Stephen Sheehi is Associate Professor of Arabic and Arab Culture and the Director of the Arabic Program. He is also core faculty in USC’s Comparative Literature Program and the Islamic World Cultures Program. In addition to literary theory and comparative literature, he teaches courses on the intellectual, literary, cultural, art, and food heritage of the Middle East (Southwest Asia and North Africa).
Informed by liberal political theory, post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, and post-colonial theory, Prof. Sheehi’s work interrogates various modalities of self, society, and political economy within the Arab world. While his work takes particular interest in cultural, intellectual, and art history of Arab Renaissance (al-nahdah al-‘arabiyah), his scholarly interests include issues of globalization, developmentalism, Middle East foreign policy, and Arab and Muslim American issues.
Currently, Prof. Sheehi is completing a pioneering study on the history of photography in the Arab world, entitled The Arab Imago: A Social History of Indigenous Photography 1860-1910 (Princeton University Press). 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 (now Saudi Arabia) during the late Ottoman period. In doing so, the book investigates 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 and the mainstreaming of Muslim-baiting rhetoric as articulated by “rogue academics,” journalists, and national leaders from across the political spectrum including, but not limited to, Bernard Lewis. Fareed Zakaria, Thomas Friedman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. The argument of the book is that Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiments are an ideological component of North American culture and arise from the United States’ race history as much as foreign interests. As such, Islamophobia is yet one more pernicious form of racism that serves poignant ideological, political and social functions in globalization and the American unipolar moment. The book has been translated into Arabic as al-Islamofobia: al-Hamlah al-idiulujiyah dud al-Muslimin translation by Fatimah Nasr (Cairo: Dar al-Sutour, 2012).
Foundations of Modern Arab Identity is Prof. Sheehi’s first book, offering a new paradigm on the foundational writing of intellectuals of the 19th century Arab Renaissance or al-nahdah al-`arabiyah. The groundbreaking book discusses how Arab intellectuals offered a powerful cultural self-criticism along side their critiques, advocacy, and debates regarding “modernity” and European imperialism. In offering these critical assessments of Western and Arab culture, society and politics, these Arab intellectuals established the epistemological foundation for discussions of social, cultural, and political over the next hundred years. Despite their resistance to Western hegemony, their belief in Ottoman Arab society and their visions of national cultural renewal, intellectuals from the Butrus al-Bustani to Jurji Zaydan to Muhamad `Abduh re-inscribed the binaries of “civilization” and “progress” that would always find Arab culture and society as “lacking” in comparison to the West.
Along with book chapters, he has published on photography, art, literature, politics, and intellectual history in venues such as Third Text, International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, The British Journal of Middle East Studies, Discourse, The Journal of Arabic Literature, Critique, Jouvert, The Journal of Comparative South Asian, African, Middle Eastern Studies and Encyclopedia of Islam along with publishing commentary in Common Dreams, Mondoweiss, Jadaliyya, and al-Adab. He has also lectured internationally including at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, and the Library of Congress.