Graduate Students

CMES has long been a bastion of interdisciplinary scholarship, collectivity, and exchange. The last decade has witnessed a flourishing of CMES faculty and graduate students at UCSB across disciplines (Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences) and methodology (archival, ethnographic, quantitative, qualitative). CMES organizes events geared to the campus academic community and broader public, including conferences, film series, musical performances, lectures, and book talks. CMES is not a degree granting institution but supports graduate studies of the Middle East, North Africa, and Islam through funding, conferences, symposia, and workshops. CMES’s interdisciplinary strengths are based on three core guiding principles: prioritizing horizontal collaboration with our counterparts in the Middle East and North Africa; committing to collective uplift; and centering graduate students as leaders across various fields. Here, we highlight the work of graduate students at UCSB whose research focuses on the region. 

CMES Graduate Student Fellows

Summer 2021 Gehad Abaza (Anthropology), Ali Derafshi (History of Art & Architecture), Amy Fallas (History), Samira Fathi (History of Art & Architecture), Tina Guirguis (Global Studies), Wael Hegazy (Religious Studies), Alice Kezhaya (Global Studies), Sarp Kurgan (Global Studies), Ibrahim Mansour (History), Richard Nedjat-Haiem (Comparative Literature), Sergey Saluschev (History), Mesadet Sözmen (Global Studies), Rachel Winter (History of Art & Architecture), Leila Zonousi (Global Studies).

Winter 2022 Gehad Abaza (Anthropology), Gokh Alshaif (History), Ali Derafshi (History of Art & Architecture), Anahit Galstyan (History of Art & Architecture), Isaac Miller (History), bridge mcwaid (History), Salma Shash (History), Abylay Stambayev (History).

Spring 2022 Kareem Abdelbary (History), Jared Holton (Music).

Summer 2022 Kareem Abdelbary (History), Gokh Alshaif (History), James Altman (Global Studies), Amy Fallas (History), Tina Guirguis (Global Studies), Sebaah Hamad (Comparative Literature), Isaac Miller (History), bridge mcwait (History), Salma Shash (History), Noosha Uddin (Political Science).

Fall 2022 Gehad Abaza (Anthropology), Deena Al-Halabieh (English), Amy Fallas (History), Sebaah Hamad (Comparative Literature), Wael Hegazy (Religious Studies), Ibrahim Mansour (History), Richard Nedjat-Haiem (Comparative Literature).

Summer 2023 Gehad Abaza (Anthropology), Ali Derafshi (History of Art & Architecture), Anthony Greco (History), Tina Guirguis (Global Studies), Amy Fallas (History), Fidel Kilic (Music), Mary Michael (Film & Media), Salma Shash (History), Abylay Stambayev (History), Kira Weiss (Music), Jesse Wesso (History).

Summer 2024 Gehad Abaza (Anthropology), Kareem Abdelbary (History), Gokh Alshaif (History), Alexandra Birch (History), Camilla Falanesca (History), bridge mcwaid (History), Mary Michael (Film and Media Studies), Isaac Miller (History), Salma Shash (History), Noosha Uddin (Political Science), Giovanni Vimercati (Film and Media Studies).

CMES Graduate Student Affiliates

Gehad Abaza

Gehad Abaza’s research interests include forced migration and refugee studies, the anthropology of the state, processes of racialization, the anthropology of war, and memory. Her doctoral research focuses on the “return” migration of Syrians of Circassian descent to the unrecognized state, Abkhazia, and the active role they play as agents in its state formation. The working title of her dissertation is, “Building a House, Crafting a State: Syrian-Circassian Wartime Migration in Abkhazia.” She has an MA in Sociology-Anthropology and a BA in Political Science from the American University in Cairo. Before pursuing her PhD in the Anthropology Department at UCSB, she was a journalist and photographer in Egypt, covering stories related to refugee, worker, and detainee rights. Her work has been published in various local and regional outlets.

Kareem Abdelbary



Kareem M. Abdelbary is a PhD student in the department of history at UCSB. He studies the political economy and social history of the modern Middle East, with a focus on economic nationalism and subaltern movements in 20th century Egypt. He holds a MA in political economy from the University of Manchester and BA in Political Science and History from the American University in Cairo.

Deena Al-halabieh

Deena Al-halabieh is an MA/PhD student in the Department of English at UCSB. She also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from the Pennsylvania State University and studies eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Arabic and Anglophone slave narratives as well as the relationships between Palestinian and Black communities in the twentieth- and twenty-first century. Her fields of study include Black Studies, Islamic Studies, and Translation Studies with a focus on translation and reader-response theories to consider how the introduction of Arabic literary and cultural traditions in enslaved African Muslim writings expand and redefine the slave narrative genre in the Anglophone tradition. Her provisional dissertation title is: “Princes Among Slaves: Orientalism, Race, and Religion in 18th-19th Century US Arabic Slave Narratives.”

Gokh Amin Alshaif


Gokh Amin Alshaif is a PhD student in the Department of History at UCSB. Her research focuses on gender, race, and racialization in the Arabian Peninsula and the broader Middle East. Gokh’s dissertation “Native Outsiders: Black Yemenis in 19th and 20th Century Yemen” is a social history of Yemen’s marginalized Black Muhamasheen community. It draws on Middle East Studies, Indian Ocean Studies, and Black Studies to recenter Yemen as a global anchor of East Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. She holds an MA in Global & International Studies and BAs in Political Science and Religious Studies.

Sadaf Delawar


Sadaf Delawar is an MA student in the Department of Global Studies at UCSB. Her MA thesis is entitled, “A Chronicle of the Afghan Refugee Crisis: Response and Responsibility.” Her MA focus is on issues concerning Afghan refugees and as an Afghan-American herself, Sadaf is most interested in chronicling the refugee journeys of Afghans in the last 40 years and examining the international response to the decades of instability and displacement. She has a B.A. in Government and Global Studies from St. Lawrence University. Before beginning her graduate studies at UCSB, Sadaf held a CORO Fellowship, working in with non-profit organizations in Pittsburgh.

Ali Derafshi

Ali Derafshi is a Ph.D. candidate in UCSB’s Department of History of Art and Architecture. Ali’s research focuses on the architectural exchange between the United States and Iran, which has been facilitated and mediated through travel, migration, and exile during the twentieth century. It  addresses the significance and popularity of Iranian and Persian-inspired architecture in California, which has been understudied or overlooked in three fields: California architectural history; Iranian architectural historiography; and the Iranian migration, exile, and diaspora studies. His dissertation is tentatively titled “Iranian and Persian-inspired Architecture in California: Memāri-e Irāni in the Land of Sunshine.” He has an MA in Architecture from McGill University, a MA in Landscape Architecture, and a BA Architecture from Iran.

Camilla Falanesca



Camilla Falanesca is a PhD student in the Department of History at UCSB. She studies the modern Middle East, with a focus on North Africa. Her research centers on the intersection between political economy and memory studies. She holds a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies from Leiden University, and a BA in Languages, Culture and Society of Asia and Mediterranean Africa from Ca’Foscari University of Venice.

Amy Fallas

Amy Fallas is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at UCSB. She received her MA in History from Yale University and is currently an Assistant Editor at the Arab Studies Journal. Her research explores ethnic and religious minorities, the development of sectarianism, and the formation of charitable networks in modern Egypt at the intersection of Middle East history, archival studies, and religious studies. She is currently a Research Fellow at the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) for the 2021-2022 year working on her dissertation “The Gospel of Wealth: Charity and the Making of Modern Egypt, 1879-1939.” She also writes public-facing scholarship which appears in the Washington Post, Jadaliyya, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Contingent Magazine, The Revealer, and more.

Miguel Fuentes

Miguel Fuentes (he/him) is a PhD candidate in the Department of Global Studies at UCSB, a Graduate Research Fellow in UCSB’s Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, and a Data and Research Analyst in the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles. He has a BA in International Relations from El Colegio de México. Miguel’s research explores the intersections of sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, Latin America and MENA, LGBTIQ+ movements, urban studies and security studies. Miguel’s dissertation traces the global supply chains of HIV antirretrovirals, abortifacient pills, and hormone therapy for trans people in Mexico and Egypt as sites of global and regional knowledge production. He aims to understand how the markets, laws and pills circulating alter the ways we live our sexuality.

Anthony Greco


Anthony Greco is a PhD candidate specializing in modern Middle East history. His research on engineers and engineering in Egypt explores the intertwined histories of colonialism, science, and environment during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By detailing Egypt’s long tradition of scientific knowledge production and pedagogy, this project dismantles Eurocentric assumptions about the origins and practices of science. His teaching focuses on the history of expertise in global perspective in order to revisit and rethink critical science studies in light of the contemporary rise of science skepticism.

Tina Guirguis

Tina Guirguis is currently pursuing her PhD in Global Studies at UCSB. Her research examines the biopolitical and bioeconomic dimensions of contemporary sanitation infrastructure mega-projects, hygiene campaigns, wastewater surveillance, and excremental politics in India and Egypt. She pays particular attention to how gender, hygiene, and social norms are not only enforced through sanitation initiatives, but made into moral codes which take on new dimensions within speculative bioeconomies of excremen

Eliz Hale


Eliz Hale is a MA/PhD student in the Department of Religious Studies. Her research interests include the Arabic language, Islam in the US, the psychology of religious experiences, jinn, aliens, and everything weird. Her prospective thesis title is “Sometimes the Cure is as Non-Material as the Disease: Abduction, Possession, and Treatment Modalities of the Spiritual.” She received her BA in International Studies with a concentration in Middle Eastern and North African Studies from Colorado State University.

Sebaah Hamad


Sebaah Hamad is a PhD student in the Comparative Literature program at UCSB. Sebaah works on trauma, memory, and spatial studies, particularly as they relate to gender and race. Her three fields are Modern Arabic Literature, Afro-Diasporic Women’s Literature, and the intersectionalities of Media + Environment + Injustice. Sebaah’s MA thesis was titled, “Poetics of Memory and Space in Palestinian Women’s Life Writings” and her prospective dissertation is titled, “Mapping Saris from Site of Memory to Imagined Future.” She has an MA in Comparative Literature from UCSB and a BA in English Literature from Le Moyne College.

Wael Hegazy

Wael Hegazy is a Ph.D. candidate in the Religious Studies department at UCSB. His research is on Islamic studies with a special focus on Digital Islam, Virtual Ummah, and Online Muslim communities. His recent publications include “Muslim Online Prayer in a Socio-Cultural Context,” in CyberOrient (2020) and “The Salience of Saintliness in Islam” in Teosofi: Jurnal Tasawuf dan Pemikiran Islam (2021) In 2008, he graduated from the department of Islamic studies at Al Azhar University in Egypt. In 2015, he received his M.A. degree in Islamic studies and Orientalism.

Jared Holton


Jared Holton is a PhD Candidate and Chancellor’s fellow in Ethnomusicology with an interdisciplinary emphasis in Global Studies. His research explores the living musical traditions of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, in Tunisia and Libya. His dissertation examines performance practice, music theory, and pedagogy within the Tunisian tradition and demonstrates how humans network feeling, ideology, and experience onto musical structures. Jared is currently the co-chair for the Society for Arab Music Research.


Alice Kezhaya


Alice Kezhaya is a PhD student in the Global Studies Department at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She has an MA in Transnational American Studies from the American University of Beirut. Her research explores ‘race’ in the Middle East; she is primarily studying racialization in Beirut through proximity to waste. Alice is deeply interested in Southwest Asian/North African history and the history of the Global South more broadly, critical environmental justice, critical race and migration studies, infrastructure, and cultural studies.

Sarp Kurgan

Sarp Kurgan is a PhD candidate in Global Studies at UCSB. His research focuses on political theory and intellectual history in the Middle East during the mid-twentieth century. He has published two articles,“From Discourse to Action: An Analysis of Securitization Policies in Turkey” and “Turkey and Covid-19: Facing a Global Crisis during a Domestic Crisis,” as well as several review essays. His dissertation title is “Revolutionary Intellectuals: Progressive Political Thought, Intellectual-State Relations, and Hegemonic Confrontations in Turkey and the Middle East, 1930-1960.” He completed his BA in Political Science and International Relations and MA in Modern Turkish History at Boğaziçi University.

bridge mcwaid


bridge mcwaid is a PhD student in the Department of History at the UCSB specializing in the history of modern Palestine. Her project explores the history of the Nakba through the prism of food. By tracing the various circuits of making, preparing, and distributing food, it sheds new light on the environment, land, indigeneity, and settler colonialism. She holds an MA in Environmental History from the University of Chicago and a BA in Global Studies from UCSB.

Mary Michael

Mary Michael is a PhD candidate in the Film and Media Studies department at UCSB. She works on smart city projects in the Middle East, with particular focus on anti-migrant technologies in the Arabian Peninsula. Her fields of study include migration and labor in the Middle East, histories of media and technology, critical data studies, and bio/necropolitics. Mary is also a self-taught media practitioner who experiments with arts praxis methodologies including 3D model building, game design, and hyperlink narrative writing. Her dissertation is tentatively titled Media that Matters: Histories of Data Materialization in the Arabian Peninsula. She has a B.S. in Sociology/Law and Society from the UC, Riverside, and an M.A. in Cinema and Media Studies from USC.

Isaac Paul Miller


Isaac Paul Miller is a PhD student in the Department of History at UCSB. He has an MA in Middle East Studies from the American University in Cairo. Isaac studies 20th century Egypt, focusing political economy, monetary and financial history, and state formation. He hopes to write his dissertation on financial and monetary regulation in Egypt through the first half of the 20th century culminating in the formation of Egypt’s central bank in the early 1960’s.

Richard Nedjat-Haiem

Richard Nedjat-Haiem is a PhD student in the Department of Comparative Literature at UCSB. Richard works on the intersectionalities of socio-lingustics, performance, gender, ethnomusicological, and anthropological studies of Middle Eastern popular culture. His three fields include Mizrahi Studies (the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa), Persian performance studies with a focus on the Tehrangeles diaspora and Gulf Studies with a focus on the socio-linguistics of the Gulf in Popular culture. His prospective dissertation is titled “The Dubai Effect: The Transnational Diva, The White Dialect and the Multi-Dialectical song.” He has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic from the University of Chicago.

Eugene Riordan

Eugene Riordan Jr (he/him/his) is a PhD student in the Global Studies Department at UCSB. He has a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies and International Relations from Colgate University. Eugene works at the intersection of sex work, pornography, and trafficking with security technologies globally. He focuses on queer and trans individuals in Palestine and Thailand. His perspective dissertation is titled “Bodies, Affects, Freedoms: Detangling Security Apparatuses in Trafficking Discourses.”

Soha Saghazadeh

Soha Saghazadeh is a PhD student in the Department of Film and Media Studies at UCSB from where they have received their master’s degree. Soha also has an MFA in Media Arts from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Their work examines the ways in which Iran as a nation-state enacts itself through contemporary media practices that air Iran from intersecting national, regional, and global terrains. These media practices include social media and diasporic publics; a popular film festival and imperial screenings; indigenous drone industry and piratical reverse-engineering; exilic satellite television and risky jamming; missile killing and transnational mourning. Soha’s main areas of study are the nation(s) and media: the case of Iran; media and mediation: global south perspectives; the state and global public sphere. Their dissertation is tentatively titled: “Airing Iran: Spinning the Nation-State Off the Axis of Evil.”

Salma Shash


Salma Shash is a PhD student in the department of history at UCSB. She studies the modern Middle East, with a focus on gender and criminality in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Egypt. Before coming to UCSB, she worked at Nazra for Feminist Studies, a feminist Egyptian collective, between 2016-2019. She holds a master’s degree in Middle East Politics from SOAS, University of London. She is among the founding members of the “bread and freedom” party in Egypt.

Mesadet Sözmen


Mesadet Sözmen is a PhD candidate in the Department of Global Studies at UCSB. She is mainly interested in gender and sexuality studies in the Middle East, women’s intellectual history and Turkey’s political history. Her dissertation, tentatively titled “Gender, state, and women in Turkey: The making of and challenge against conservative consensus in 1935-1960,” studies the project of state feminism in Turkey through the writings of independent women intellectuals and elite women’s press from the 1930s to 1960. She received her BA in 2014, and MA in 2016 from the department of Political Science and International Relations at Boğaziçi University.

Reem Taha

Reem holds an MA in English literature with a collaborative degree in Book History and Print Culture from the University of Toronto. In her doctoral work, she specializes in Mediterranean Studies, Andalusi Studies, Travel writing and Memory Studies, and is completing doctoral emphases in Medieval Studies and Translation Studies. Her research focuses on the fifteenth- to seventeenth-century Ibero-African Mediterranean frontier, outlining a comparative and interdisciplinary study of the Moriscos (Muslims forcibly converted to Catholicism in early modern Iberia). She studies the role that Moriscos played in the translation and transmission of texts between Arabic and European languages, as well as their resonance in early modern Spanish and English literatures. 

Esra Tunc

Esra Tunc is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at UCSB. She is an ethnographer of religion and economic practices, and her work is invested in imagining modalities of living based on care and solidarity amid economic and technological structures. Her doctoral dissertation examines the intersection of investment and philanthropy in financial settings within American Muslim contexts and aims to contribute to the study of religion and capital in light of feminist, critical race, and environmental studies. This research has been supported by grants and awards from the Social Science Research Council, Indiana University (Lilly Family School of Philanthropy), and the University of California.

Noosha Uddin


Noosha Uddin is a political science Ph.D student at UCSB, focusing on citizenship, labor migration, and energy transitions in the Middle East and North Africa. Her dissertation research, Labor Migration in a Low-Carbon Future, examines labor migration trends of working-class laborers in the Persian Gulf, primarily on the mechanisms of the kafala system within petroleum revenue-dependent states and their shift to clean energy practices, and transactional relationships between migrant-sending and migrant-receiving states. She earned B.As in Political Science and in Economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Giovanni Vimercati

Giovanni Vimercati is a PhD student in the Department of Film & Media Studies at UCSB. His research focuses on the political economy of film and media, and the cinema of Arab Jews. His work, often under the pseudonym Celluloid Liberation Front, has appeared in Cinema Scope, The New Arab, Los Angeles Review of Books, Variety, The Guardian, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, and other international publications. He has published a chapter on Jocelyne Saab’s “Beirut Trilogy” (From Class Struggle to Sectarian Warfare) in an edited collection published by Edinburgh University Press in 2021 and is currently working on a book about the political economy of Lebanon’s film industry (1919-1989) that will be published by Bloomsbury. He received a BA in Film Studies from the London Metropolitan University and an MA in Media Studies from the American University of Beirut.

Kira Weiss

Kira Weiss is a Ph.D. student in Ethnomusicology at UCSB. Focusing on the history of the cello in eastern Arab music, her research brings together issues of heritagization, nationalism, and cultural policy. Kira’s research is historical, ethnographic, and practice-based. Having worked as a semi-professional cellist, she approaches her work as a musician and studies with several prominent cellists in Arab music. Kira uses the history of the cello in Arab music as a case study to develop the concept of “cultural security,” the articulation between cultural policy and national security discourse. Initially perceived as a threat to the affective and aesthetic authenticity of Arab music in the immediate post-colonial period, the cello has become a standard instrument in Arab music ensembles. Focusing on Egyptian Arab music, Kira uses the cello as a case study to analyze shifts in Egyptian cultural policy and national narratives over the last century.

Rachel Winter

Rachel Winter is a Ph.D. Candidate in the History of Art & Architecture at UCSB. Rachel’s dissertation, “A Spectacle of Inclusion: The Rise of Contemporary Art from the Arab World, Iran, and Turkey in the United States and England, 1970-2020,” investigates the way art museums in the US and the UK developed an interest in the idea of contemporary art from the Middle East. This project reflects her larger research interests in contemporary art from West Asia and North Africa, festivals, craft, and museology. Rachel received her MA in Interdisciplinary Studies: Islamic in Middle Eastern Studies (2017) and her BA in Art History with honors (2015), both from the University of Iowa. She is currently Assistant Curator at the Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.

Leila Zonouzi



Leila Zonouzi is a PhD Candidate in Global Studies at UCSB. Her dissertation research is a comparative diasporic study between Iran, Egypt, and Turkey, where she looks at the new wave of mass-migration from the MENA region to the Global North following the social movements that occurred in the 2010s. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA.