Previous IRCPL Visiting Scholars

2015-16 Visiting Research Scholars

Ibrahim Bechrouri is a graduate student from the French Institute of Geopolitics of the University of Paris 8.  After a research project in 2012 on “Issues and Representations around the United States Foreign Policy in Morocco,” he spent time as a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion at Columbia University and led field research on the surveillance of Muslim communities by the New York Police Department. He is presently a Fulbright grantee working on his PhD dissertation, titled Geopolitical approach of counter-terrorism strategies of the New York Police Department: a multiscale analysis.


George Gavrilis recently served as Executive Director of the Hollings Center for International Dialogue (Washington, DC and Istanbul, Turkey). Previously, he was as an International Affairs Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations and worked with the United Nations on various policy initiatives on Central Asia and Afghanistan. He taught international relations and comparative politics in the Department of Government at the University of Texas-Austin and has a PhD in political science from Columbia University. He is author of The Dynamics of Interstate Boundaries (Cambridge University Press, 2008), and his current research interests include foreign policy, post-conflict institution building, international development, judicial politics, and oral history.  He has conducted extensive research in the Middle East and Central Asia.


Manjari Mahajan is Assistant Professor at the International Affairs Program of the New School University in New York City.  Her research interests are in the history and politics of health, environment, and science in the global South.  Her work examines how scientific and technical knowledge intersect with public life, and produce new kinds of political, ethical, and legal orders.  Her current research is on the emergence of new ethical regimes in global health, the role of philanthropies in shaping norms of accountability in science, and novel understandings of publics and public goods in developing countries.  During her sabbatical leave, she will be completing a book on the AIDS epidemics in India and South Africa.  Mahajan received her PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University. She holds a MSc in Science Policy from SPRU at Sussex University, and a BA from Harvard University.


Graciela Mochkofsky is an Argentine journalist and author. She has published six books, and is currently working on her seventh, an investigation on an unprecedented wave of massive and unmediated conversions into Judaism throughout Latin America, to be published in the United States by Knopf. Her work was nominated to the Lettre Ulysses Award for Literary Reportage in Berlin in 2004. She was a 2009 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, a 2014 fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and a 2014-15 Prins Foundation fellow at the Center for Jewish History. She is also a New York University visiting scholar. She holds a Masters degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.


Sam Haselby is a historian of religion and American political culture. He was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and has been a faculty member at the American University of Beirut and the American University in Cairo. His writings on U.S. politics and religion in historical perspective have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, the Guardian, and the Boston Globe. His The Origins of American Religious Nationalism (Oxford University Press, 2015) shows that Protestantism played the dominant role shaping early nineteenth century US political culture. The New York Review of Books called it “impressive and powerfully argued… a book to be reckoned with.” He is a Senior Editor at Aeon, a digital publication, and is working on a book about Anglo-American missionaries and the opium trade.


Hossein Radmard is Assistant Professor at Department of Economics in American University of Beirut, where he teaches several courses in economics including Economics of Religion. His research interests are development, political economy, and role of informal institutions in development process. He wrote his dissertation on the link between entrepreneurship and religiosity in the U.S. counties. Since 2013 when he moved to Lebanon, he has been working on several projects including a comparative study of political Islam in Egypt, Iran, and Turkey. The focus of this project is the structure and the evolution of constitutions in these three countries.


Aaron Rock-Singer is a social and intellectual historian of contemporary Islam and a PhD candidate in Princeton’s Near Eastern Studies department. His dissertation explores the emergence of the Islamic Revival in Sadat’s Egypt (1970-1981) and draws on Islamic magazines, audiocassette sermons, and television programs to chart the key projects and players within this religious shift. By focusing on “public” religious practices – most notably daily prayer within government-run schools and bureaucratic institutions, practices of modest dress and comportment, and alternative models of religious literacy – it bridges between intellectual histories that trace the changing ideas of religious elites and social histories that focus on local practice. This close analysis of changing models of public religiosity highlights not only the stakes of religious contestation within 20th century Egypt but also the interaction of of Muslim Brothers, Salafis, state-affiliated scholars, bureaucrats, and middle class Egyptians in this process.


Bahar Tabakoglu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the New School For Social Research. In her current dissertation, tentatively titled Social Constituents of Religious Politics: Islamist Labor Unionism in Turkey and Hindu Labor Unionism in India, she examines labor unionism in Turkey and India with an eye to filling the gap in the literature on religious politics by analyzing its social constituents, the working class component in particular. Her research interests lie at the intersection of political sociology, sociology of religion, sociology of labor, modern Turkey, and India. Her research and teaching interests extend as well to modern social movements, civil society and state theory, classical sociological theory, modern social thought, and research methods. Her dissertation has won the support of various grants and fellowships from the New School For Social Research and she has been a student fellow at the India China Institute of the New School since 2011.


Maria Achton Thomas is a Ph.D. candidate with the Faculty of Law at National University of Singapore (NUS). Supported by the NUS Graduate Research Scholarship, she is researching to what extent legal regulation of religious freedom can promote religious harmony and integration of religious minorities, using Singapore as a case study. She holds an LL.M. (Comparative & International Law) from National University of Singapore (2013) and an LL.B (hons.) from London Metropolitan University (2006). Prior to 2012 Maria was a practicing public law lawyer in the United Kingdom, specialising in asylum and human rights law.


Debora Tonelli is researcher at Bruno Kessler Foundation (Trent, Italy), Dept. of Religious Studies and Applied Ethics, and Invited Lecturer in Political Philosophy and Theology at Pontifical Athenaeum S. Anselmo and at Gregoriana University (Roma).Moving from her background in Political Philosophy (PhD 2005, in Rome and Frankfurt/M) and Theology (PhD 2012, in Rome and Münster), her current research and teaching activities are focused on the interaction between those two main fields, specifically inside the wider context of interreligious dialogue, with a key focus on the relationship between violence and biblical religion. The influence of literary images in the construction process of religious imagery supporting a violent conception of divinity and justifying violence in the name of God, is part of those fundamental political studies.


Marko Vekovic is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at University of Belgrade, Serbia, where he serves as Teaching Assistant on undergraduate courses “Religion and Politics” and “Religious Communities in Serbia”. He holds both BA and MA degrees in Political Science from University of Belgrade. At the moment he is working on his dissertation entitled “Orthodoxy and Democracy: Explaining the Ambivalence of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Democratization Process of Serbia since 1991”. In 2014 he was appointed as Visiting Research Scholar in Religion Department at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. His latest work has appeared in Democratization, as well as in the edited volume Decentering Discussions on Religion and State published by Lexington Books. His research and teaching interests are focused on religion and politics, religion and democratization, political ambivalence of religious actors and interreligious dialogue.


2014-15 Distinguished Visiting Scholars

Emad Shahin

Emad Shahin is a visiting professor of political science at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the editor-in-chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics. He is professor of public policy, the American University in Cairo (on leave). Currently based in the U.S., he is also a distinguished visiting scholar at Columbia University. His areas of interest include Comparative Politics, Islam and Politics, Political Economy of the Middle East, and Democracy and Political Reform in Muslim societies. Shahin holds a Ph.D. (1989) from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, M.A. (1983) and BA (1980) from the American University in Cairo. A prolific author, Shahin authored, co-authored and co-edited six books and has more than 50 scholarly publications including journal articles, book chapters and encyclopedia entries. His publications include Political Ascent: Contemporary Islamic Movements in North Africa; co-editorship with Nathan Brown of The Struggle over Democracy in the Middle East and North Africa; and co-authorship of Islam and Democracy (in Arabic). He is the editor-in-chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics and co-editor with John L. Esposito of The Oxford Handbook of Islam and Politics.

George Rupp

George Rupp, is a Columbia University President Emeritus, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, adjunct professor of religion, public health, and international affairs at Columbia University, and a founding principal at NEXT: Transition Advisors, a consulting partnership for academic, cultural, and social service organizations.

Dr. Rupp served as President of the International Rescue Committee from 2002 to 2013.  As the IRC’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Rupp led a staff of more than 12,000 colleagues and oversaw the agency’s relief and development operations in over 40 countries and its refugee resettlement and assistance programs in 22 cities in the United States.  During his tenure, the budget of the IRC tripled (to over $450 million).  The IRC also closed out a $60 million capital campaign at $110 million.  Along with the growth of programs in service delivery, advocacy efforts were increased in Washington and New York and also in London, Brussels, Geneva, Nairobi, and Bangkok.

Before joining the IRC, Dr. Rupp served as president of Columbia University.  During his nine-year tenure, he focused on enhancing undergraduate education, on strengthening campus ties to surrounding communities and New York City as a whole, and on increasing the university’s international orientation.  Earlier, Dr. Rupp served as president of Rice University and before that was the John Lord O’Brian Professor of Divinity and dean of the Harvard Divinity School.

Educated in Europe and Asia as well as the United States, he is the author of numerous articles and five books, including Globalization Challenged: Commitment, Conflict, and Community (2006).  George Rupp and his wife Nancy have two adult daughters, both professional anthropologists, one with a specialization in Japan and the other with a focus on Africa, and six grandchildren.


2014-15 Visiting Research Scholars

Khatija Haneef is a Masters student at the University of Capetown with research interests in the fields of religious studies, social theory, politics, and philosophy.  After obtaining her BPharm degree from the University of Witwatersrand, she pursued an honours degree in Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town, where her honours project was an analysis of the moderate Muslim public identity.  Her current research at UTC focuses on Nietzsche, Iqbal, and the ideology of radical political Islam.


Marthe Hesselmans is a PhD Candidate at Boston University, currently living in New York. Her research investigates religious responses to globalization and diversity. For her dissertation, she studies the remarkable transition of South Africa’s Reformed churches away from the rigid racial segregation they long endorsed. She seeks to unearth strategies through which these church communities now try to overcome their deep-seated divisions over race, class and ethnicity. Besides South Africa, she has studied Muslim migrant communities in Western Europe, including her native country the Netherlands, as well as racial integration processes in American church life. Throughout these studies she looks at how faith intersects with often exclusive national or ethnic identities and the historic narratives and social hierarchies in play here. She worked on communal conflict and issues of gender, religion and ethnicity at the Social Science Research Council and various other nonprofit organizations. She holds an MA in History and an MA in Peace building for which she conducted field research on mediation techniques in the Middle East. She has been an Earhart Fellow from 2010 to 2014.


Giulia Marotta is currently post-doc at École pratique des hautes études (Sorbonne – Paris IV, Department: Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités, CNRS-EPHE, UMR 8582). She has graduated in Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology in 2007 (University of Palermo), and completed her Ph.D. in History in 2012 with a co-supervised thesis (University of Palermo, Université de Savoie, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg) in history of contemporary Christianity, titled “Classical antiquity and Christian personalism in the 19th century. E. A. Freeman (1823 – 1892) and J. H. Newman (1801 – 1890): two liberals in comparison”. In 2011 she has been awarded a scholarship at University of Lugano, Faculty of Theology (CH), to pursue researches in history of Christian thought. She has specialised in the relationship between religion, politics and society, with particular attention to papal authority and policy in modern era. Her current research project is focused on the theological and historiographical significance of the conflicting hermeneutics of the Second Vatican Council. She has published several academic articles in the field of religious studies and she is member (Young Scholar) of CEMES (Centre for Modern European Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen) and of SISRI (International School for Interdisciplinary Research, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome).

Spring 2014 Visiting Research Scholars

Yüksel Sezgin, Spring 2014 Visiting Research Scholar at the Center for Democracy, Toleration, and Religion
Yüksel Sezgin is an assistant professor of political science at Maxwell School of Public Affairs, Syracuse University. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from University of Ankara, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of London (SOAS), and the University of Washington. He previously taught at the University of Washington, Harvard Divinity School, and the City University of New York, and held research positions at Princeton University, American University in Cairo, and the University of Delhi. His research and teaching interests include legal pluralism, comparative religious law, democratization, and human and women’s rights in the context of Middle East, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. He is the acting Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Legal Pluralism, and an executive board member of the Commission on Legal PluralismSezgin is the author of Human Rights under State-Enforced Religious Family Laws in Israel, Egypt and India (Cambridge University Press, 2013). At IRCPL, he will continue working on his new book tentatively entitled Democratizing Shari‘a: How Do Non-Muslim Democracies Apply and Regulate Islamic Law?.
Kate Walbert, Spring 2014 Visiting Research Scholar at the IRCPL
Kate Walbert was born in New York City and raised in Georgia, Texas, Japan and Pennsylvania. She attended Northwestern University and received a Masters in English from New York University. She is the author of A Short History of Women, chosen by The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2009 and a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize, Our Kind, a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction in 2004, The Gardens of Kyoto, winner of the 2002 Connecticut Book Award in Fiction, and Where She Went, a collection of linked stories and New York Times notable book. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fiction fellowship and a Connecticut Commission on the Arts fiction fellowship, as well as fellowship from the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Her short fiction has been published in The New YorkerThe Paris ReviewThe Best American Short Stories 2007 and 2012, and The O. Henry Prize stories, among other magazines and journals. From 1990 to 2005, Walbert lectured in fiction writing at Yale University.