Faculty Advisory Committee

2017 – 2018 Faculty Advisory Committee

Gil Anidjar, Chair and Professor, Department of Religion

Courtney Bender, Director of Graduate Studies and Professor, Department of Religion

Michael Como, Toshu Fukami Associate Professor of Shinto Studies, Departments of Religion and East Asian Languages and Cultures

Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Chair and Professor, French and Romance Philology, Department of Philosophy

Brinkley Messick, Professor, Anthropology and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies

Katherine Pratt Ewing, Professor, Department of Religion and the South Asia Institute

Jack Snyder, Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Relations, Department of Political Science

Beth Berkowitz, Professor, Ingeborg Rennert Chair of Jewish Studies, Barnard Department of Religion

Alexander Stille, San Paolo Professor of International Journalism, Columbia Journalism School

Mamadou Diouf, Leitner Professor of African Studies, Chair of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies


Matthew Engelke, Director,

Walid Hammam, Associate Director,

Zachary Hendrickson, Program & Communications Coordinator,

2017-18 Visiting Scholars

Sami Al-Daghistani is a Visiting Scholar at the IRCPL whose research focuses on the intellectual history of Islamic economic thought, contemporary Islamic economics, and the Islamization process. Since December 2015, he has been a Visiting Scholar at MESAAS, Columbia University, working under the mentorship of Professor Wael Hallaq. Sami obtained a BA in both Sociology and Comparative Literature from the University of Ljubljana. He studied Islamic Studies and Arabic in Sarajevo (2010), Cairo (2011), Rabat (2012), and at McGill University in Montreal (2014). He achieved a Research MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Leiden University (2013). Currently, he is a double-PhD candidate at the universities of Leiden and Münster, and a lecturer at Leiden Islam Academie. Sami has published numerous articles on Islamic economics, the intellectual history of Islam, and Islamic law. He has edited two volumes on the Second Gulf War in Iraq (2010), and on Middle Eastern culture and politics (2013). He has recently published two book translations from Arabic into Slovene – Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy ibn Yaqzan and Ibn Battuta’s Rihla. His two most recent articles on the “Semiotics of Islamic Law, Maṣlaḥa, and Islamic Economic Thought”, and “Polyvalent European identity and the Islamic intellectual history”, can be found below. Sami’s monograph on al-Ghazali’s economic philosophy is forthcoming in 2017.

Ibrahim Bechrouri is a graduate student from the French Institute of Geopolitics of the University of Paris 8. After a research project in 2012 on “Issues and Representations around the United States Foreign Policy in Morocco,” he spent time as a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion at Columbia University and led field research on the surveillance of Muslim communities by the New York Police Department. He is presently a Fulbright grantee working on his PhD dissertation, titled Geopolitical approach of counter-terrorism strategies of the New York Police Department: a multiscale analysis.

Anya Bernstein is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. Her first book, Religious Bodies Politic: Rituals of Sovereignty in Buryat Buddhism (University of Chicago Press, 2013), was the winner of the Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion from the American Academy of Religion and an Honorable Mention for the Davis Center Book Prize in Political and Social Studies from the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Her second book, The Future of Immortality: Remaking Life and Death in Contemporary Russia, forthcoming with Princeton University Press in 2019, explores the interplay between questions of immortality and life extension industries across the Soviet Union and postsocialist Russia, drawing on archival and ethnographic methods to investigate these technoscientific and religious futurisms. As a visual anthropologist Bernstein has directed, filmed, and produced several award-winning documentary films on Buryat Buddhism and shamanism, including Join Me in Shambhala (2002) and In Pursuit of the Siberian Shaman (2006).

John Corrigan is the Lucius Moody Bristol Distinguished Professor of Religion and Professor of History at Florida State University. He is the author of many books on religion in America, religion and emotion, religious intolerance, and the spatial humanities, as well as various digital projects and film documentaries. He is visiting at Columbia as a Luce/ACLS fellow while finishing a book, Religious Intolerance and American Foreign Policy, and discussing that topic with journalists. His book focuses on how Americans, unable to come to terms with the national record of religious intolerance, have sought over a period of two hundred years to project that failing elsewhere. The U.S. government accordingly increasingly has been involved in finding evidence of intolerance in other nations and having done so, attempted, ineffectively, to remedy the problem through State Department promotion of the ideal of religious freedom.

Bahar Tabakoglu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the New School For Social Research. In her current dissertation, tentatively titled Social Constituents of Religious Politics: Islamist Labor Unionism in Turkey and Hindu Labor Unionism in India, she examines labor unionism in Turkey and India with an eye to filling the gap in the literature on religious politics by analyzing its social constituents, the working class component in particular. Her research interests lie at the intersection of political sociology, sociology of religion, sociology of labor, modern Turkey, and India. Her research and teaching interests extend as well to modern social movements, civil society and state theory, classical sociological theory, modern social thought, and research methods. Her dissertation has won the support of various grants and fellowships from the New School For Social Research and she has been a student fellow at the India China Institute of the New School since 2011.

Sirine Mechbal is a French graduate student in American Studies at the University of La Sorbonne in Paris. She has a Master’s Degree in American Studies; She was a visiting student at Columbia for the Spring 2013 semester, during which she conducted field research for her Master’s thesis, which focused on Muslim communities in New York and their institutional presence. Currently, she is working on her PhD dissertation, dealing with street vendors in New York and their relationship to community organizing, with a specific focus on Egyptian and Mexican vendors. Although it’s considered American studies in France, her work is quite multidisciplinary (sociology, labor studies, immigration studies, etc.). Sirine has taught at La Sorbonne. She is currently working on her dissertation, tentatively titled: “Vendor Power? Solidarity and collective organizing among New York City’s Egyptian and Mexican street vendors.”

Kazuisa Fujimoto is a professor of philosophy at Waseda University (Tokyo), the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences (School of Culture, Media and Society). His research focuses on the relationship between advanced technology, media, and philosophy, ideology, culture (including contemporary subculture). Studied at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales de Paris (France) from 1995 to 1998 under Jacques Derrida, he translated a lot of books of Derrida into Japanese (Margins of philosophy, Dissemination, Psyche, Philosophy in a Time of Terror, etc.). He aims to create a total philosophy which integrates different fields of theories (physics, mathematics, biology, psychology, cognitive science, sociology and arts) from the viewpoint of complex system and information. For this purpose, now he is engaged in researching the structures of three types of thinking and their relationship: sign, image and body. His research also is extended to comparative studies between Western philosophy and Japanese philosophy, Asian pop cultures and Japanese subculture.

Kyle Rader is a theologian working on the interpretation and deployment of Christian scriptures. He received his Ph.D. with distinction from the University of Chicago and is currently revising his dissertation on how modernist historical sensibilities inform or constrain efforts to retrieve pre-modern ways of reading. Previously, he received a M.Div. from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from Truman State University.

Carol Marie Webster is an artist | activist | scholar whose research focuses on ‘the body’. She works at intersections
of ‘race’/ethnicity, gender, migration, and religion in examination of African Diaspora/Black Atlantic performance and
performative articulations of identity and belonging, examining the influence of cultural and social practices on the
health and well-being of ‘the body’ (individual, community, and social). She draws on critical ethnography, womanist methodologies and analyses, and performance studies approaches in conventional research, performance-as-
research, and community engagement initiatives. Her recent article “Body as Temple: Jamaican Catholic Women and the Liturgy of the Eucharist” was published in African Theology: An International Journal (Jan 2017). She was a
Visiting Researcher at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture in Charleston, South
Carolina (2015 – 2016). She was an awardee of an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Cultural
Engagement Fellow at the University of Oxford, UK (2013-2014), where, under the mentorship of Professor Axel
Kuhn (Physics), she conceived and led her third arts and science interdisciplinary performance research initiative,
‘Transportation Transformation: Migration, Teleportation, and Railways’, examining identity-making and historical
belonging at the convergence of migration, science and technology, and culture. She holds a PhD in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies from the University of Leeds (2013) in the United Kingdom and Master degrees in Religious Studies (2005) and in Cultures and Development Studies (2005) from the Katholieke Universitiet Leuven in Belgium.

Research Fellows

Post-Doctoral Research Scholar

K. Soraya Batmanghelichi is a women’s activist and feminist scholar. She is an associate faculty member at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and has lectured at Leiden University in the Netherlands and the W.E.B. DuBois Scholars Institute, held at Princeton University. In 2013, Soraya earned her PhD in Middle Eastern Studies from Columbia University, where she also completed two Master’s degrees in Human Rights and Middle Eastern Studies. Her research focuses on contemporary women’s movements, sexuality and gendered public space in the modern Middle East, and her recent publications on sexuality, government morality, cyberfeminism and women’s activism in Iran can be found in the Journal of Anthropology of the Middle East, Gender and Sexualities within Muslim Cultures, and Feminist Media Histories Journal.

2017-18 IRCPL Graduate Fellows

The IRCPL Graduate Fellowship is awarded each Spring to assist students with expenses directly related to research, including travel, lodging, and materials during the Fall or Summer semester.  Upon returning from their travel, students will issue reports on the results of their research.  Information on how to apply for an IRCPL Fellowship can be found on our website.

Allison DeWitt is a PhD candidate in the Department of Italian and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Her dissertation analyzes the use of geography in Dante’s Divine Comedy, specifically focused on representations of the Islamic world. It will be accompanied by a digital map to be hosted on Columbia’s Digital Dante site, for which she is an assistant editor.  Her interests also include representations of Muslim women in literature, the gendered dimensions of spatiality and visualizations of literary geography. She holds a B.A. from New York University in German and Italian Literatures and an M.A. and M.Phil in Italian from Columbia.

Sarina Kuersteiner is a PhD student in medieval history at Columbia University’s Department of History. Her research focuses on the increasingly important role of notaries in the administration of public and private life in the medieval Mediterranean. Combining literary and legal sources, her research analyzes how ideas about spirituality, gender, family, social order, and the body itself worked together in the self-fashioning of medieval notaries to produce a system of thought and action in which men, through their reason, bodily awareness, and self control, acted as crucial servants of the common good. Sarina earned her BA from the University of Zurich (Switzerland) and her MA in German Literature and General History from Zurich, having spent her first year of the MA program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Ling-Wei Kung is a Ph.D. student in Chinese and Tibetan history. His research interests center on international legal practices and global economic exchanges between modern China and Inner Asia during the 18th-20th centuries. He is also more broadly interested in the roles of Inner Asian peoples, especially Tibetans, Mongolians, and Uyghurs, in the competitions between the Qing, British and Russian Empires. He is currently working on a research project entitled as “Between Religion and Power: Buddhists and Muslims in the Yadong Customs of Tibet, 1889-1914.” By paying attention to the roles of Tibetan Buddhists and South Asian Muslims on the borderlands between Tibet and India, this project shows that the diverse religious traditions in Tibet are important to rediscovering the globalization of modern China and the transnational networks in the Zomia region. In so doing, he primarily works with Manchu, Mongolian, and Tibetan documents, along with Chinese materials. Ling-Wei received a B.A. in History from National Taiwan University (2012), and his M.A. in Tibetan Studies from Columbia University (2015). Before coming to New York City, he stayed in Beijing, where he studied Chinese and Inner Asian history, as well as Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan at Renmin and Peking Universities for two years.

Firat Kurt is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University. Focusing on the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, his current research explores the conjunction of financial capitalism, mass mobilization and political Islam. By paying close attention to personal histories, daily capacities, emerging hopes and inter-generational grievances of the party members and sympathizers, his dissertation investigates how material and financial changes facilitate and even promote a popular knowledge that religiously informed authoritarian politics, embodied by the AKP in Turkey, is the only solution for the predicaments of late capitalism.

Rohini Shukla is a MA student at the Department of Religion, Columbia University. She holds a BA from Fergusson College; a post-graduate degree from Savitribai Phule University, and a MA in philosophy from Manipal Center for Philosophy and Humanities. Her research interests are religions in South Asia, theories of secularism, ethnomusicology, Indian philosophy, gender, and Marathi literature.

Arthur Zárate is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Columbia University. His current project is an intellectual biography of Muhammad al-Ghazali (1917-1996)—a classically trained Egyptian Muslim scholar, reformer, and one-time leading intellectual of the Muslim Brotherhood. Drawing upon a rich corpus of writings Ghazali published in mid-twentieth century Egypt, it traces the modern historical genealogies of classical Islamic techniques of ethical self-constitution—techniques that remain central the political projects of various Islamic reform movements today. It focuses specifically on how Ghazali not only drew upon the works of pre-modern Muslim ethicists to craft his theories of subject formation, but also texts written by American spiritualists, self-help pioneers, and metaphysicians.

Research Scholars

M Winters is a South Asian Studies Master’s student at Columbia University focusing on agrarian development in Bangladesh. Their academic interests include anthropological analysis of climate change adaptation, gender equity, and development-induced displacement. Currently Matthew is working on an upcoming publication related to agricultural livelihood adaptation in southwest Bangladesh.

Kevin Louis Witkow received a Master’s Degree from the Religion Department at Columbia University in 2016. His interests include the anthropology of religion and secularism, Islam, the anthropology of Morocco, and Palestine/Israel. During his time in the Religion Department, his work focused on secularism and the politics of history writing in Palestinian nationalist thought. At IRCPL Kevin is the project manager of the ACLS/Luce Project “Life History in Morocco, Senegal, and Mauritania: Everyday Life, Historical Memory, and the Public Square”. He coordinates ongoing research in Northwest Africa and is developing a nascent network of scholars across the region interested in recent histories of the political, social, and religious.