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Anthropology JHU

Department of Anthropology
The Johns Hopkins University
404 Macaulay Hall
3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218

Phone 410-516-7272
Fax 410-516-6080

 

 

Niloofar Haeri


Professor and Department Chair


Phone: (410) 516-5442
email: haeri@jhu.edu
403 Macaulay 

Office Hours
Spring 2015
 Tuesdays 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
and by appointment


Interests

Islamic prayers and experiences of religiosity, gender, ritual and language, public appearance and notions of modesty among Jews, Christians and Muslims, social history of moral values in Iran since early 20th century; language ideology, vernacularization and modernity. Egypt, Iran and the Middle East

Research

Over the years, the projects that have interested me most have revolved in one way or another around questions of language and subjectivity. What do the ways in which we use language in various spheres of our daily lives say about who we are? How can we explore language use in such a way as to understand something about people’s interiority? How do institutional practices intersect with our linguistic choices?

My doctoral degree is in linguistics, received from the University of Pennsylvania. My first book was on language and gender in Cairo and addressed one of the main question emerging out of sociolinguistics in the 1980s—who are the agents of language change, women or men?

I gravitated toward linguistic anthropology after finishing my dissertation. Based on a second period of fieldwork in Cairo, I wrote Sacred Language, Ordinary People: Dilemmas of Culture and Politics in Egypt (2003). In this book, I explore the dilemmas that have arisen as a result of choosing Classical Arabic (the language of the Qur’an) as the official standard language of Egypt (and of other Arab countries), rather than Egyptian Arabic, the mother tongue of Egyptians. As part of the reform movement beginning in the 19th century, the choice was made to “modernize” Classical Arabic in order to make it more suitable for contemporary needs rather than standardize the vernacular language. I argue that Egyptian Muslims (like other Muslims) are custodians of Classical Arabic and as custodians, the question of who has the right to change the language is deeply contentious. Up to the present time, the language question is addressed in conferences in many parts of the Arab world and continues to be deeply divisive. It is also addressed in the volumes on Arab Human Development Reports.

The main project I am working on at the moment is on Islamic prayers. The five obligatory prayers in Islam, called namaz in Persian, il-sala in Arabic but mostly known as salat among anthropologists, are made up of short chapters of the Qur’an. They are performed at dawn, noon, afternoon, evening and night. This research addresses a series of questions in order to understand the experience of praying—what is a ritual like when it is performed alone? I address the question of repetition:  does the fact that these verses are repeated everyday make the prayers “rote” and meaningless? Where does our understanding of “learning by heart” stand at the moment? While we might have the impression that the ritual prayers stay the same across time, my research shows that praying at 70 is a very different experience from praying at 18. Parts of this research are included in my 2013 article in Anthropological Quarterly.

I find the work that is being done in anthropology of Christianity relevant and inspiring. In my work on prayer, I compare Christian and Muslim praying practices. For example, Protestants are said to aim for “sincerity” in their prayers and more generally in their relations and conversations with God. I explore similar ideas and practices among Muslims in Iran but argue that we need more thinking about our conceptions of what constitutes our interiority.

Selected Articles

* The Private Performance of Salat Prayers: Repetition, Time, and Meaning. 2013. Anthropological Quarterly 86 (1): 5-34.

* Do we need the army's helping hand? Le Monde Diplomatique, English Edition. October 14, 2011. (Article on Egypt's "bloody Sunday" when the army used violence to disperse demonstrators).
http://mondediplo.com/blogs/do-we-need-the-army-s-helping-hand

* 2005 Clerical Chic. The Guardian. January 5.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1383312,00.html

* 2003 Speaking up for a Plurality of Muslim Voices. The Guardian, July 26.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/editor/story/0,,1006209,00.html

 

Books

2011    Translation into Arabic of Sacred Language, Ordinary People, with Arabic preface. National Center for Translation, Ministry of Culture, Egypt. Elham Eidarous, translator.

2008    Langue, religion et modernité dans l'espace Musulman contemporain. Guest edited with Catherine Miller.
Special issue of Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée (REMMM).

http://remmm.revues.org/index5997.html

2003    Sacred Language, Ordinary People: Dilemmas of Culture and Politics in Egypt. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. Reprinted 2007.

1998    New Perspectives in Arabic Linguistics. Philadelphia, Amsterdam: John Benjamin Publishers. Co-edited by N. Haeri, A. Benamoun and M. Eid.

1997    Structuralist Studies in Arabic Linguistics: Papers Published by Charles Ferguson 1948-1992.  Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics, Leiden, New York, Köln: E. J. Brill. Co-written and co-edited with K. Belnap.

1996    The Sociolinguistic Market of Cairo: Gender, Class, and Education. London, New York: Kegan Paul International.

Haeri Book Covers

Projects
Read More

Other Selected Publications



* The elephant in the room: Language and literacy in the Arab world. 2009. Cambridge Handbook of Literacy. Edited by David Olson and Nancy Torrance. Cambridge University Press.

PDF
http://www.cambridge.org/us/knowledge/isbn/item2326872/The%20Cambridge%20Handbook%20of%20Literacy/?site_locale=en_US



* The uses and abuses of Classical Arabic. In Transeuropeennes, Vol. 23, special issue on Religions in Politics. 2003. (French-English bilingual journal published in Paris).
http://www.academia.edu/3772870/De_lutilisation_de_larabe_classique

* Form and ideology: Arabic sociolinguistics and beyond. 2000. Annual Review of Anthropology, 29:61-87.
 
http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.anthro.29.1.61



* 1997 The Reproduction of symbolic capital: Language, state, and class in Egypt. 1997. Current Anthropology, 38 (5): 795-805, reply: 811-816.


Newspaper Articles

* Do we need the army's helping hand? Le Monde Diplomatique, English Edition. October 14, 2011. (Article on Egypt's "bloody Sunday" when the army used violence to disperse demonstrators).

http://mondediplo.com/blogs/do-we-need-the-army-s-helping-hand

* 2005 Clerical Chic. The Guardian. January 5.
 http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1383312,00.html

* 2003 Getting Lost in Translation and Quotation. The Guardian, August 30.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/editor/story/0,,1032196,00.html

* 2003 Speaking up for a Plurality of Muslim Voices. The Guardian, July 26.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/editor/story/0,,1006209,00.html

* 2003   Arabs Need to Find their Tongue. The Guardian, June 14. [The title of this article was not chosen by me nor was I consulted about it]
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,977260,00.html

 

 
 
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