Najib Hourani

HouraniAs an Assistant Professor appointed in Anthropology and the graduate Global Urban Studies Program (GUSP), Najib Hourani’s research and teaching reflects the commitment of both the College of Social Science and the Department of Anthropology to furthering interdisciplinary research at MSU. Trained in Middle East Politics (PhD NYU, 2005), and having taught History at Fordham University and International Affairs at the New School, Dr. Hourani engages in historically-anchored research that addresses the larger questions anthropologists today ask concerning the formation and transformation of cities, states and economies in post-colonial settings. “I feel lucky to work and teach at MSU,” Hourani says. “GUSP has been wonderfully supportive, and I am constantly impressed by my colleagues in Anthropology, who are doing research that is cutting edge in terms of the field and relevant to real world issues.”

Hourani’s primary research – in urban anthropology – examines the internal relations between the political and the economic in the production of space, place and power. He draws upon tensions between political economy approaches, Foucault’s notion of governmentality and Actor-Network Theory’s concept of assemblage to investigate why neoliberal policies – such as those the World Bank and USAID advocate – not only fail to bring about the promised prosperity, but actually strengthen decidedly illiberal politico-economic forces instead.  His work on neoliberal landscapes of consumption in Beirut and Amman – shopping malls and other elite enclaves – reveals that these are not simply “deterritorialized” spaces of global capital. Rather, he shows, they are produced by and, in turn, productive of powerful oligarchic networks that operate within Lebanon and Jordan and across the region. It is precisely the struggle against such ‘territorialized’ forces, Hourani argues, that animates the Arab Uprisings today.

While Hourani has been busy writing and lecturing on the Arab Uprisings, his focus remains upon the urban agenda.  In addition to a book chapter appearing in Peterson and McDonogh’s Global Downtowns (2011), he is co-editing, with Ahmed Kanna (Anthropology, University of the Pacific) a special issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs on neoliberal urbanism in the Arab World that features his most recent research on Amman. He is also co-editing a book with Edward Murphy, an Anthro-Historian (History, MSU) that explores how notions of house and home – central to internal relations between state and society and polity and economy – are pivotal in struggles for space, place and dignity in neoliberalizing cities around the world.  “I was delighted that Ed asked me to help on this project. It is a fascinating topic; and never having edited a volume such as this, I have learned a great deal from him in the process.” Both projects will be published in 2013.

Hourani’s other research track, on the anthropology of civil conflict in the context of globalization, focuses on the Lebanese Civil Wars (1975-90). Rather than examining questions of sectarianism, Hourani’s work, published in The New Centennial Review, GeoPolitics, Middle East Policy and a forthcoming volume on post-conflict environments (Monk and Mundy 2013), traces the transnationalization of the militia economy through financial networks that extended from Lebanon to Europe, the Persian Gulf and the United States, and explores the role of such networks in perpetuating the conflict, and, even today, obstructing the achievement of positive peace.