Over the past decade, I have received support from a Fulbright Fellowship from the Institute of International Education, a Jennings Randolph Dissertation Fellowship from the United States Institute of Peace, a Graduate Fellowship at the Penn Program on Democracy, Citizenship, and Constitutionalism, a Penfield grant, and Department of State FLAS and Critical Language scholarships, among others. I am grateful to the support of these organizations that has made it possible for me to pursue my research in the following places:
Research on local, customary law courts and magistrate courts in six different tribal areas in 2013. I spent about half my time interviewing government officials, academics, and members of the judiciary in Lilongwe (Malawi’s capital), Blantyre, and Zomba. I also traveled throughout most of the country, conducting focus group discussions and interviews with traditional authorities, village heads, and other members of Malawi’s chieftaincy and their constituents. I spoke with more than 150 people in 17 villages across 6 tribal areas. I observed court sessions in traditional courts as well as in magistrate’s courts, the first rung of the state judiciary. I also conducted archival research in Zomba.
My research in Tanzania in 2013 focused on magistrate courts, ten-house cell adjudication committees, and Ward Tribunals. In Dar es Salaam, I observed court sessions and interviewed magistrates, appeals judges, and members of the High Court and the Court of Appeals, Tanzania’s two highest courts. I also met with various government officials, academics at the University of Dar es Salaam, and members of the Constitutional Reform Commission, a group that is rewriting Tanzania’s constitution. I researched unofficial community adjudication in the Usambara mountains in villages that are typically inaccessible by road during the rainy season, where I interviewed magistrates, court assessors, and villagers about local legal practices. I also traveled to Iringa, in central Tanzania, where I interviewed members of the regional court administration and observed court cases. I used Iringa as a base to make various trips to surrounding villages in the Great Rift Valley to observe court sessions and interview magistrates.
In 2012, I examined family law (personal status law) adjudication in Lebanon, with particular attention to the Sunni and Maronite communities. While I was there, momentum was growing for a bill, now a law, that grants the state the right to create civil marriages–a domain previously monopolized by religious law. I spent most of my time in Beirut, where I interviewed judges, lawyers, human rights activists, and religious officials, including members of the Sunni, Shii, Maronite, and Greek Orthodox communities. I also traveled beyond Beirut to observe Sunni court sessions in the Bekaa Valley and to visit Maronite officials in the Qadisha valley. I used the library at the American University of Beirut for archival research.
Because states all over the world are faced with decisions about how to navigate pluralistic legal traditions, I chose to include France in my study of judicial decentralization. I spent three months in France in the summer of 2012 and winter of 2013 interviewing government officials, lawyers, imams, members of Muslim organizations, and members of the public. I conducted most of my fieldwork in Paris but also traveled to Lyon, where some of France’s most important mosques are based. I attended conferences held by l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and worked with academics to exchange data on minority groups in France.
England is receiving increased attention for its emergent strategy to manage ascriptive, community-based courts that are run by some of its immigrant populations, and in sections of its Muslim, Kurdish, and Somali communities. In 2012, I met with imams, mosque officials, litigants, lawyers, academics, and activists. I observed sessions in two Sharia courts in London, and I traveled to Birmingham to speak with members of its Sharia council and to observe several cases. I also visited the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal in Nuneaton and conducted research at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). I attended two conferences that SOAS organized on the topic of legal pluralism in Britain.
I spent two months in Cairo during the winter of 2012 as part of my research on judicial decentralization. Unfortunately, there was still ongoing unrest as part of the revolution that had ousted Hosni Mubarak from power, and two days before I arrived there was a deadly riot in Port Said that left 79 dead. It was a particularly difficult period to conduct fieldwork in Egypt, so I chose to stay in Cairo, where I interviewed members and officials of the Coptic Orthodox Church, as well as human rights activists, professors, and lawyers. Because there was no functioning state, I was not able to speak with government officials and members of the judiciary. I did, however, make extensive use of the archives housed at the American University of Cairo. I intend to return and continue the research as soon as it’s possible.
After graduating from Princeton, I was awarded an Islamic Civilization Fulbright Fellowship to Morocco for 2006-7. My Fulbright research addressed the Free School Movement, a nationalist initiative to provide an alternative to French colonial schools. The Free Schools included study of the Quran, Islamic history, and Arabic, which had been eliminated from the French colonial curriculum. These schools taught Morocco’s first post-independence leaders and help explain certain trends in the practice of Islam in Morocco. While in Morocco, I also translated the work of thirty Moroccan poets from Arabic into English. I published an anthology of my translations with CELAAN, a journal of North African literature.