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Beshara Doumani is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of California at Berkeley. His interest is in recovering the social and cultural history of groups, places, and time periods ignored by conventional scholarship on the modern Middle East. His books highlight the ethics and politics of writing people into history, and he uses locally produced sources—family papers, material culture, and legal records—to show how large historical transformations are negotiated in everyday life.
At the Radcliffe Institute, Doumani will try to understand why it is that the inhabitants of two sister cities in the eastern Mediterranean—Tripoli and Nablus—have different understandings of what constitutes family. His comparative study of the historical development of the relationship among Islamic law, gender, and property devolution strategies from the 1660s to the 1860s unsettles the assumptions about the nature of the Arab or Muslim family that shape current scholarship on Islam, gender, and modernity.
Doumani received his PhD from Georgetown University and taught at the University of Pennsylvania for eight years before joining the Berkeley faculty. He is the author of Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700–1900 (University of California Press, 1995) and editor of two anthologies, Family History in the Middle East: Household, Property, and Gender (State University of New York Press, 2003) and Academic Freedom after September 11 (Zone Books, 2006). Doumani has been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.