Middle East Studies

Maya Mikdashi – Afterlives of a Census: Inheritance, History, and Biopower in Contemporary Lebanon

event poster

Thursday, February 14, 2019

4:30 – 6:00 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute
111 Thayer St.

The Public Council at the Courts of Cassation is the final arbiter of jurisdiction disputes in Lebanon. The highest court that citizens have recourse to, the Council frequently rules on unresolved cases spanning fifteen different personal status laws and court systems. Its archives demonstrate the interface of personal status, civil, and criminal law. This lecture will focus on one of these archival case files, an inheritance dispute litigated by three generations of one family. Spanning a hundred years of documents, this case reveals legal continuities and ruptures across juridical regimes and invites us to rethink the enduring legacy of Lebanon’s first and only population census, conducted under French mandate in 1932. Drawing on archival research and ethnography of state institutions and civil servants, Maya Mikdashi explores state power and subjectivity through an emphasis on contingency, unknowability, and stubbornness.


Maya Mikdashi is an assistant professor at the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and a lecturer in the program in Middle East studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She is an interdisciplinary scholar of the state. Currently, she is completing a book manuscript that examines political difference, sexual difference, secularism, and state power in the contemporary Middle East from the vantage point of Lebanon.

Maya has been a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow from 2014-2016 at Rutgers University, and a Faculty Fellow/Director of Graduate Studies, Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University (2012-2014). She is a co-founding editor of the e-zine Jadaliyya.com.