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Soraya Altorki

  • Position: Professor
  • Department: Department of Sociology, Egyptology and Anthropology
  • Email: saltorki@aucegypt.edu
Brief Biography

Soraya Altorki is a professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology, Egyptology and Anthropology at The American University in Cairo. She has been teaching at AUC since 1977, and served as department chair from 1989 to 1991. Her major fields of interest include family, gender studies, youth and comparative religion. She received her PhD in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1973. 

Professor Altorki was a distinguished visiting professor at King Saud University (1982 and 1983-1984) and visiting assistant professor at King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz University (1974-1976). She has been a postdoctoral research fellow at Northwestern University (1973-1977), Harvard University (1973-1974), the University of Pennsylvania (Spring 1984), UCLA (Spring and Summer 1992 and Summer 1993) and at Georgetown University (Spring and Summer 1995). Additionally, she was the Arcapita Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University in Spring 2010. She is a founding member of the board of Nour, a women’s NGO established in 1993 in Beirut that focuses on Arab women’s issues and possesses an extensive research and publication program. She has served as a member of the Social Science Research Council’s Joint Committee on the Near and Middle East (1991-1995) and is a member of the American Anthropological Association and the International Association for Middle East Studies. Among her awards and accomplishments is a feature interview on Dutch Educational Television (DITS) as one of three distinguished Arab women in the Arab region, which was broadcast during the summer of 1995. She has received numerous funding awards from the Ford Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Population Council in Cairo and The American University in Cairo. These awards have supported, among other things, her field research which has taken place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as well in Cairo and the northwest coast of Egypt. She is also the author of many academic articles in professional journals and chapters in scholarly books. In addition, she has been interviewed frequently in the Arab media, including by the Beirut Daily, Al-Hayat and ART television in Morocco.

  • Gender
  • Anthropology of Religion
  • Tourism and Heritage studies
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Arab World
  • Muslim World
  • Middle East
  • Women in Saudi Arabia: Ideology and Behavior Among the Elite. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986
  • Studying Your Own Society: Arab Women in the Field. Co-edited with Camillia El-Solh. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1988. Tr. into Arabic as Fi Watani Abhath: al-Mar’ah al-‘Arabiyyah fi Maydan al-Buhuth al-Ijtima‘i. Beirut: Markaz Dirasat al-Wahdah al-‘Arabiyyah, 1993.
  • ‘Unayzah: Transformation of Economy and Society in a Sa‘udi Arabian Oasis City. Co-authored with Donald P. Cole. Austin:University of Texas Press, 1989. Translated into Arabic as ‘Unayzah: al-anmiyah wa al-Taghyiir fi Madinah Najdiyah ‘Arabiya. Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Abhath al-‘Arabiyah, 1991.
  • Bedouins, Settlers, and Holiday-Makers: Egypt’s Changing Northwest Coast. Co-authored with Donald P. Cole. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1998.
  • Jiddah: Umm al-Rakha’ wa al-Shiddah [Jiddah: Mother of Comfort and Hardship]. Co-authored with Abu Bakr Baqadir. Cairo: Dar al-Shuruq, 2006. Senior author.
  • “Fertilidad y Educacion: El Caso de la Familia en Arabiea Saudi,” [Fertility and Education: the Case of the Family in Saudi Arabia] in Mujer y Familia en las Sociedades Arabes Actuales [Women and the Family in Contemporary Arab Societies], eds. Sophie Bessis and Gema Martin Munoz. Madrid: Casa Arabe-IEAM, 2010. pp. 193-223.
  • “Layla al-Jihni’s Fiction: Conceits and Deceits,” Contemporary Arab Affairs, Vol. 3:2 (April 2010), pp. 207-217.
  • “Struggling for the Center from the Periphery: The Fiction of Zaynab Hifni,” Contemporary Arab Affairs. 3:3 (July-September 2010), pp. 351-360.
  • “Al-Sa`y min al-Hamish ila al-Markaz: al-Adab al-Rawa’i laday Zaynab Hifni,” al-Mustaqbal al-`Arabi, 33:380 (Oct. 2010), pp. 52-64.
  • “Al-Takwin al-`Ilmi fi al-`Ulum al-Ijtima`yya: Halah Duwal al-Khalij al-`Arabi,” al-Mustaqbal al-`Arabi, No. 400 (June, 2012), pp. 154-167.
  • “Some Considerations on the Family in the Arabian Peninsula in the Late Ottoman and Early Post-Ottoman Period,” in Gulf Women, ed. Amira Sonbol. London: Bloomsbury Publishers, 2012. pp. 277-309.
  • “Taking Stock: Wither the Social Sciences in Gulf Universities,” Contemporary Arab Affairs, 6:2 (2013). pp. 237-250.
  • “Women and the Arab Spring in Saudi Arabia: A Nascent Social Movement?” in The Silent Revolution: The Arab Spring and the Gulf States, ed. Khawla Mattar and Mai Saikali. Berlin and London: Gerlach Press, 2014. pp. 83-104.
  • The Structure/Agency Problem in the Anthropology of the Middle East,” Companion to the Anthropology of the Middle East, ed. Soraya Altorki. Malden, MA and Oxford UK: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, 2015. pp. 40-71. Companion to the Anthropology of the Middle East (ed.). Malden, MA and Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, 2015. 

Anth 2101

Anth 2005

Anth 4025: Religion in a Global World

Anth 3301: Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa

Anth 4030: Women, Islam and the State

Anth 5250: Religion, Ideology and Society