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

Thresine Nichols, Program Manager,

Zachary Hendrickson, Program & Communications

Research Scholars

K. Soraya Batmanghelichi – IRCPL Senior Research Scholar – is a women’s activist, feminist scholar, and Associate Professor for the Study of Modern Iran in the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages (IKOS) at the University of Oslo, Norway. In 2013, she earned a PhD in Iranian Studies from the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University. She was a postdoctoral fellow at IRCPL in 2016-2017 and is co-organizing IRCPL’s two international conference series on populism and pluralism. Her research focuses on contemporary women’s movements, sexuality, and gendered public space in Iran and the modern Middle East. 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, Feminist Media Histories Journal, and the Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World. Bloomsbury Press will publish her manuscript on sexuality and gender in contemporary Iran in late Fall 2018.

Sami Al-Daghistani – IRCPL Research Scholar – achieved a double-PhD in Islamic Studies (supervision at Leiden University, Columbia University, and WWU Münster), a Research MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Leiden University (2013), and a BA major in both Sociology and Comparative Literature from University of Ljubljana (2011). Between 2015-2017 he was a Visiting Scholar at the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies (MESAAS) and at IRCPL, working under the supervision of Professor Wael Hallaq. In 2014 he was a graduate exchange student in Islamic Studies at the Institute for Islamic Studies at McGill University in Montreal. Previously he studied Islamic Studies and Arabic in Rabat, Cairo, and Sarajevo. Sami has published numerous articles on the intellectual history of Islamic economics and law, and edited two volumes on the Second Gulf War, and on Middle Eastern culture and politics. Recently, he published two book translations from Arabic to Slovenian – Ibn Baṭṭūta’s Riḥla and Ibn Ṭufayl’s Ḥay ibn Yaqẓān (both 2017). His two monographs on Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s economic philosophy, and on the history of economic tradition in Islam are forthcoming in 2018.  Since 2017, Sami is a Research Scholar at IRCPL at Columbia University and a Research Fellow at IKOS at the University of Oslo. Sami’s research and teaching focus on Islamic intellectual history, economic thought in Islamic tradition, legal discourse, Islamization process, and ecological economics.

A. George BajaliaDoctoral Research Coordinator – is a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University and a theatre director who works between the US and Morocco. Tentatively titled Waiting at the Border: Language, Labor, and Infrastructure in Northern Morocco, his dissertation focuses on the borderland narratives of the Strait of Gibraltar, and the social, cultural, and political relations produced through these border apparatuses, and imminent to the action of waiting. His dissertation research in Morocco is supported by the CAORC-Mellon Mediterranean Research Fellowship, the American Institute of Maghrib Studies Long-Term Fellowship, the Fulbright-Hays DDRA fellowship, and research fellowships from Columbia University’s Middle East Institute and the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life. Complementary to his own research, he is the research coordinator for IRCPL’s project “Life History in Northwest Africa: Everyday Life, Historical Memory, and the Public Sphere,” as well as an organizer of the IRCPL-Columbia Global Centers conference series on “Pluralism in Emergenc(i)es.”

Wendell Hassan MarshDoctoral Research Coordinator – recently completed his Ph.D in African studies from Columbia University. His work explores the historical encounter of Islam and the African world as mediated in Afro-Arabic texts. His dissertation, Compositions of Sainthood, explores the role performed by texts in the making of Muslim sainthood during the founding moment of Senegalese modernity. More broadly, Wendell is interested in contemporary historical transformations in northwestern Africa and the global politics of knowledge production. He has participated in the “Life History in Northwest Africa” project at IRCPL as the research coordinator for the local scholars in Senegal and Mauritania.

Em WintersProject Manager – is currently working on a PhD in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge conducting research on food security issues among Rohingya refugees in Ukhia, Bangladesh. They received their Master’s degree in South Asian studies from Columbia University in 2017 focusing on agrarian development in Bangladesh. During their time at IRCPL, they managed the “Mapping the Scared: Preserving Life-Giving Ecosystems” initiative and worked to develop the project’s network in India. Their academic interests include anthropological analysis of climate change adaptation, gender equity, food security, Rohingya society & culture, and development-induced displacement.

Kevin Louis WitkowProject Manager – 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 Northwest Africa: 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.

Visiting Scholars

Attiya Ahmad is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the George Washington University. Her research focuses on the interrelation between gender, labor migration, diasporic formations, cosmopolitanism, and Islamic movements crosscutting the Arab Gulf States and South Asia. Ahmad is also developing a project focusing on halal tourism networks spanning the Arab Gulf States, the United Kingdom, and Turkey. Her work has appeared in the Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, and edited volumes focusing on labor migration, diaspora, and religion in South Asia and the Gulf Arab States. She is the author of Everyday Conversions: Islam, Domestic Work, and South Asian Migrant Women in Kuwait. She obtained her PhD in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University.

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.

Nadia Fadil is an Associate Professor at the IMMRC (Interculturalism, Migration and Minorities Research Centre) at the University of Leuven. After having obtained a PhD at this same institute, she has been affiliated as a Postdoctoral Jean Monnet Research Fellow at the European University Institute (2008-2009) and a Visiting Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley (2011-2012). She is currently in the US as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University. Her research centers on the secularisation and racialisation of Islam in Europe, with a particular focus on the lived religious and non-religious practices of Maghrebis in Francophone Europe as well as the governmental regulation of Islam in Europe. She has co-authored a book on the policies of integration in Flanders (Leeuw in een Kooi. De Multiculturele verbeelding in Vlaanderen, 2009), and she is currently working on completing an edited volume on the policies of de-radicalisation in the low countries (Belgium and the Netherlands) with Martijn de Koning and Francesco Ragazzi, forthcoming from IB Tauris Press.

Kenichiro Komori is an Associate Professor at Musashi University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of European Studies (in Tokyo, Japan). He has taught history of European thought, including contemporary issues considered from a global perspective. He wrote books and articles on French and German thinkers, especially Jacques Derrida, Sigmund Freud, and Hannah Arendt. He also translated books by Derrida, Drucilla Cornell, and Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi (from French or English into Japanese). His current research focuses on the relationship between philosophy and American society, and he conducts historical, philosophical and literary investigation into political and religious problematics from medieval south-east France to today’s New York.

Raphaël Liogier is a sociologist (specializing in belief systems, sociology of religion, shifts in values resulting from globalization, and the impact of the internet) and philosopher (theory of knowledge, ethics and new technologies, transhumanism). He is currently a tenured professor at Sciences Po Aix-en-Provence in France (Aix-Marseille University), researcher at Sophiapol (Paris-Nanterre University), and was elected in 2014 to the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. He was director of World Religion Watch (Observatoire du religieux) from 2006 to 2014, and was the first expert consulted by the French parliament following the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015. He is a member of UNESCO’s International Commission for Peace Research. He is also the author of over 100 scholarly articles and twenty one books.

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.

Emily Sigalow is a sociologist whose work focuses on American religion with a specific emphasis on the social scientific study of contemporary Jewish life. She received her PhD from Brandeis University in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Sociology (joint degree) in 2015. She is finishing a book project about the historical and contemporary encounter between Judaism and Buddhism in America. This book, American JUBU: Jews, Buddhists, and Religious Change in the United States (under contract with Princeton University Press) explains how Judaism and Buddhism met, combined, and changed in relation to each other in America since 1893.

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

The IRCPL Summer Research Fellowship is awarded each Spring to assist students with expenses directly related to research, including travel, lodging, and materials during the Summer or Fall 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.

Elizabeth Dolfi is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Religion at Columbia University in the North American Religions subfield. Her primary research interests include feminist and queer studies of American religious history, American evangelicalism, contemporary secularisms, and evangelical heterosexualities. Her current project is a historical and ethnographic study of the motivations, tactics, ideology, and theology of the Christian anti-human trafficking movement. She holds an M.A., M.Phil, and IRWGS Graduate Certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies from Columbia University, an M.A.R. from Yale Divinity School, and a B.A. from Vassar College.

Joshua Donovan is a PhD student in Columbia University’s Department of History, where he focuses on the political, social, and intellectual history of the Modern Middle East. His broad research interests include the history and politics of identity in the Middle East, migration, imperialism, human rights, and religion. His dissertation traces the development of competing ideas of identity and nationalism within the Antiochian Greek Orthodox Community in the Levant and the broader diaspora during the first half of the twentieth century. This project is among the first to integrate the contributions of Orthodox Christians into existing scholarship on nationalism and sectarianism, and to place the most salient ideas nurtured by this community in a broader regional and global context.

Luciana Chamorro Elizondo is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University. Her dissertation project investigates the ways popular politics have been reshaped by the return of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) to power in Nicaragua, and in particular, by the politico-theological dimensions of Sandinismo that characterize president Daniel Ortega’s rule. Through ethnographic engagement with Sandinista militants as they navigate the vicissitudes of this new political landscape, the dissertation offers a novel perspective on how leftist popular movements in Latin America have sought a new basis for popular legitimacy after the decline of the communist utopia and the rise of neoliberalism. The project questions why so many of them have turned to idioms and political forms borrowed from Charismatic Christianity to mobilize the masses and reinvent a basis of unity for “the people”.

John Halliwell is a PhD student at Columbia University. John specializes in the economic history of the Middle East and Islamic economic philosophy. His dissertation delves into the ethos of debt in Islamic law within the context of medieval North Africa. While conventional debates revolve around whether the ubiquity of interest-bearing loans (outright or de facto) in Muslim societies represent a breach of the Quranic prohibition on usury, a creative reinterpretation thereof, or something in-between, John’s research puts aside this discussion to examine the dynamics of other kinds of debt which pervade legal discussion, from merchant capitalization of farmers to bodily injury to the bridal dowry to unlawful seizure of another’s property – all of which were articulated in the language of debt.

Selaedin Maksut is an MA student in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. His primary research interests include American Muslims and postcolonial theory. Selaedin is interested in Islam in the Balkans and the recent tensions between the long-standing Sufi orders and the newly imported Saudi sponsored clerics and institutions, especially in Macedonia and Kosovo. His project is about the aftermath of Kosovo’s war of Independence in 1999, since which the country has seen growing tensions between its traditional Sufi orders and the influx of well-funded Saudi-Wahhabi clerics, students, and institutions.

Tamar Menashe is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Columbia University, where she works on late medieval and early modern European and Jewish legal, cultural, and religious history and Christian-Jewish relations. Her dissertation explores the intersection of multi-confessionalism and the law in Reformation Germany through cases pertaining to religious conversion between Judaism and Christianity. Drawing on German legal sources, Jewish religious and legal sources, and literary writings of converts, Tamar examines how Christian and Jewish institutions and individuals grappled with contradicting jurisdictional claims, legal and religious reforms, religious toleration and persecution, and notions of minority status and women’s status.

Verena Meyer is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Religion at Columbia University where she studies the ways that Javanese Muslims understand religious authority of saints and reformer figures, how authority is negotiated theologically, and how it is deployed politically. She employs both ethnographic and textual methods, and draws on Sufism, Islamic reformism, Javanese literary traditions, and the wider currents of Southeast Asian and Indian Ocean Islam. The IRCPL fellowship will support research on Javanese religious literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the fall of 2018.

David Silverberg is an incoming PhD student in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. He is currently finishing his BA in the Department of Middle East, South Asia, and African Studies Department at Columbia. His research centers around questions of law, post-colonial theory, medicine, secularism, and ‘minority’ religion. His current project critically interrogates a 2015 Rajasthan High Court decision to criminalize a Jain end of life practice of fasting to death, called sallekhanā or sānthara, as suicide.

Yayra Sumah is a doctoral candidate in the department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies (MESAAS). She holds a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science from Boston University. Her research focuses on Congolese (DRC) history, violence, healing, religious movements and the politics of masculinity and femininity. Her dissertation project seeks to rethink the legacy of colonial violence in Central Africa through a history of the Kimbanguist movement in Belgian Congo (1920-1969). By reconstructing the Kongo cosmological tradition which animated the search for healing, and by historicizing the process by which a movement which was initially religious became politicized through colonial military repression, her project seeks to enrich our understanding of the relationship between religion, politics and agency.