Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Sarah A. Tobin

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Watson 322


Downloadable CV

Sarah A. Tobin

Associate Director of Middle East Studies

Dr. Sarah Tobin is an anthropologist with expertise in Islam, economic anthropology, and gender in the Middle East. Her work explores transformations in religious and economic life, identity construction, and personal piety at the intersections with gender, Islamic authority, and normative Islam, public ethics, and Islamic authenticity. Ethnographically, her work focuses on Islamic piety in the economy, especially Islamic banking and finance, Ramadan, and in contested fields of consumption such as the hijab and the Arab Spring. She has also started new research into these areas with Syrian refugees in Jordanian camps of Za`atari, Azraq, and Cyber City. 

Dr. Tobin is part of an international, interdisciplinary team of four scholars in political science, sociology, and anthropology examining the veiling practices of Muslim women in the U.S., including the largest survey of American Muslim women conducted to date. The latest publication from this project is “The Complexity of Covering: The Religious, Social and Political Dynamics of Islamic Practice in the United States” in Social Science Quarterly.

Most recently, Dr. Tobin was the Carnegie Visiting Scholar and assistant director of the Boston Consortium for Arab Region Studies at Northeastern University. Her research has been funded by Fulbright, Philanthropic Educational Opportunities (PEO), and the American Center for Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman, Jordan, among others


  1. Sarah A. Tobin. Everyday Piety: Islam and Economy in Jordan. Cornell University Press. February 2016. 

For papers and additional publications see: https://brown.academia.edu/SarahTobin/


MES 1999E Displacement and Refugees in the Middle East 

Displacement and refugees constitute one of the most significant sources of upheaval, instability, and uncertainty in our time. In 100 years, the Middle East saw waves of displaced persons, with no singular explanation and no end in sight: Armenians, Circassians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Yazidis, Kurds, and Syrians. The impetuses for displacement include wars, fall of empires and nations, crafting of new states, and modernization attempts and environmental disasters. These stories of displacement are distinctive for their multitude of causes and protracted defiance of resolutions. They challenge the narratives of the durability of nation-states, ascendancy of capitalism, and emplaced, “timeless” Arab populations.