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Elias Muhanna


Stasis Shift: Guernica Interviews Jadaliyya Co-Founder Bassam Haddad

[Composite image of Jadaliyya Pages]

Jadaliyya co-founder on telling alternative stories about the Arab world, understanding the life cycles of revolution, and confronting “the weight of ancient problems.”   In the fall of 2010, I was crossing a crowded hotel lobby at the Middle East Studies Association convention in San Diego when a friend introduced me to the writer, editor, and scholar Bassam Haddad. “Bassam is starting a website,” she said. “You should know each other.” He slipped me a ...

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Lebanon’s New Government (15 February 2014)

After nearly eleven months (329 days to be exact), Lebanon has a new government. Some thoughts are forthcoming about why the process took so long, what happened to facilitate it, and what this suggests about a shifting regional picture on the situation in Syria, but in the meantime, here are some quick observations: There are twenty-three men in the cabinet and one woman. [Update: Alice Shabtini is a judge who previously headed the Military Appeals Tribunal, and ...

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Ubiquitous Liberalism: Amr Shalakany on Law and Revolution in Egypt

The legal historian Amr Shalakany gave a talk at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies a few days ago about his new book, Izdihār wa-Inhiyār al-Nukhba al-Qānūniyya al-Miṣriyya, 1805-2005 (“The Rise and Fall of the Egyptian Legal Elite, 1805-2005″). Shalakany is the Aga Khan Distinguished Visiting Professor of Islamic Humanities at Brown this term, visiting from the American University of Cairo. As this review ...

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Highly Unorthodox: The Week Lebanon Went Secular (And Ended Up More Sectarian Than Ever…)

[Mock Lebanese license plate, as part of 2005 anti-sectarian ad campaign. Image from]

When some future historian writes a chronicle of twenty-first-century Lebanon, she will likely devote a bemused footnote to the odd events of February 2013, when the country’s leaders saw fit to tear down a pillar of the confessional regime one week, only to erect another one a week later. On 11 February, the Justice Ministry ruled that the recent civil marriage of Khouloud Sukkarieh and Nidal Darwish was legal, thereby establishing a momentous precedent ...

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Will Civil Marriage End Lebanon’s Confessional System?

[Chart showing confessional allotment of parliamentary seats in Lebanon. Image from]

In tying the matrimonial knot last week, Kholoud Succariyeh and Nidal Darwish sliced through a cultural, legal, sectarian knot of Gordian proportions. The pair became the first couple in history to be wed in a civil marriage on Lebanese soil. Until last week, Lebanese citizens (or, only those who can afford it) have generally traveled to Cyprus to get hitched. The only way to do the deed inside Lebanon requires a contract issued by religious personal status authorities, with ...

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Elias Muhanna


Elias Muhanna is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Middle East Studies at Brown University, where he teaches courses on classical Arabic literature and Islamic intellectual history. He earned his PhD in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations from Harvard University in 2012, and was a Visiting Fellow at the Stanford University Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law in 2011-12. In addition to his academic scholarship, Muhanna writes extensively on contemporary cultural and political affairs in the Middle East for several publications, including The New York Times, The Nation, Foreign Policy, The Guardian, and The National, as well as at his widely-read blog, Qifa Nabki