shikaki has directed the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah since 2000 and has conducted more than 100 polls among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1993. A world-renowned expert on Palestinian public opinion and a widely published author, he has taught at several institutions, including Birzeit University, An-Najah National University, the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and the University of South Florida. He was also a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., in 2002.

Naghmeh Sohrabi
Naghmeh Sohrabi
Director for Research and the Charles (Corky) Goodman Professor of Middle East History
781-736-5327 Lemberg Hall, 108

Sohrabi's book, Taken for Wonder: Nineteenth Century Travel Accounts from Iran to Europe, was published in 2012 by Oxford University Press. She is the 2014 recipient of a Mellon New Directions Fellowship and is currently researching a book on the experience of the 1979 revolution in Iran. Sohrabi was a postdoctoral fellow at the Crown Center from 2005-2007. She holds a PhD in history and Middle East studies from Harvard University, and her dissertation received an honorable mention from the Foundation for Iranian Studies.

Karen Spira
Karen Spira
Program Coordinator
781-736-5339 Lemberg Hall, 113

Spira is a PhD candidate in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis, where she earned an MA in 2011. She is also a Schusterman fellow at the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. She holds an MA in religion from the University of Georgia and a BA in English and religious studies from the University of Arizona. She teaches courses on Jewish and Israeli history at Brandeis and as a community educator in a variety of settings throughout the Greater Boston area and New York.

Non-Resident Fellows

Daniel Neep
Daniel Neep
Non-Resident Fellow

Neep was previously a sabbatical fellow at the Crown Center. He is an assistant professor in Arab politics in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Neep is the author of Occupying Syria: Insurgency, Space, and State Formation (Cambridge 2012). He is currently finishing his second book, The Nation Belongs to All: The Making of Modern Syria, which explains Syria’s political development in terms of global transformations, changing economic infrastructures, emerging political geographies, and waves of popular protest. He holds a PhD in politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Stacey Philbrick Yadav
Stacey Philbrick Yadav
Non-Resident Fellow

Philbrick Yadav chairs the Department of Political Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She is the author of Islamists and the State: Legitimacy and Institutions in Yemen and Lebanon (2013). Philbrick Yadav serves on the steering committee of the Project on Middle East Political Science and the executive board of the American Institute of Yemeni Studies. Her most recent publication at the Crown Center was, “Fragmentation and Localization in Yemen’s War: Challenges and Opportunities for Peace,” Middle East Brief 123, November 2018. She holds a PhD in political science from the University of Pennsylvania.

Jillian Schwedler
Jillian Schwedler
Non-Resident Fellow

Schwedler is a professor of political science at the City University of New York’s Hunter College and the Graduate Center. She is the author of the award-winning Faith in Moderation: Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen (Cambridge 2006) and most recently editor (with Laleh Khalili) of Policing and Prisons in the Middle East (Columbia/Hurst 2010). Schwedler is a current member of the editorial committee and former chair of the board of directors (2002-09) of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), publishers of the quarterly Middle East Report. She holds a PhD in politics from New York University.

Faculty Affiliates

Muna Güvenç Ospina Leon
Muna Güvenç Ospina Leon
Assistant Professor of Fine Arts
781-736-2650 Mandel Center for the Humanities, 207

Güvenç Ospina Leon is an assistant professor of fine arts at Brandeis. She was previously a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. An architectural and urban historian, she is interested in social movements, urbanism, and architecture in the Middle East and beyond. Her work sits at the intersections of contemporary social theory and the politics of urban space. Her current book project, Becoming Kurdish, illustrates how architecture and planning may provide opportunities (for example, by integrating diverse identities, articulating political blocs, mobilizing a society, or resisting state coercion) otherwise unavailable to opposition groups that lack, or have been denied access to, more conventional channels for conducting politics. She holds a PhD in architecture with a designated emphasis on global metropolitan studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

Amy Singer
Amy Singer
Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Chair in Islamic Studies, Department of History
781-736-2281 Olin-Sang American Civilization Center, 217

Singer is the Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Chair in Islamic Studies in the Department of History at Brandeis. She was previously a professor of Ottoman studies at Tel Aviv University. A leading scholar of Ottoman history, Singer’s publications include: Palestinian Peasants and Ottoman Officials (1994), Constructing Ottoman Beneficence (2002), and Charity in Islamic Societies (2008). Her current research focuses on the city of Edirne, exploring how the city participated in the formation of Ottoman state and society in the first half of the fifteenth century. She holds a PhD in Near Eastern studies from Princeton University.