Appointed As

Kaplan Humanities Institute


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


Northwestern University

PhD Field of Study

PhD, Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania

Dissertation Abstract

"Secured Expertise: Washington Policy Experts, the “Middle East,” and US Foreign Policy in An Age of Counterterror"

Drawing on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Washington DC, my dissertation evaluates the culture and politics of security expertise in the context of U.S. policy debates on the “Middle East” (and Iran and Egypt specifically) since 2001. Looking primarily at experts working at Washington-based think tanks, I examine how these epistemic-political actors collectively help identify and interpret different regional “threats” for the U.S. security state and ultimately legitimate policy responses to such threats. This research builds upon and brings together anthropological scholarship on the logics and apparatuses of national security and war with interdisciplinary studies on experts, who have influenced U.S. foreign policy. It also expands on studies on democratic governance and power to better explain how these “outside” experts have been able to influence U.S. government policies on the Middle East since 9/11. Throughout the dissertation, I point to the complex ways the security state's goal of "countering terror" in this region have exceeded the capabilities and boundaries of the U.S. government, allowing more outside actors to exert power on U.S. policy through the realm of expertise. At the same time, my research evaluates the relationships, subjectivities, practices, and political structures that empower certain types of experts and forms of regional knowledge to dominate U.S. policy debates, while shedding light on those actors within the foreign policy establishment, particularly women experts and experts from the region, who are pushing back on these long-standing hierarchies and policy dynamics.