Society and Culture

Engseng Ho | انج سنج هو
Visiting Professor and Director

Engseng Ho is Director of the Middle East Institute, and Muhammad Alagil Distinguished Visiting Professor of Arabia Asia Studies at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. At Duke University, he is Professor of Anthropology and Professor of History. He is a leading scholar of transnational anthropology, history and Muslim societies, Arab diasporas, and the Indian Ocean. His research expertise is in Arabia, coastal South Asia and maritime Southeast Asia, and he maintains active collaborations with scholars in these regions. He serves on the editorial boards of journals such as American Anthropologist, Comparative Studies in Society and History, History and Anthropology, Modern Asian Studies. He is co-editor of the Asian Connections book series at Cambridge University Press. He has previously worked as Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University; Senior Scholar, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies; Country and Profile Writer, the Economist Group; International Economist, Government of Singapore Investment Corporation/Monetary Authority of Singapore. He was educated at the Penang Free School, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago.

Peter Sluglett | بيتر سلغليت
Visiting Research Professor

Peter Sluglett is a Visiting Research Professor at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore. He has a BA from Cambridge (1966) and a D.Phil from Oxford (1972). He has taught Middle Eastern History at the University of Durham (1974-1994) and at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City (1994-2011), where he was Director of the University’s Middle East Centre. He has published widely on the modern history of Iraq, including Iraq since 1958: from Revolution to Dictatorship, 3rd edn., (2001, with Marion Farouk-Sluglett), and Britain in Iraq: Contriving King and Country (2007). He has also edited and contributed to The Urban Social History of the Middle East 1750-1950 (2008), Syria and Bilad al-Sham under Ottoman Rule: Essays in Honour of Abdul-Karim Rafeq, (2010, with Stefan Weber), and Writing the Modern History of Iraq: Historiographical and Political Challenges (2012). He recently completed an Atlas of Islamic History (2014, with Andrew Currie).

Sumanto Al Qurtuby | سومانتو القرطبي
Visiting Senior Research Fellow

Sumanto Al Qurtuby is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Prior to joining KFUPM, he was a visiting professor and a research fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, the United States. He has degrees in anthropology, sociology, conflict transformation, and Islamic studies. He holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Boston University and an MA in Conflict and Peace Studies from Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. His research interests focus on the study of Muslim politics and cultures; conflict, violence, and peacebuilding; inter-and intra-religious relations, the role of religion in public sphere, and Arab-Indonesian connection.

A columnist and a freelancer of several media outlets such as Deutsche Welle, Jakarta Globe, Gatra, among others, he has authored, co-authored, and written more than 16 books, dozens of academic articles, and hundreds of popular essays (in Indonesian language and English). His most recent book from Routledge (London & New York) is Religious Violence and Conciliation in Indonesia: Christians and Muslims in the Moluccas. He is now completing a book manuscript on Islam, Travel, and Learning: Saudi-Indonesian Muslim Intellectual Networks, in addition to conducting research on Saudi Arabia’s domestic terrorism and counterterrorism.    

Charlotte Schriwer | شارلت شريفر
Senior Research Fellow

Charlotte Schriwer’s research has focused mainly on the history of the Levant, (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon), in particular on its agricultural history from the 12th century to the 1800s. She has also explored the question of ethnic identity in the Ottoman architecture of the Levant. Since joining MEI in 2011, she has started a project documenting the history of protest art in the Arab world, with a focus on the Arab Uprisings. She holds a PhD in History and an MA in Middle East Studies from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and an MA in Islamic Art and Archaeology from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Charlotte Schriwer co-edited Converging Regions: Global Perspectives on Asia and the Middle East (2014) with Nele Lenze, Media in the Middle East: Activism, Politics, and Culture (2017) with Nele Lenze and Zubaidah Abdul Jalil, and wrote Water and Technology in Levantine Society, 1300-1900: A Historical, Archaeological and Architectural Analysis (2015).

Fanar Haddad | فنر حداد
Senior Research Fellow

Fanar Haddad is a Senior Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore. He previously lectured in modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Exeter and, most recently, at Queen Mary, University of London. Prior to obtaining his PhD, Haddad was a Research Analyst at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office where he worked on North Africa. He has since published widely on issues relating to historic and contemporary Iraq. His main research topics are identity, historical memory, nationalism, communal conflict and minority politics. He is the author of Sectarianism in Iraq: Antagonistic Visions of Unity (London/New York: Hurst/Columbia University Press, 2011). His research at the MEI will focus on historical memory and narratives of state in the Middle East.

Nele Lenze | نيلي لنزا
Senior Research Fellow and Editor

Nele Lenze’s research focuses on the cultural online sphere in the Gulf. Her main research interests include literature published in social media, cultural production online and online participation culture. She holds a PhD in Middle East Studies and Media Studies from the University of Oslo where she lectured on the Arab online sphere. She obtained her master’s in Arabic literature from Freie University Berlin. She co-edited Converging Regions: Global Perspectives on Asia and the Middle East (2014) with Charlotte Schriwer as well as The Arab Uprisings: Catalysts, Dynamics, and Trajectories (2014) with Fahed Al-Sumait and Michael Hudson, Media in the Middle East: Activism, Politics, and Culture (2017) with Charlotte Schriwer and Zubaidah Abdul Jalil. She is working on her first monograph Politics and Digital Literature in the Middle East. Perspectives on Online Text and Context (forthcoming 2018).

Nisha Mathew | نيشى ماثيو
Research Fellow

Nisha Mathew is Joint Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute and Asia, Research Institute, National University of Singapore. She received her PhD in History from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in 2014 where her research explored the methodological possibilities of Indian Ocean studies in the making of a contemporary urban space as Dubai. She is currently working on her book

Shuang Wen | شوان ون
Postdoctoral Research Fellow


Shuang Wen’s first book project, entitled “Imperial Mediation: Chinese-Arab Connections at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” investigates the intertwined intellectual, economic, labour, and religious (both Islam and Christianity) connections between the geographically distant and culturally disparate Arabic- and Chinese- speaking societies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the high time of global empires. Despite their geographical distance and linguistic difference, Arabs and Chinese occupied a similar position in the world order as colonized and semi-colonized peoples at the turn of the twentieth century. As a result, in response to their comparable circumstances, ideas, commodities, people, and practices (both religious and medical) were transferred between them in multiple directions through the enmeshed imperial networks. The book narrates several little-known stories of that linked Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America, demonstrating how the British, French, Japanese, and American empires mediated connections and left profound impacts on different layers of the Chinese and Arab societies: They include how the common challenge of global imperialism inspired Arab and Chinese thinkers to made references and drew lessons from each other in their domestic debates on large-scale infrastructure building (such as the Suez Canal in Egypt and the railways in China) for modernization; how the Anglo-Japanese Alliance (1902-23) enabled the export of soybean as a trading commodity and the transplant of its cultivation as an agricultural crop from Manchuria to Egypt. Along the way, the soybean was also transformed from a food item mainly consumed for its protein content to an industrial raw material mainly utilized for its oil content; the role of the YMCA as a trans-regional religious organization in mitigating the arduous and problematic encounters of Chinese and Arab (mainly from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt) labourers working on the WWI western front; and the Anglo-American missionary efforts to proselytise in Africa and Asia and how a converted Egyptian nondenominational doctor (who was originally a Muslim) practised the western medicine among Chinese in Fujian for more than thirty years. Each of these stories highlight the trans- and inter- imperial networks that facilitated or obstructed the connectivity and mobility in the spaces in between the global empires. Research for this project has taken her to archives and libraries in Egypt, Syria, China, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States. 

Shuang earned a PhD in Transregional History (modern Middle East and East Asia) from Georgetown University in 2015 and an MA in Middle East Studies from the American University in Cairo in 2008. She also received additional Arabic language certificates from the University of Damascus and Middlebury College. Before switching career to the academy, she was a broadcast journalist for Phoenix Satellite Television InfoNews Channel in Hong Kong (2003-06), covering events in the Middle East, such as the humanitarian crisis during the 2006 Hizbullah-Israel conflicts, and worked as a Chinese-English simultaneous conference interpreter in Beijing (2001-03). Her publications include “Muslim Activist Encounters in Meiji Japan,” Middle East Reports 270 (Spring 2014) special issue on “China in the Middle East” published by the Middle East Research and Information Project in Washington DC and “Two Sides of the Story: How Historians and Journalists Can Work Together,” Perspectives on History 53:7 (October 2015) published by the American Historical Association.

Zoltan Pall |زولتان بال
Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Zoltan Pall is an anthropologist specialising in transnational Islamic movements in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. His main research topics include social movement theory, the structure and function of transnational networks, religious authority and sectarianism. His current research in MEI focuses on Salafism in Lebanon and its networking in the Arabian Gulf and Europe. Before obtaining his PhD from Utrecht University he was a Visiting Research Fellow at the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) in Leiden and a Research Fellow at Utrecht University. He has published articles on Salafism in Kuwait and Lebanon, and is the author of Lebanese Salafis between the Gulf and Europe: Development, Fractionalization and Transnational Networks of Salafism in Lebanon (2013).

Serkan Yolacan | سرخان يولاجان
Research Associate

Serkan Yolacan is a research associate at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore. His research focuses on the role of diasporas and networks in the transformation of state and society. His book manuscript, entitled Order Beyond Borders: The Azerbaijani Triangle across Iran, Turkey, and Russia, employs diasporic analytics to explore transnational networks of religion, education, and business across West Asia. He holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University and a master’s in Sociology and Social Anthropology from the Central European University. Prior to obtaining his doctoral degree, he worked as Projects Officer at the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) in Istanbul. 

Susanne Dahlgren | سوزان دالغرين
Academic Scholar

Susanne Dahlgren is an anthropologist interested in moral questions, law and politics. She studied anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Helsinki where she received her PhD in 2004. She has been a fellow in the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and at the Academy of Finland. Her PhD project was published as Contesting Realities. The Public Sphere and Morality in Southern Yemen (2010). Her recent work has involved theorizing the Arab revolutions as part of a project on ‘Geographies of Gender in the Arab Revolutions’, convened by Frances Hasso and Zakia Salime. A recent photo essay was published in on ‘Rebels without Shoes: A Visit to South Yemen’s Revolution Squares.’ At MEI she has worked on a project entitled ‘Post-Socialism in the Arabian Peninsula: the Politics of Islam and Modernisation in South Yemen.’

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