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Photo of Professor Laleh Khalili

Professor Laleh Khalili

Al-Qasimi Professor of Gulf Studies

I made my way to a PhD in politics by way of an undergraduate degree in engineering and after working for some years as a management consultant in the US. I have been, throughout my scholarly career, compelled with and curious about the workings of transnational movements: of colonial forms of power and violence, of resistance, of ideas and practices, of people, and now of capital and cargo. I have always woven through analyses of gender, racialisation, political violence and political economy in my research, and have been particularly fascinated by both the ongoing violence of empire and the afterlives of colonialism in contemporary politics.

I have examined the representations and practices of violence in my first two book, Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: the Politics of National Commemoration (Cambridge 2007) and Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgency (Stanford 2013) as well as in a volume I co-edited with Jillian Schwedler, titled Policing and Prisons in the Middle East: Formations of Coercion (Hurst 2010). My most recent book, Sinews of War and Trade: Shipping and Capitalism in the Arabian Peninsula (Verso 2020), examines the role of maritime infrastructures as conduits of movement of technologies, capital, people and cargo. I have also written article (in edited volumes, journals, museum catalogues and magazines) on a range of subjects from the politics of pleasure and gendered subjectivities to trade, finance, collective memory, and the role of happiness in counterinsurgencies, inter alia. I am currently completing a small book about the corporeal life of seafaring, and planning two larger projects, a synthetic history of modern maritime logistics written from the global South, and an original research project on the afterlives of oil and hydrocarbons, after their nationalisation.


Research interests

I am fascinated by the workings of transnational movements: of colonial forms of power and violence, of resistance, of ideas and practices, of people, and now of capital and cargo. I have always woven through analyses of gender, racialisation, political violence and political economy in my research, and have been particularly fascinated by both the ongoing violence of empire and the afterlives of colonialism in contemporary politics.

My work draws on archival and ethnographic methods and I have conducted interviews with bureaucrats, military officers, former prisoners, refugees, and guerrillas. My geographic area of interest is the Arab world, and I speak and read Arabic and Persian. I don’t study the area in isolation and am fascinated by the interconnections between internal politics and geopolitical asymmetries, and the region’s connections both eastward and westward. Before coming to the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, I taught Middle East Politics at undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels at SOAS for 15 years and International Politics at all levels at Queen Mary University of London for 4 years. 

My teaching has throughout drawn from my research and I have taught modules on political violence, struggles over infrastructures, gender, culture, politics of resistance, race/racism, broad surveys on comparative and international politics of the Middle East, ethics of research, and a range of other subjects.

Research supervision

I love supervising doctoral students, mentoring postdoctoral researchers, and engaging with enthusiastic and intellectually curious early career scholars setting out to answer complex questions in critical and interesting ways.

My areas of supervision interest are related to what I feel I have the necessary expertise and experience to help develop and sharpen. I would very much love to be able to supervise critical and theoretically informed research on the politics and political economy of infrastructures and logistics; oil, hydrocarbons, energy and environment; the politics and history of corprations in the Middle East; the manifestations of gender/race/class and racial capitalism in the Middle East; and studies of the fusion between war and commerce.

With apologies, I do not have the requisite expertise to supervise research projects that focus on foreign policy analysis.



2005                 Ph.D. Political Science with distinction, Columbia University

Dissertation: Citizens of an Unborn Kingdom: Stateless Palestinian Refugees and Contentious Commemoration

Dissertation Committee: Lisa Anderson, Ira Katznelson, Rashid Khalidi, Anthony Marx, Charles Tilly

1999                 Master of International Affairs, School of International & Public Affairs, Columbia University

1991                 B.Sc. Chemical Engineering, University of Texas




2023                 The Corporeal Life of Seafaring (Mack Books, forthcoming).


2020                 Sinews of War and Trade (Verso).

Paperback edition with a new foreword issued in 2021.


2013                 Time in the Shadows:  Confinement in Counterinsurgencies (Stanford University Press).

Awarded the Susan Strange Best Book Award 2012 by the British International Studies Association;

Winner of the 2014 Best Book award of the International Political Sociology section of the ISA;

Selected as an “Outstanding Academic Title” of 2013 by Choice.


2007                 Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration (Cambridge University Press).


Edited Volumes


2010                 Policing and Prisons in the Middle East: Formations of Coercion. Co-edited with Jillian Schwedler (Hurst & Co./Oxford University Press).


2008                 Politics of the Modern Arab World: Critical Concepts, Volumes I through IV (Routledge).  Individual volumes are titled (I) State, Power and Political Economy; (II) Gender, Society, Culture; (III) Political and Social Movements; and (IV) International Politics and War.


Editorship of Special Journal Issues


2018                 Turbulent Circulation: Building a Critical Engagement with Logistics.  Co-edited with Charmaine Chua, Martin Danyluk and Deb Cowen. Environment and Planning D: Space and Society.

2013                 Water. Co-edited with Rutvica Andrijasevic. Feminist Review 103.


2008                 War.  Co-edited with Pam Alldred and Amal Treacher. Feminist Review 88.


Articles in Refereed Journals


2023                 “Crossings: Reflections on writing and thinking across” in American History Lab forum “On Transnational and International History,” American Historical Review 128:1 pp. 255-332.


2022                 “Humanitarianism and Racial Capitalism in the Age of Global Shipping” in European Journal of International Relations 29:3, pp. 374-397.


2022                 “Oceans of Finance and Commodification” in, Capitalism at Sea, special issue of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (ed. Nikolas Kosmatopoulos and Marwa El-Shakry) 42:1, pp. 135-139.


2021                 “Carceral Seas” in Millennium: Journal of International Studies 49(3): 462-471.


2018                 “Introduction: Turbulent Circulation: Building a Critical Engagement with Logistics” (co-authored with Charmaine Chua, Deborah Cowen and Martin Danyluk), in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 36:4, pp. 617-629.


2018                 “The infrastructural power of the military: The geoeconomic role of the US Army Corps of Engineers in the Arabian Peninsula” in European Journal of International Relations 24: 4, pp. 911-933.


2017                 “Pacifying Urban Insurrections” in Historical Materialism 25:2, pp. 115-130.


2016                 “Politics of Pleasure: Promenading on the Corniche and Beachgoing” in Society and Space 34:4, pp. 583-600.


2014                 “Scholar, Pope, Soldier, Spy” in Humanity 5:3, pp. 417-434.


2014                 “The Uses of Happiness in Counterinsurgencies” in Social Text 118, pp. 23-43.


2013                 “Thinking about Violence” in International Journal of Middle East Studies 45:4, pp. 791-794.


2011                 “Gendered Practices of Counterinsurgency” in Review of International Studies 37:4, pp. 1471-1491.


2010                 “The Location of Palestine in Global Counterinsurgencies” in International Journal of Middle East Studies 42:3, pp. 413-433.


2008                 “Massacres and Battles: Commemorating Contentious Moments in the Refugee Camps of Lebanon” in American Behavioral Scientist: Mediterranean Contention 51:11 (edited by Charles Tilly, Roberto Franzosi and Maria Kousis), pp. 1562-1574.


2007                 “‘Standing with my Brother’: Hizbullah, Palestinians, and the Limits of Solidarity” in Comparative Studies in Society and History 49:2, pp. 1-28.


2007                 “Heroic and Tragic Pasts: Mnemonic Narratives in the Palestinian Refugee Camps” in Critical Sociology 33:4, pp. 731-759.


2005                 “Places of Mourning and Memory: Palestinian Commemoration in the Refugee Camps of Lebanon” in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 25:1, pp. 30-45.


2004                 “Grassroots Commemorations: Remembering the Land in the Camps of Lebanon” in Journal of Palestine Studies 34:1, pp. 5-22.


Chapters in Edited Volumes


2021                 “Great Arab Ports” in Asef Bayat and Linda Herrera (eds.), Global Middle East: Into the 21st Century (University of California Press), 209-223.


2020                 “Ein Blick auf die Nation: vom Schiff zur Küste” (“Looking to the Nation: From Ship to Shore”) in Katrin Klingan, Nanna Heidenreich and Rana Dasgupta (eds.), Gezeitendenken: Recherchen abseits des nationalstaaten-systems (Tidal Thinking: Research beyond the nation-state system) (Matthes & Seitz Berlin).


2020                 “Adrift at Sea: Sailors Face COVID-19” in Jessie Kindig, Mark Krotov, and Marco Roth (eds.), There Is No Outside: Covid-19 Dispatches (Verso).


2015                 “Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency in the US War on Terror” in Jens Hanssen and Amal Ghazal (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Middle East Studies (Oxford University Press).


2014                 “The Utility of Proxy Detention in Counterinsurgencies” in Jan Bachmann, Colleen Bell, Caroline Holmqvist (eds.), War, Police and Assemblages of Intervention (Routledge), pp. 92-108.


2012                 “Al-Gindir wa Hurub Mukfaha Al-Tamarrud Al-Haditha” (Gender and Modern Counterinsurgencies) in Jean Said Makdisi et al (eds.), Al-Nasawiyya Al-Arabiyya: Rawiyya Al-Naqdiyya (Centre for Arab Unity Studies), pp. 473-482.


2010                 “The Ethics of Social Science Research” in Roger Heacock and Édouard Conte (eds.), Critical Research in the Social Sciences: A Transdisciplinary East-West Handbook (Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Centre for International Studies), pp. 65-82.


2010                 “Palestine and the Politics of Invisibility” in Muhammad Ali Khalidi (ed.), Manifestations of Identity: The Lived Reality of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon (Institute for Palestine Studies), pp. 125-145.


Also in Arabic in Muhammad Ali Khalidi (ed.), Tajalliat al-huwiyya: Al-waqi’ al-mu’ash l’ilaji’in al-filastiniyyin fi lubnan (Muassassa dirasat filastiniyya), pp. 149-171.


2010                 “Introduction” to Laleh Khalili and Jillian Schwedler (eds.) Policing and Prisons in the Middle East: Formations of Coercion (Hurst & Co./Columbia University Press), pp. 1-37.


2010                 “Tangled Webs of Coercion: The Parastatal Carceral Complex at Abu Ghraib” in Laleh Khalili and Jillian Schwedler (eds.) Policing and Prisons in the Middle East: Formations of Coercion (Hurst & Co./Columbia University Press), pp. 77-96.


2008                 “Incarceration and the state of exception: al-Ansar mass detention camp in Lebanon” in Ronit Lentin (ed.) Thinking Palestine (Zed Books), pp. 101-115.


2007                 “The Gender of Nakba Memory” co-authored with Isabelle Humphries in Ahmad Sa’di and Lila Abu-Lughod (eds.), Nakba: Palestine, 1948 and the Claims of Memory (Columbia University Press), pp. 207-227.


2007                 “Lieux de mémoire et de deuil: la commemoration palestinienne dans les camps de réfugiés au Liban” in Nadine Piacudou (ed.) Territoires palestiniens de mémoire (Karthala), pp. 191-218.


2005                 “Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon and the Right of Return” in Ian Lustick and Ann Lesch (eds.), Exile and Return: Predicaments of Palestinians and Jews (Stanford University Press), pp. 19-40.


 2005                “Virtual Nation: Palestinian Cyberculture in Lebanese Camps” in Rebecca Stein and Ted Swedenburg (eds.), Palestine/Israel and the Politics of Popular Culture (Duke University Press), pp. 126-149.


Essays in Art Books/Exhibition Catalogues


2023                 “Tomahawks, Chinooks, and Geronimo: Settler Colonial Fantasies of US Navy Seals” in Ronak Kapadia et al (eds.), Surviving the Long Wars (Hyde Park Art Centre, forthcoming).


2023           “Crude Sedimentation” in Isabella Kirkham Lewitt and Joanna Joseph (eds.), Sketches on Everlasting Plastics (book to accompany US contribution to the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023; Columbia Books on Architecture and the City), pp. 13-16. 

2021                 “Shipping Oil” in Daniela Zyman (ed.), Oceans Rising (Sternberg Press), pp. 126-131.


2018                 “Foreword” in Allan Sekula, Fish Story (Mack Books), pp. ii-ix.


2018                 “Za’tar” in Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe (eds.), The Empire Remains Shop (Columbia University Press), pp. 38-42.


2017                 “Carceral Seas” in Daniela Zyman and Cory Scozzari (eds.), Allan Sekula: Okeanos (Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary; Sternberg Press), pp. 50-59.


Non-Refereed Articles


2023                 “Agent Untraceable, Owner Not Responding: On Abandoned Seafarers”, in London Review of Books 54:7 (30 March).


2023                 “Guano to Guns” on Chagos Islands, in London Review of Books 45:4 (16 February).


2023                 “Response: Oceanic Politics”; forum on Sinews of War and Trade with Ikyo Day, Hatim El-Hibri, Kale Fajardo and Salar Mameni, in Critical Ethnic Studies Journal (forthcoming).


2022                 “In Clover: What Does McKinsey Do?” on the politics of management consulting, in London Review of Books 44:24 (15 December).


2022                 “COP27: In Sharm El-Sheikh” in London Review of Books 44:23 (1 December).


2022                 “We Blitzed It: On Inhabiting the Oil World”, London Review of Books 44:15 (4 August).


2022                 “Response: On the Politics of Oceanic Knowledge Production”; forum on Sinews of War and Trade with Fahad Bishara, Sharad Chari, Mae Miller and Rafeef Ziadah, in Dialogues in Human Geography, 2(2), pp. 354-356.


2022                 “Stupid Questions: Warlord Metaphysics” on the war to commerce pipeline, London Review of Books 44:4 (24 February).


2021                 “How to Get Rich” on commodity traders, London Review of Books 43:18 (21 September).


2021                 “Apocalyptic Infrastructures”, Noema Magazine, 23 March 2021.


2021                 “Growing Pains: New Silk Roads” on the Belt and Road Initiative, London Review of Books 43:6 (18 March).


2021                 “The Savor of Memory: Iranian Cookbooks” in Middle East Report Online, 9 February 2021.


2019                 “A World Built on Oil and Sand” in Lapham Quarterly 12:2 (Spring).


2017                 “The Roads to Power: The Infrastructure of Counterinsurgency” in World Policy Journal 34:1 (Spring), pp. 93-99.


2017                 “Ruh al-‘Amal al-Jadida” (“The New Spirit of Work”) in Al Thawra al-Da’ima 7 (February), pp. 127-136.


2013                 “Women in and after the Arab Uprisings.”  The text of Third Annual Sedighi Lecture, Institute of Social History. Amsterdam: International Institute of Social History.


2012                 “Fighting Over Drones” in Middle East Report 264 (Fall), pp. 18-22.


2011                 “Too Early to Tell: When Is a Revolution a Revolution?” in Revolution in the Arab World: The Long View. Occasional Paper published by Centre for Contemporary Arab Studies; Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service; Georgetown University, pp. 3-8.


2010                 “The New (and Old) Classics of Counterinsurgency” in Middle East Report 255 (Summer), pp. 14-23.


2008                 “On Torture” in Middle East Report 249 (Winter), pp. 32-38.


2006                 “The Refugees Who Give Refuge” in Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies, pp. 57-68.


2005                 “Landscapes of Uncertainty: Palestinians in Lebanon” in Middle East Report (Autumn), pp. 34-39.


2003                 “State of Social Science Research in Iran” in Lisa Anderson (ed.), State of Social Science Research in the Middle East (Social Science Research Council), 30 pages.


2002                 “Ru’iya Taliba Iraniyya Munahida li-l-‘Ulima” (“An Iranian Student’s View of Protest against Globalization [in Lebanon]”) in al-Adab 50:5/6 (May/June), pp. 54-61.


Works in Progress


2024                 “Crude Knowledge” (intended for Economy and Society or IJMES)


2025                 Quartermasters of Capital (in development; intended for Penguin)


2026                 Crude Knowledge: Finance, Automation and Laws (in development; intended for an academic press)


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