Crown Center for Middle East Studies

Research Fellows, Faculty, and Staff

The Center’s research staff reflects its broad geopolitical focus. During its 17 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.

Mohammad Ataie
Mohammad Ataie
Junior Research Fellow
Lemberg Hall, 222

Ataie holds a PhD in history from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His research interests include the 1979 Iranian revolution, transnationalism, Islamic movements, and transnational networks of Shi`i clerics. He is currently working on his book manuscript, “Clerics in Revolt: Exporting the Iranian Revolution and the Transnationalization of the Revolutionary Guards,” which brings together exclusive oral histories and research into public and private archives in Iran and Lebanon. It explores how Iranian revolutionaries were inspired by the ideas and movements of the global 1970s, how they sought after 1979 to spread the revolution through clerical activities and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and why their pursuit of establishing an Islamist international failed by the end of 1980s. Ataie has a background in journalism and documentary film making in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Syria. 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 the periodical of the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan.

Rana Baker
Rana Baker
Junior Research Fellow
Lemberg Hall, 112

Baker holds a PhD in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies from Columbia University. Her research is located in the fields of critical political economy and the history of science and technology. It specifically considers critical histories of land development, money and agrarian credit from the vantage point of large engineering projects in nineteenth and twentieth-century Egypt. Her dissertation explores how the engineering of the Egyptian railways allows for a different history of capitalist development, one that questions the standard premises of "surplus," "productivity," and the "cotton economy." Over the years, Baker has also written about the forms and tactics of Palestinian resistance against Israeli colonialism. Before coming to the United States, she completed her master’s degree at SOAS, University of London.

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
Senior 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.

Shai Feldman
Shai Feldman
Raymond Frankel Professor in Israeli Politics and Society
Founding Director
781-736-5321 Lemberg Hall, 225

Feldman was previously president of Sapir Academic College in Sha'ar Hanegev (near Sderot), Israel. From 2005 to 2019, he was the founder and Crown Family Director of the Crown Center and professor of politics at Brandeis. From 1997 to 2019, he was also a member of the board of directors of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He is a fellow of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London. From 2001-2003, Feldman served as a member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters. From 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; second edition, London: Boomsbury, 2022)—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. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of California at Berkeley.

Nader Habibi
Nader Habibi
Henry J. Leir Professor of the Economics of the Middle East
781-736-5325 Lemberg Hall, 224

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
Lemberg Hall, 114

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. Her 2007 Sunnybank Calendar won the Dog Writers Association of America Writing Contest Maxwell Award in the Calendar Category. She is an avid photographer and designs jewelry. 

Raihan Ismail
Raihan Ismail
Goldman Faculty Leave Fellow
Lemberg Hall, 227

Ismail is a senior lecturer at the Australian National University. She was the co-recipient of the Max Crawford Medal in 2018, which was awarded by the Australian Academy of the Humanities for outstanding achievement in the humanities by an early-career scholar. Her research interests include Political Islam, sectarianism, and the intertwining nature of religion and politics in the Middle East. Raihan has been the co-convenor (2015-2018) and convenor (2019-2020) of the Political Islam seminar series for various Commonwealth government agencies in Australia, including AGD and Defence. She has published in academic and non-academic outlets including The Washington Post. She is the author of Saudi Clerics and Shia Islam (Oxford University Press, 2016). Her latest book, Rethinking Salafism: The Transnational Networks of Salafi ‘Ulama in Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, was published by Oxford University Press in October 2021. She holds a BA in political science, with a minor in Islamic Studies, an MA in international relations from the International Islamic University of Malaysia, and a PhD in political science from the Australian National University.

Hadi Kahalzadeh
Hadi Kahalzadeh
Doctoral Student
Lemberg Hall, 111

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.

Taha Kaleem
Taha Kaleem
Doctoral Student
Lemberg Hall, 114

Kaleem is a PhD student in anthropology at Brandeis. His research focuses on queerness in the Gulf, primarily looking at how queer dating apps have constructed a sense of belonging for the migrants in the Gulf. Kaleem has spent nearly two years doing ethnographic research in Qatar. He holds a BSc in foreign service from Georgetown University in Qatar.

Emrah Karakuş
Emrah Karakuş
Neubauer Junior Research Fellow
Lemberg Hall, 220

Karakuş holds a PhD in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Arizona. His interdisciplinary research lies at the intersection of cultural anthropology, gender and sexuality studies, and security studies, with a focus on the modern Middle East. His dissertation, "Queer Debt: Affective Politics of Security and Intimacy in Kurdish Turkey," analyzes the effects of emergent security regimes on the intimate lives and livelihoods of queer and transgender Kurds. While at the Crown Center, Karakuş will develop his dissertation research into a book project that examines how regional notions of debt, responsibility, repayment, and right are taken up, adapted, and deployed by queer and transgender Kurds as they stake a claim to livelihood, but which also ends up more deeply implicating them in the securitized logics and socialities of the Kurdish conflict. Karakuş is also a Jean Monnet Scholar who completed his MSc at University College London’s Security Studies program.

Mona Kareem
Mona Kareem
Junior Research Fellow
Lemberg Hall, 221

Kareem holds a PhD in comparative literature from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Kareem’s research focuses on literatures and cultures of the Arab Gulf, theories of transnationalism, feminist criticism, and literary translation. She has been a fellow at the Center for Humanities at Tufts, a translator-in-residence at Princeton University, a visiting assistant professor of Arabic at the University of Maryland College Park, and a postdoctoral fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin. She is also the author of three poetry collections, and the translator of Octavia Butler, Ashraf Fayadh, and Ra’ad Abdulqadir, among others.

Peter Krause
Peter Krause
Faculty Leave Fellow
Lemberg Hall, 113

Krause is an associate professor of political science at Boston College and a research affiliate with the MIT Security Studies Program. He is the author of Rebel Power: Why National Movements Compete, Fight, and Win (Cornell University Press, 2017), co-editor with Kelly Greenhill of Coercion: The Power to Hurt in International Politics (Oxford University Press, 2018), and co-editor with Ora Szekely of Stories from the Field: A Guide to Navigating Fieldwork in Political Science (New York: Columbia University Press, 2020). His research focuses on Middle East politics, political violence, and nationalism and revolution. His current book project analyzes which rebel groups take power "the day after" regime change. Krause is a former fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and Uppsala University. He holds a PhD in political science from MIT and a BA in political science and history from Williams College.

Kanan Makiya
Kanan Makiya
Senior Fellow
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

Menoret is the current director of the Center for Economic, Legal, and Social Studies and Documentation in Cairo (CEDEJ) and is on leave from Brandeis University for two years. His research interests include infrastructure, urban planning, and energy—in particular the anthropology of oil. He has conducted field research in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. He is the author of 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). He teaches classes on urban anthropology, infrastructure, development, religion, and field research methods. He holds a BA in philosophy from the University of Provence and a PhD in history from the University of Paris-1. 

Alaa Murad
Alaa Murad
Doctoral Student
Lemberg Hall, 114

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.

David Siddhartha Patel
David Siddhartha Patel
Senior Fellow
781-736-2981 Lemberg Hall, 223

Patel’s research focuses on religious authority, social order, identity, and state-building in the contemporary Middle East. His first book, Order Out of Chaos: Islam, Information, and the Rise and Fall of Social Orders in Iraq (Cornell University Press), examines the role of mosques and clerical networks in generating order after state collapse and is based upon independent field research he conducted in Basra. Patel’s second book project, Defunct States of the Middle East, chronicles the more than two dozen territorial polities that disappeared from the map of the region after 1918: how they came to be, how they died, and how they are remembered today. Patel has also published articles or chapters on the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood; ISIS; Iraqi politics; and the transnational spread of protests during the Arab Uprisings. 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 holds a BA in economics and political science from Duke University and a PhD in political science from Stanford University. He studied Arabic in Lebanon, Yemen, Morocco, and Jordan.

Ramyar D. Rossoukh
Ramyar D. Rossoukh
Assistant Director for Research
Lemberg Hall, 226

Rossoukh is an anthropologist who focuses on culture and media in the Middle East. He spent time with the Bakhtiyari, a tribal group in southwestern Iran, before undertaking a three-year fieldwork project on the Iranian film industry, which is the subject of his first book project. Rossoukh co-edited (with Steven Caton) the volume Anthropology, Film Industries, Modularity (Duke University Press, 2021), and contributed one of the volume’s essays on the first uses of digital film editing technologies in Iran. He is currently interested in the United Arab Emirates' efforts to develop a space agency with the goal of establishing a settlement on Mars by 2117. He holds a PhD in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University.

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 President Obama’s White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and President Clinton’s Senior Director for Non-proliferation and Export Controls. In addition to directing the Crown Center, Samore is a professor of the practice of politics in the Department of Politics at Brandeis. He is also a senior fellow in the Korea project and associate with the Project on Managing the Atom at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. 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
Assistant Director
781-736-5339

Spira holds a PhD in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis, focusing on Israel Studies. She was previously a Schusterman fellow at the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. She holds an MA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis, an MA in religion from the University of Georgia, and a dual 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

Carolyn Barnett
Carolyn Barnett

Barnett is an assistant professor in the School of Government and Public Policy and School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona. Carolyn's research focuses on how public opinion, social norms, and political behavior in the Middle East and North Africa evolve in response to women's rights reforms and other social policies. Her work has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, PS: Political Science and Politics, Middle East Law and Governance, and Hawwa. Carolyn has held Fulbright scholarships to Morocco for research and to Egypt for language study through the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) program. She has also held a Marshall Scholarship to the UK, where she earned an MSc in Middle East Politics and MA in Islamic Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Carolyn earned a BSFS from Georgetown University and worked as a research fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies from 2012-2015. She holds a PhD in politics from Princeton University. 

Daniel Neep
Daniel Neep

Neep was previously the assistant director for research and a sabbatical fellow at the Crown Center. 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

Philbrick Yadav is an associate professor of international relations at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Specializing in the politics of Yemen, she has been writing about the work of Yemeni civil actors since 2004. Her first book, Islamists and the State: Legitimacy and Institutions in Yemen and Lebanon, was published in 2013, followed by a number of articles about Yemen's partisan and post-partisan politics. As a Crown Center non-resident fellow, she wrote Middle East Brief 123, "Fragmentation and Localization in Yemen’s War: Challenges and Opportunities for Peace," in November 2018. Philbrick Yadav is the current chair of the MENA Politics section of the American Political Science Association and is active in the Project on Middle East Political Science, the American Institute of Yemeni Studies, and the Center for Research in Partnership with the Orient in Bonn, Germany. Her new book, Yemen in the Shadow of Transition: Pursuing Justice Amid War, engages forms of everyday peace building by non-combatant actors in Yemen, and the prospects of post-conflict justice. She holds a PhD in political science from the University of Pennsylvania.

Jillian Schwedler
Jillian Schwedler

Schwedler is a professor of political science at the City University of New York’s Hunter College and the Graduate Center. She is a member of the governing Council of the American Political Science Association and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Middle East Studies Association of North America. Schwedler’s books include the award-winning Faith in Moderation: Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen (Cambridge 2006) and (with Laleh Khalili) Policing and Prisons in the Middle East (Columbia 2010). Her articles have appeared in numerous journals, including World Politics, Comparative Politics, and Social Movement Studies. Her forthcoming book is Protesting Jordan: Geographies of Power and Dissent.

Faculty Affiliates

Yuval Evri
Yuval Evri
Assistant Professor of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies on the Marash and Ocuin Chair in Ottoman, Mizrahi, and Sephardic Jewish Studies
781-736-6220 MCH 319
Office Hours: Office Hours: M 12 -1, W 11:30 -12

Yuval Evri is an assistant professor of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and the Marash and Ocuin Chair in Ottoman, Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish Studies at Brandeis. His research focuses on the cultural and political history of Palestine/ Land of Israel focusing on Sephardi and Arab-Jewish thought. Evri was a EUME postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Berlin (2013-2014); a postdoctoral fellow at SOAS – University of London (2016-2018); a visiting scholar at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at University of Pennsylvania and the Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at King's College London (2018-2021).

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.