Research Fellows, Faculty and Staff

The Center’s research staff reflects its broad geopolitical focus. During its 14 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 introduction of new conceptions and practices of security and policing in Turkey as the proliferation of police-related crises once again brings police reform to the global spotlight. Akarsu is currently working on a book project tentatively titled “Policing Democracy: Techno-Politics of Security and Citizenship in Turkey.” The book will show how the reform of policing often transforms the boundaries and the nature of policing practice, which has become in Turkey, as elsewhere, a major site of ethical and political negotiations in the increasingly securitized global political landscape.

Maryam Alemzadeh
Maryam Alemzadeh
Harold Grinspoon Junior Research Fellow

Alemzadeh holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago. Her dissertation, “Institutionalization of a Revolutionary Army: The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the Iran-Iraq War,” argues that to preserve institutional independence despite the lack of professional military structure and knowledge, the Revolutionary Guards borrowed informal collective habits and understandings prevalent in Shi'a communities. Alemzadeh is currently turning the dissertation into a book-long monograph and beginning a project that compares religious-military institutions across the Middle East in terms of the particular understanding and collective practice of Islam that shapes their bases.

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.

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.

Arash Davari
Arash Davari
Sabbatical Fellow

Davari is an assistant professor of politics at Whitman College. He is currently completing a book manuscript that revisits historiographical debates about the 1979 revolution in Iran. The manuscript identifies parallels between the logics of revolt in Iran and those found in popular social mobilization since, at once situating Iranian revolutionary resistance in the context of global transformations in the 1970s and making a case for world historical political theory from the “periphery.” In 2015-16, he was an ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Fellow. In 2013, he co-founded B|ta’arof, a print journal for Iranian arts and writings. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Yazan Doughan
Yazan Doughan
Neubauer Junior Research Fellow

Doughan holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago. His dissertation, “Corruption, Authority, and the Discursive Production of Reform and Revolution in Jordan,” focuses on nativist anti-corruption social movements in Jordan during the wave of Arab uprisings of 2011-2013. His postdoctoral research project, “States of Care and Corruption: Wāsṭa and the Inscrutability of Justice,” investigates the vexed legal, moral, and practical valuations of intercessory mediation and patronage in everyday life in Jordan.

Youssef El Chazli
Youssef El Chazli
Junior Research Fellow

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. He holds a PhD in political science from the Universities of Lausanne (Switzerland) and Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne (France).

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.

Gökçe Günel
Gökçe Günel
Sabbatical Fellow

Günel is an assistant professor in anthropology at Rice University. Her new book, “Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi” (Duke University Press, 2019), focuses on the construction of renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures in the United Arab Emirates, specifically exploring the Masdar City project. Günel is currently working on a project on provisional infrastructures, concentrating on the use of Turkish floating power plants across Africa. She holds a PhD in anthropology from Cornell University.

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).

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.

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.

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), and “Joyriding in Riyadh: Oil, Urbanism, and Road Revolt” (Cambridge University Press, 2014). An ethnographer and historian, he is interested in everyday politics and urbanism in the Arabian Peninsula and beyond. He earned his PhD from the University of Paris and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University and Harvard University. He previously taught at New York University, Abu Dhabi. His new book, Graveyard of Clerics: Everyday Activism in Saudi Arabia, will be published by Stanford University Press in 2020.

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, 221

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

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.

Kelly Stedem
Kelly Stedem
Doctoral Student

Stedem is a PhD candidate in politics at Brandeis University. Her research focuses on the practices of patronage and clientelism, ethnic politics, and security in Lebanon. She received a BA in international and religious studies from the University of South Florida and an MA in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Texas, Austin, writing her thesis on the role of international patronage in Lebanon after the end of the civil war. From 2011-2014, Stedem worked for a number of NGOs in Lebanon focusing on civil society, transitional justice, and humanitarian aid. Stedem was named Outstanding Teaching Fellow for 2018 and received a Mellon Dissertation Research Grant. She also holds a Mellon Dissertation Year Fellowship for the 2019-2020 academic year.

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.