Category: CCAS Newsmagazine, Featured News, News

Title: How Our Alums “Do” History

From food to film, biographies to trans-national stories, MAAS alums are bringing diverse approaches to the study of history.


Anny Gaul headshot
Anny Gaul

Dr. Anny Gaul (’12)

Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Maryland writing a book on the cultural history of the tomato as a lens into Modern Egypt
For me, history isn’t just what we learn from the books and papers collected by the state or other institutions. It’s also in a generation’s worth of cookbooks or magazines scattered across used book markets, waiting to be dusted off and read again––and in the customary gasp! that Egyptians perform when they add sizzling garlic and coriander to their mulukhiya, the kinds of gestures learned at home that persist even though they aren’t written down. There’s history in the sound of a spoon clanging on a huge metal dammasa of ful belonging to a street vendor in an alley. There’s nothing so insignificant or mundane that it lacks a history of its own that we can learn from.”

Michael R. Fischbach
Michael Fischbach

Dr. Michael R. Fischbach (’86)

Professor of History at Randolph-Macon College and author of The Movement and the Middle East: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Divided the American Left and Black Power and Palestine: Transnational Countries of Color (Stanford Press 2018 & 2019)

“The study of transnational history sheds important light on the ways that social movements have influenced one another symbiotically across space and time in their respective struggles for justice. Especially in the present neo-liberal world order, replete as it is with various types of oppression, hierarchy, and violence, the value of such history lies in illuminating the ways that people all over the world, as the longtime activist Laura Whitehorn has noted, ‘never stop struggling and never stop waiting for the moment when they can change the things that make their lives unlivable.’”

Dorothée Myriam Kellou
Dorothée Myriam Kellou

Dorothée Myriam Kellou (’12)

Filmmaker, journalist, and co-founder of Rawiyat, an association of women filmmakers from the MENA region and its diaspora 

“Listening to the stories of suppressed people can help us challenge dominant historical narratives. In making my film In Mansourah,You Separated Us, I used ethnographic immersion to understand the struggles of indigenous communities that were resettled by the French army during the Algerian war of independence and give voice to a part of history that was previously silenced. My father, an Algerian exiled filmmaker in France, accompanied me in this endeavor to give voice to witnesses and share his own story about this historical trauma.”

Samuel Dolbee

Dr. Samuel Dolbee (‘10)

Assistant Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, editor-in-chief of the Ottoman History Podcast, and author of the forthcoming environmental history Locusts of Power: Borders, Empire, and Environment in the Modern Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2023)

“The importance of history to me is understanding how things got to be the way they are, and using the past to imagine how the present can be changed. My experiences at CCAS profoundly shaped this approach. As I teach today, I often think of the masterful way Judith Tucker led seminars, which I try to emulate and also inevitably come up short on.”

Dahlia El Zein

Dahlia El Zein 

PhD Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania Department of History with a focus on the relationship between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East

“I believe in teaching/learning (and unlearning) the histories of the Middle East from a Global South perspective, connecting it to other parts of the historic Third World, particularly Africa. I emphasize in my teaching praxis the need for deeper understandings across South-South histories. Through the study of history we learn to develop empathy for other human beings, requiring us to interrogate our assumptions about the past, people, and places. Learning empathy and critical thinking are lifelong skills for students to make sense of their place in the world and how it relates to others.”

Wilson Chacko Jacob

Dr. Wilson Chacko Jacob (‘95)

Professor of History at Concordia University and author of For God or Empire: Sayyid Fadl and the Indian Ocean World (Stanford University Press, 2019) and Working Out Egypt: Effendi Masculinity and Subject Formation in Colonial Modernity, 1870-1940 (Duke University Press, 2011) 

“In my first book I used gender—masculinity in particular—to open up the history of Egyptian nationalism to a broader political, social, and cultural analysis. I thought this was generative to an extent but was bothered that it was still limited by the framework of the nation-state. So in my second book, somewhat counterintuitively I went smaller, to the level of an individual caught up in the great transformations of the nineteenth century. Through life history I believe we are able to get a “feel” for some of the massive changes in the legal and political reordering of the world we are typically only able to grasp intellectually in other accounts.”