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Jessica Winegar

Professor, Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Chair in Middle Eastern Studies

PhD New York University 2003


Research and teaching interests

Sociocultural Anthropology, cultural politics and culture industries, material and visual culture, aesthetics, the state, class, gender, intellectuals, Islam, Middle East and North Africa.


Jessica Winegar is a sociocultural anthropologist who specializes in cultural politics. Her body of work focuses on how people invest particular social arenas—such as art worlds, education, and political protest—with liberating potential, while at the same time re/producing hierarchies of gender, class, race/ethnicity, and generation. She is an anthropologist of the Middle East by training; her research and teaching draw on a range of disciplines and extend to how US institutions deal with the MENA region.

Winegar’s current book project, Counter-Revolutionary Aesthetics: How Egypt’s Uprising Faltered, examines how aesthetic forms, judgments, and practices play a central role in both delegitimizing revolutionary actions and in producing everyday right-wing attachments. It is based on ethnographic research carried out in Egypt before and after the 2011 uprising. This research and writing are supported by Fulbright, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Howard Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Her first book Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt (Stanford University Press, 2006) examined the intense debates over cultural authenticity and artistic value that accompanied market liberalization in Egypt in the 1990s and early 2000s. It developed the concept of reckoning to analyze how art became a primary site for dealing with the legacies of colonialism, socialism, and modernism in a context of competing state and private market interests in culture. The book was awarded the Albert Hourani Book Award for best book in Middle East Studies and the Arnold Rubin Outstanding Book Award in African studies.

Winegar's second book, co-authored with Lara Deeb, is Anthropology’s Politics: Disciplining the Middle East (Stanford University Press, Fall 2015).  The book uses Middle East anthropology as a lens through which to examine how national and global political-economic forces have enabled and constrained academic work from World War II through the War on Terror.  Based on ethnography and archival research, the book highlights the generational, racialized, and gendered aspects of academic politics as they intersect with the increasing militarization and corporatization of knowledge.

Winegar has also published numerous scholarly and popular articles on the 2011 uprising in Egypt, Middle Eastern visual arts and artists, U.S. media coverage of the Middle East, and on U.S. academia. Her articles have appeared in edited volumes and in publications such as American Ethnologist, Cultural Anthropology, Anthropological Quarterly, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Annual Review of Anthropology, October, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Review of Middle East Studies, Meridians, Middle East Culture and Communication, Middle East Report, Contemporary Practices, Critical Interventions and online at Jadaliyya, Ibraaz, and ArteEast

As a Public Voices Fellow of the Op-Ed Project, she published commentary on Muslims in the US, the Middle East uprisings, anthropology, and women in academia in The Hill, TruthOut, Chronicle of Higher Education, Huffington Post, and Scientific American among other publications.

Winegar has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, Social Science Research Council, Fulbright, the Howard Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.  She has enjoyed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of California at Berkeley, Cornell University, and the School for Advanced Research.

At Northwestern, she is a core member of the Program in Middle East and North African Studies.  This program has an undergraduate major and minor, as well as a Graduate Cluster and Certificate Program

Recent courses taught

  • State and Subject
  • Global Orients
  • Anthropology of the Middle East
  • Middle Eastern Popular Culture
  • Art and Material Culture
  • Culture and Consumption

Selected publications


Anthropology’s Politics: Disciplining the Middle East (Stanford University Press, 2015). Co-authored with Lara Deeb.

Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt (Stanford University Press, 2006).  Winner of the 2007 Albert Hourani Book Award, given by the Middle East Studies Association for the best book in Middle East studies and the Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication Award from the Arts Council of the African Studies Association.


2018 “Resonant Bodies: The Performance Art of Adham Hafez.” Middle East Journal of
Culture and Communication 11:123-140. (Special issue on dissent, arts, and the Arab spring.)

2016      “A civilized revolution: Aesthetics and Political Action in Egypt,” American Ethnologist 43:609-622.

2014 “Civilizing Muslim Youth: Egyptian state culture programmes and Islamic television preachers,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 20:445-465.

2012.  “Anthropologies of Arab-Majority Societies,” Annual Review of Anthropology 41:537-558.  Co-authored with Lara Deeb.

2012   “The Privilege of Revolution: Gender, Class, Space, and Affect in Cairo.” American Ethnologist 39(1), 67-70.

2011      “Egypt: A Multigenerational Revolt,” Jadaliyya,

2010    “Culture is the Solution: The Civilizing Mission of the Egyptian State,” Review of Middle East Studies 43(2): 189-197.

2010    “The Culture Concept in Political Struggle,” Introduction to Special Section, co-edited and co-authored with Amahl Bishara.  Review of Middle East Studies 43(2):164-167.

2009     “The Question of Africanity in North African Visual Culture,” Special issue of Critical Interventions:  Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture, Issue 5.  Co-edited with Katarzyna Pieprzak.  Co-authored introductory essay entitled “Africa North, South, and In Between.”

2008    “The Humanity Game: Art, Islam, and the War on Terror,” Anthropological Quarterly, 81(3):651-681.

2006    “Cultural Sovereignty in a Global Art Economy: Egyptian Cultural Policy and the New Western Interest in Art from the Middle East,”

Cultural Anthropology 21(2):173-204.

2005     “Of Chadors and Purple Fingers: U.S. Visual Media Coverage of the Iraqi Elections,” Feminist Media Studies 5(3):391-395.