Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Beshara Doumani

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Watson 319


Beshara Doumani

Director of Middle East Studies
Joukowsky Family Distinguished Professor of Modern Middle East History


Beshara Doumani is the Joukowsky Family Professor of Modern Middle East History and Director of Middle East Studies at Brown University.  He works on the social, economic, and legal history of Eastern Mediterranean. 

Doumani is also a public intellectual who writes on current events in the Middle East, on the ethics of knowledge production, and on the relationship between culture and politics. He led a team that produced a strategic plan for the establishment of a Palestinian museum, and recently received the Sawyer Seminar award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for his proposal, “Displacement and the Making of the Modern World: Histories, Ecologies, and Subjectivities.”

Doumani joined Brown after fourteen years at the University of California, Berkeley, but he is no stranger to the East Coast. He received his PhD from Georgetown University, and was first tenured at the University of Pennsylvania. Doumani was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.


Beshara Doumani's research focuses on the history of social groups, places, and time periods that have been silenced or erased by conventional scholarship on the early modern and modern Middle East. He contributes to the fields of social history, family history, and history of the Palestinians. Most of his writing is based on locally generated sources, especially registers of Ottoman shari`a (Islamic law) courts and family papers. 

 His forthcoming book, The Rightful Beneficiaries: A Social History of Family Life in Ottoman Syria, 1660-1860, questions Orientalist and nationalist assumptions about Arab societies. His first book, Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900, tells an intimate story about the transformation of Palestinian society during the Ottoman period.  Doumani is also editor of Family History in the Middle East: Household, Property and Gender; and of Academic Freedom After September 11.

Doumani is the organizer of a yearlong series of workshops, seminars, courses, and cultural activities for a Mellon Sawyer Seminar, “Displacement and the Making of the Modern World. The Seminar explores displacement as a global and historically enduring phenomenon; as an ecological and technological phenomenon; and as a discursive field.



The Rightful Beneficiaries: A Social History of Family Life in Ottoman Syria, 1660-1860 (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press).

Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900

Family History in the Middle East: Household, Property and Gender (editor)

Academic Freedom After September 11 (editor).

Select Articles

“Archiving Palestine and the Palestinians: The Patrimony of Ihsan Nimr.” Jerusalem Quarterly, 36 (Winter 2009). 4-12.

“A Passing Storm or a Structural Shift? Challenges to Academic Freedom in the United States after September 11.” In Willem B. Drees and Pieter Sjoerd van Koningsveld, Eds. The Study of Religion and the Training of Muslim Clergy in Europe. Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2008. 219-241.

“Palestine Versus the Palestinians? The Iron Laws and Ironies of a People Denied.” Journal of Palestine Studies, 36:4 (Summer, 2007). 1-16.

“Le contrat salam et les relations ville-campagne dans la Palestine ottomane.” Annales HSS, juillet-aout 2006, No. 4. 901-924.

“Adjudicating Family: The Islamic Court and Disputes Between Kin in Greater Syria, 1700-1860.” In Beshara Doumani, Editor. Family History in the Middle East: Household, Property, and Gender. Albany: SUNY Press, 2003. 173- 200.

“Rediscovering Ottoman Palestine: Writing Palestinians into History.” In Ilan Pappe, editor, The Israel/Palestine Question: Rewriting Histories. London and New 

“Endowing Family: Waqf, Property Devolution and Gender in Greater Syria, 1800-1860.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 40:1 (1998). 3- 41.