Through my research, I ask how kitchens and culinary practices can help us understand histories of gender, class, and race in North Africa. My primary sources include oral histories of home cooks and cookbook authors, out-of-print cookbooks and home management manuals fished out of dusty used bookstalls, novels and films, and archival material that ranges from probate records to personal letters.
I work at the intersection of cultural history and gender studies in the Middle East and North Africa. In my work, food and kitchens are avenues leading into underexplored corners of the region's historiographies, from the materiality of modernity to the affective force of nationalism. 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 dissertation project).
Integrating digital technologies 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.
chapters and articles
“Food, Happiness, and the Egyptian Kitchen (1900-1952),” chapter in Insatiable Appetite: Food as a Cultural Signifier, ed. Julia Hauser et al., Leiden: Brill. (forthcoming)
“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.
“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.
blog posts and magazine articles
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.
Alert Level, on Medium. August 15, 2014. Drawing the police state.
Translation as Mourning, Translation as a 'Form of Cultural Interrogation,' on Arabic Literature (in English), June 29, 2014.
Apothecary Tales: Pharmacies in Today's Cairo, in Muftah, April 28, 2014.
Anthropology and the Peace Corps: Five decades of learning to learn about culture, in WorldView magazine, Spring 2013.
Review of Arabic, Self and Identity: A Study in Conflict and Displacement, by Yasir Suleiman. Co-written with Francesco Sinatora, in Al-ʿArabiyya, Fall 2012.
Romance, Not Romanticized: Three Stories of Love and Loss from the Boston Palestine Film Festival, in Jadaliyya, October 24, 2011.
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, for Jadaliyya, June 13, 2011.
talks and conference presentations
(forthcoming) “‘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.
“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.
“Tārīkh al-Maṭbakh fī al-Maghrib wa-Maṣr” (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, Washington, DC, 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]
“Kitāb Abla Naẓīra 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-Turāth al-Ghidhā’ī al-Maṣrī wa Kitāb Abla Naẓīra” (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.