Stephen Sheehi, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Chair of Middle East Studies, Professor of Arabic Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, has received the 2018 Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence, celebrating exemplary achievements of William & Mary faculty in teaching, research, and service.
Prof. Sheehi’s work meets at the intersection of cultural, visual, art, and social history of the modern Arab world, starting with the late Ottoman Empire and the Arab Renaissance (al-nahdah al-‘arabiyah). His scholarly interests include photography theory, psychoanalysis, post-colonial theory, Palestine, and Islamophobia.
Prof. Sheehi’s forthcoming book, Camera Palaestina: The Seven Photography Albums of Wasif Jawhariyyeh (University of California Press, forthcoming) is co-authored with Salim Tamari and Issam Nassar. His contribution to the book, “On the Emergence of a Palestinian Spectator,” reevaluates the relationship between the Palestinian and the photographic archive, between the colonized and the colonizer and between the settler-Zionist and the native Palestinian. This research also serves as the theoretical foundation for a larger and broader, single authored book project, entitled Decolonizing Photography.
Prof. Sheehi is also writing along with Dr. Lara Sheehi, Psychoanalysis under Occupation. The research is an exploration of the intersubjective experience of Palestinians living under violent and violating Israeli occupation as interpreted not only by Palestinian psychoanalysts but cultural “workers,” artists, and film-makers. An early sample of the project can be found in Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society. Prof. Sheehi has received a NEH-FPIRI Fellowship to research the topic in Palestine in 2018.
The Arab Imago: A Social History of Indigenous Photography 1860-1910 (Princeton University Press, 2016) is Prof. Sheehi’s most recent book. It is a ground-breaking study on the history of photography in the Arab world. The research is the first to comprehensively research native studios in Alexandria, Beirut, Cairo, Jaffa, and Jerusalem as well as early Hajj photography in al-Hijaz during the late Ottoman period. In doing so, the book investigates and theorizes the relationship between indigenous photography, social transformations and the creation of modern Arab society in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine before World War One.
Prof. Sheehi’s most recent book is Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2011). The book examines the rise of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiments in the West following the end of the Cold War. Sheehi analyzes the relationship between United States foreign and domestic policies, cultural representations, and political discourses in mainstreaming of Islamophobia. The book has been translated into Arabic as al-Islamufobia: al-Hamlah al-idiulujiyah dud al-Muslimin translation by Fatimah Nasr (Cairo: Dar al-Sutour, 2012).
Foundations of Modern Arab Identity (University of Florida, 2004) is Prof. Sheehi’s first book, offering a new paradigm for thinking about the 19th century Arab Renaissance or al-nahdah al-`arabiyah. The book discusses how reformers such as Butrus al-Bustani, Salim al-Bustani, Farah Antun, and Jurji Zaydan offered a powerful cultural self-criticism alongside their advocacy of Arab “progress and civilization” in the face of European imperialism. In doing so, these Arab intellectuals established the epistemological foundation for Arab modernity that would always gauge their “failure” and “success” against ideals of colonializing Europe.
Prof. Sheehi has published in a variety of venues on Middle Eastern photography, art, literature, and intellectual history in venues such as Third Text, International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Critical Inquiry, The British Journal of Middle East Studies, Discourse, The Journal of Arabic Literature, Alif: Journal of Compartive Poetics, Critique, Jouvert, The Journal of Comparative South Asian, African, Middle Eastern Studies and Encyclopedia of Islam along within a number of other books. He has published commentaries in Psychoanalytic Activist, Common Dreams, Mondoweiss, Jadaliyya, and al-Adab.