My interests in anthropology started in Egypt, where I got my BA and MA at AUC working on issues related to development, resettlement of populations and political economy of developing countries. After nine years of working in research and development projects in Egypt, I shifted interest to Sub-Saharan Africa, primarily East and southern Africa where I conducted research in Tanzania on questions related to land, labor and the making of histories. My experiences in both North and sub-Saharan Africa were instrumental in defining one of my broader intellectual concerns, namely how the very category of Africa has been historically constructed as an object of knowledge and as a cultural-political entity subject to a long history of interventionist and extractive politics. This is intimately related to an overarching concern about knowledge and decolonization, where I ask how we produce knowledge, by whom, for what, when and where, and in what languages and forms.
My research in Tanzania focused on the meanings associated with the transition from socialism to free-market economy and polity, taking sisal plantations as a microcosm for broader transformations. One question I pursued related to how people construct their histories under diverse regimes of power (colonial, post-colonial, capitalist and socialist), and how these pasts affect their present social worlds.
The interface between anthropology, history and political economy continues to shape my current and future research. Imagining the political and the struggles for transformation; affective relations in experiencing and narrating revolutionary change; irregular migration and the unbound bodies of laboring subjects are three projects in which I am currently involved. Simultaneously, I continue to examine knowledge production in the social sciences with a particular focus on ethnographic explorations of gender differences in science labs and classrooms; and alternative modalities of producing knowledge beyond the confines of the classroom and the University and conventional ethnographic methodologies.
After six years of holding a joint appointment in the Department of Anthropology and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African and African American Studies at the University of Virginia, I returned to AUC with a keen interest in continuing my research agenda and using it as a platform for teaching and service. In the SEA department, I offer a number of courses at the undergraduate level, including Introduction to Cultural Anthropology; Anthropologies of Africa; Fieldwork Methods; Contemporary Theory in Anthropology; Classic Social Theory; Anthropology and Travel Accounts; Public History and Archiving; Migrants and Transnationals. At the graduate level, my course offerings include History and Theory of Anthropology; History and Memory; Time and Temporality; Theorizing the State, and Reading Capital.
Publications and Creative Work
2018 Hoda ElSadda and Hanan Sabea, Eds. Oral History in Times of Change: Gender, Documentation and the Making of Archives. Cairo Papers in Social Science. American University in Cairo. 35/1.
2016-18 Exhibition “Doing Well, Don’t Worry! Short Tales of Women, Work, Mobility” in collaboration with Danish Egyptian Dialogue, Women and Memory Forum, and the Women’s Museum in Aarhaus, Denmark. January 2017, Beirut, Lebanon; Cairo and Aswan, Egypt.
2015 Fernanda Beigel and Hanan Sabea, Eds. Academic Dependency and the Professionalization of the South: Perspectives from the Periphery, a Spanish-English Volume published by University of Cuyo (Argentina) and Latin American Council for Social Science (CLACSO).
2014 “Still Waiting: Labor, Revolution and the Struggle for Social Justice in Egypt” International Journal of Working Class History. 86: 1-5.
2014 “I Dreamed of Being a People: Egypt’s Revolution, the People and Critical Imagination” in Beyond the Arab Spring: the Political Aesthetics of Global Protest. . Pnina Webner, Martin Webb and Kathryn Spellman-Poots (eds). Edinburgh University Press. Pp. 67-92.
2014 “Pioneers of Empire? The Making of Sisal Plantations in German East Africa, 1890-1917” In German Colonialism Revisited: African, Asian and Oceanic Experiences, Nina Berman, Klaus Mühlhahn, Patrice Nganang, eds. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Pp. 114-129.
2012 A “Time out of Time”: Tahrir, The Political and the Imaginary in the Content of the January 25th Revolution in Egypt” Cultural Anthropology Hot Spots Special Forum Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Egypt. Julia Elyachar and Jessica Weniger (eds). 27, 2012.
2012 Hanan Sabea and Mark Westmoreland, Eds. Visual Productions of Knowledge: Toward a Different Middle East. Cairo Papers in Social Science, American University in Cairo Press.
2012 Iman Hamdy, Malak Rouchdy, Reem Saad and Hanan Sabea, Eds. How to Read the Arab World? Alternative Perspectives from the Social Sciences. (Cairo: Al-Ain).
201 “Experimenting with Possibilities: The Visual, the Sensory and the Affective…” Global South, 7 (4), October 2011.
2010 “Codifying Manamba: History, Knowledge Production, and Sisal Plantation Workers in Tanzania” Special Issue: Imperial Plantations Past and Present, Guest Editors: Piya Chatterjee, Monisha Das Gupta and Richard Cullen Rath, Journal of Historical Sociology 23(1): 590-616.
2009 “The Limits of Law in the Mandated Territories: Becoming Manamba and the Struggles of Sisal Plantation Workers in Tanganyika” African Studies 68(1): 135-161.
2008 “Transnational What? Encounters and Reflections on Questions of Methodology” Feminist Africa 11: 13-28.
2008 “Mastering the Landscape? Sisal Plantations, Land and Labor in Tanga Region, 1893-1980s” International Journal of African Historical Studies 41(3): 411-432.
2007 “Plantation Labour in Africa” In New Encyclopedia of Africa, John Middleton and Joseph Miller (eds.). Gale Thompson.
Thematic Interests: Political economy (commodities; plantations and labor relations; transnational corporations; socialist polities); legal and political anthropology (nationhood, colonial and post-colonial orders; citizenship); the anthropology of Africa; the anthropology of development (globalization; politics of development); history production and memory; history of anthropology of Africa; gender studies; knowledge production in the social sciences.
Regional focus: East and southern Africa; Egypt and north Africa