Before joining the history department at the University of Antwerp I taught at Washington University in St. Louis, conducted research at the University of Amsterdam on Syria, and held a four year postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen/Germany.
I am a social and political historian with a strong ethnographic approach and focus on transnationalism, Islamism (mainly Shiite movements), political violence and memory politics. My research focus is the Arab East (Lebanon and Syria) and Iran. I received my MA in Anthropology and Education from the University of Heidelberg in 1998 and completed my postgraduate studies with honors in Modern Middle Eastern History at the University of Chicago in 2005.
My MA thesis was on the production of linguistic ideologies among Iranian nationalists from the late 19th century and dealt with tracing the genealogy of a particular form of Iranian secularism that created iconic links between Islam, Arabic, and Arabs.
The PhD project and the subsequent book Shi’ite Lebanon. Transnational Religion and the Making of National Identities (Columbia University Press, 2008) focused on transnational Shiite ties between Iran and Lebanon from the late 1960s. It details the multiple forms the localization of transnational religious networks take and the outcome of political violence and struggles among Islamists and other Shiites in postwar Lebanon.
My second book project, Missing Traces. Syrian Regime and Abductions in Lebanon (near completion), is on the Syrian army’s role in civil war Lebanon from 1976, and its de facto occupation of Lebanon from 1990 to 2005. By focusing on arbitrary arrests and abductions, I show the everyday working of authoritarianism and the ways ordinary citizens respond to it. The book is a story of hegemony and resistance, of suffering and despair, and of struggles for empowerment in a highly complex political and transnational context.