Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Sarah A. Tobin

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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.

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.


Dr. Tobin’s book manuscript is Everyday Piety: Islam and the Economy in Amman, Jordan (2016, Cornell University Press). It draws on anthropological perspectives and 21 months of participant observation in Amman, Jordan, including the first ethnographic study conducted inside an Islamic bank. It argues that Muslim actors in urban Amman combine their interests in exerting a public and authentic—“real”— Islam with the opportunities and challenges of advanced capitalism, specifically in neoliberal formations as “neoliberal piety.”

Dr. Tobin has published one book manuscript, seven peer-reviewed articles, and a dozen editor-reviewed pieces, among others. She presents at international conferences and gives invited lectures frequently.

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.


2017 “Islamized Postal Savings: A Model for Risk Sharing.” In Urban Governance and Participatory Planning in the Middle East. Ed. Luna Khirfan. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

2016 “Islamic Headcovering and Political Engagement: The Power of Social Networks.” Co-Authored with Aubrey Westfall, Bozena Welborne, and Ozge Celik. Politics and Religion. Forthcoming.

“The Complexity of Covering: The Religious, Social and Political Dynamics of Islamic Practice in the United States.” Co-Authored with Aubrey Westfall, Bozena Welborne, and Ozge Celik. Social Science Quarterly. April. DOI: 10.1111/ssqu.12278.

Everyday Piety: Islam and Economy in Jordan. Cornell University Press.

2014 “‘Is it Really Islamic?’ Evaluating the ‘Islamicness’ of Jordan’s Islamic Banks.” Research in Economic Anthropology 2014, Vol. 34 (1):127-156.

“‘My Life is More Important Than Family Honor’: Offline Protests, Counter-Cyberactivism, and Article 308.” CyberOrient 2014, Vol. 8, Issue 1: http://www.cyberorient.net/article.do?articleId=8875.

2013 “Ramadan Blues: Debates in Pop Music and Popular Islam in Amman, Jordan.” Digest of Middle East Studies 2013, 22(2):292-316.


Islamic Economics

Cultures of the Contemporary Middle East

Displacement and Refugees in the Middle East

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