gender, food, & culture
As a cultural historian of the Arabic-speaking world, I ask how kitchens and culinary practices can help us understand histories of gender, class, race, and ethnicity in North Africa. My primary sources include oral histories of home cooks, out-of-print cookbooks fished out of dusty used bookstalls, novels and films, and archival material ranging from probate records to personal letters.
My work lies at the intersection of cultural history and gender studies in the Middle East and North Africa. I look at food and kitchens as avenues leading into under-explored corners of the region's histories, from the materiality of modernity to the affective force of national belonging. Paying attention to bodies and what people (or characters) put in them can offer new ways for us to think about big-picture concepts and questions, like patriarchy and knowledge (as I argue in an essay about The Thousand and One Nights) or domesticity and modernity (as I explore in my current research project).
Integrating digital approaches into my research helps both bring it to life and deepen my analysis: I believe the best way to do a close reading of a historical cookbook or a fictional meal is to cook your way through it.
“‘Kitchen Histories’ and the Taste of Mobility in Morocco,” Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East and North African Migration Studies 6, no. 2 (2019).
“Recipes for a Field: Translating Middle Eastern Cookbooks and the Horizons of Food Studies,” review essay in Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies 19 (2019): 87-95. [Kudos link here].
“Shahrazad’s Pharmacy: Women’s Bodies of Knowledge in the Tale of the Porter and the Three Ladies,” Middle Eastern Literatures 19 (2016): 185-205. [Kudos link here]
book chapters & conference proceedings
“Food, Happiness, and the Egyptian Kitchen (1900-1952),” in Insatiable Appetite: Food as a Cultural Signifier, ed. Julia Hauser et al., Leiden: Brill, 2019.
“Fenugreek: seed of a forgotten history of North Africa,” Proceedings of the 2018 Oxford Food Symposium, ed. Mark McWilliams, London: Prospect Books, 2019.
“Fava Beans and Béchamel: Translating Egyptian Food as Modern Cuisine,” Proceedings of the 2015 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, ed. Mark McWilliams, London: Prospect Books, 2015.
academic book reviews
Review of Food and Power: A Culinary Ethnography of Israel, by Nir Avieli, in The Journal of Palestine Studies, Autumn 2018.
Review of Arabic, Self and Identity: A Study in Conflict and Displacement, by Yasir Suleiman. Co-written with Francesco Sinatora in Al-ʿArabiyya, Autumn 2012.
Medieval Arabic Recipes and the History of Hummus, on The Recipes Project, March 27, 2018.
Egypt, Laughter, and the History of Emotions, on the History of Emotions Blog of the Queen Mary Centre for the History of Emotions, March 7, 2016.
Cooking with Naguib Mahfouz, on Arabic Literature (in English), February 29, 2016.
The Recipe as Colonial Archive, series of three blog posts for tajine exploring the recipes of Zette Guinaudeau, a French settler living in protectorate-era Morocco. See installments here, here, and here. 2015-16.
Translation as Mourning, Translation as a 'Form of Cultural Interrogation,' on Arabic Literature (in English), June 29, 2014.
Hope, Translated, review of Laila Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and Tahar Ben Jelloun’s A Palace in the Old Village, in Jadaliyya, August 3, 2011.
From Dance to Transcendence, review of Dunia: Kiss Me Not on the Eyes, in Jadaliyya, June 13, 2011.
For more popular writing see here.
talks, conferences, & workshops
Co-organizer of Making Levantine Cuisine: A Critical Food Studies Symposium, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler, Washington, DC, June 7-8, 2019. Film of public program here.
Talks, lectures and workshop & conference presentations
“Teaching Happiness: Colonial Education, Gender, and Transnational Currents in Modern Morocco,” Center for the Humanities at Tufts, October 8, 2019.
“The Last Kiskas in Alexandria: Couscous in the Eastern Mediterranean,” workshop presentation, Entangled Worlds, University of Maryland, April 8-9, 2019.
“Food History as a Window on Migration, Displacement, and Cultural Currents in North Africa,” Montgomery College, Rockville, MD, March 21, 2019.
“Ful, Koshari, Bechamel: Culinary Heritage as Counternarrative,” American Research Center in Egypt, Cairo, Egypt, January 30, 2019. Listen to a recording here.
“Andalusi Modern: Kitchen and Nation in Modern Morocco,” Abdelmalek Essaâdi University, Tetouan, Morocco, December 27, 2018.
“Early Women’s Movements in Egypt and Morocco: Domestic Concerns, Transnational Currents,” Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, November 15-18, 2018.
Roundtable organizer and presenter, "Food Studies and the Middle East: Past, Present, Future," Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, November 15-18, 2018.
“Kitchen Affects in Modern North Africa: Domestic Happiness in Morocco,” Emotions that Matter: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Feeling, Affect, and Body in Arabic Literature, Arts, and Culture, AGYA International Bilingual Summer School, Rabat, Morocco, November 1-4, 2018.
“Fenugreek: seed of a forgotten history of North Africa,” Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, Oxford, UK, July 7-9, 2018.
"Shuruq, Vol. 1, No. 1: Casablanca, 1965," Towards an Arab Left Reader: Key Documents in Translation and Context, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, April 12-14, 2018.
“‘My tayta always smelled like bread:’ Oral Histories and Embodied Knowledge in the Arab World,” Mjaddarah to Fatti de Luxe: Middle East Disaporas and Food, North Carolina State University, April 5-7, 2018.
"Feast Dishes and National Cuisines: From the Gulf to the Maghrib," Foreign Service Institute, Arlington, VA, March 27, 2018.
“Mother Sauces and Civilizing Processes: Writing Cuisine in Egypt and Morocco,” Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, November 18-21, 2017.
Roundtable Participant, “Conducting Archival Research in MENA: Current Challenges, Creative Solutions,” Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, November 18-21, 2017.
“A New Kitchen for a Modern Egypt: Domestic Science and Egyptian Cuisine, 1915-1970,” Third International Conference on Food History and Food Studies, Tours, France, June 1-2, 2017.
“Tarikh al-Matbakh fi al-Maghrib wa-Masr” (Kitchen Histories in Egypt and Morocco), Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM), Tangier, Morocco, March 9, 2017.
“Fat As Congealed History: From Samna to Roux in the Egyptian Kitchen,” Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo, Egypt, November 24, 2016.
“‘Good Food is the Key to the Heart’: Cooking up Happiness in Semi-Colonial Egypt,” American Research Center in Egypt, Cairo, Egypt, October 26, 2016.
“History, Cuisine, and Nation in the Middle East,” Foreign Service Institute, Arlington, VA, July 22, 2016.
“Tasting Happiness: Gender, Class, and the Egyptian Kitchen,” Insatiable Appetite: Food as a Cultural Signifier, Arab-German Young Academy, American University of Beirut, May 12-14, 2016. [video here]
“Kitab Abla Nazira and Egyptian Cuisine in the 1930s,” Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, November 21-4, 2015.
“Fava Beans and Béchamel: Translating Egyptian Food into Modern Cuisine,” Cherwell Prize address at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, Oxford, UK, July 5, 2015.
“Flowers as Pharmacy: Engendering Subjectivities in the Thousand and One Nights,” The Thousand and One Nights: Sources, Transformations, and the Relationship with Literature, the Arts and the Sciences, Harvard University, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, April 15-17, 2015.
“Representing Protest, Performing Dissent: How Satire Translates, Presents, and Performs Protest in Egypt,” Translation and the Many Languages of Resistance, Townhouse Gallery in conjunction with Arts & Humanities Research Council, UK, and the University of Manchester, UK, Cairo, Egypt, March 6-8, 2015.
“Al-Turath al-Ghidha’i al-Masri wa-Kitab Abla Nazira” (Egyptian Food Heritage and Abla Nazira’s Cookbook), EURECA conference, American University in Cairo, April 28, 2014.
“Shahrazad’s Pharmacy: Literary Objects that Delight and Instruct,” Middle East Studies Center, American University in Cairo, Egypt, March 19, 2014.
“Translating Tolerance: The Rhetoric of Muhammad VI of Morocco and the Amazigh Question,” Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting, November 17-20, 2012.
“Murder and Mandate in Mesopotamia: Public British Policies and Private British Lives,” Middle East History and Theory Conference, The University of Chicago, May 4-5, 2012.
“Language and the Amazigh Question: Charting a Course for Minority Rights,” Les Changements Linquistiques au Maroc: Bilan et Évaluation, Université Ibn Zohr, Agadir, Morocco, October 27-29, 2011.