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,

Marianna Pecoraro, Program and Communications

Zachary Hendrickson, Program and Communications

Eytan Penn, Program and Research

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 – has achieved a double-PhD in Islamic Studies (supervision at Leiden University, Columbia University, and WWU Münster). Between 2017-2018 Sami was a Research Fellow at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages at the University of Oslo and taking part in the research group GreenMENA (Green Middle East and North Africa). He 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. Sami’s research and teaching focus on Islamic intellectual history, economic thought in Islamic tradition, legal discourse, Islamization process, and environmental thought. He is currently working on the following projects: Pluralism in Emergencies; Populism in the Middle East and Europe; and Morality, Ecology, and Economic Traditions in Islam.

Mohamed Amer Meziane – Postdoctoral Research Fellow – is a philosopher whose current research projects and teaching activities involve IRCPL, the Department of Religion, and the Institute of African Studies. He his also a research associate at the Sorbonne Institute for Law and Philosophy (ISJPS) and a member of the governing board of the CNRS based Research Network ICC (Islam et chercheurs dans la Cité) in which he holds a seminar series on secularism and public religion. His new research project analyzes the ways in which these imperial transformations are challenged within African spaces. The project questions the boundaries of Africa and the Middle East through the religious, racializing and ecological effects of political geographies. The aim of this project is to try and unfold the contemporary stakes of a systematic critique of these geographies for African theory, from Fanon until today.

Rajbir S. Judge – Postdoctoral Research Fellow – is a historian with affiliations in the Department of Religion and Institute of South Asia. His current project examines the ways in which Sikhism at the end of the 19th Century remained a generative site through which Sikhs and their diverse milieu in the Punjab contested not only British rule, but the very nature of sovereignty, refusing closures enacted by the colonial state. More broadly, he specializes in the cultural and intellectual history of South Asia, with a particular emphasis on the Punjab. His most recent publications can be found in the Journal of the History of Sexuality and History & Theory.

Visiting Scholars

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.

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.