Maha Nassar

About Maha Nassar

I am a cultural and intellectual historian of the twentieth-century Arab world, with a focus on Palestinian history during the 1950s and 1960s. My research on intellectual constructs of social, political and cultural identities seeks to trace the circulation of political vocabularies that construct as well as contest nationalist narratives.

My first monograph, Brothers Apart: Palestinian Citizens of Israel and the Arab World, examines the ways in which Palestinian cultural producers in Israel during the 1950s and ‘60s positioned themselves within an Arab and third world social, cultural and intellectual milieu that extended far beyond the confines of the Israeli nation-state. By mapping the strategies they deployed, my book demonstrates the importance of Arabic newspapers and literary journals in traversing national boundaries and in creating transnational and transregional communities of solidarity.

My current projects explore further various dimensions of Palestinian subject formation in the mid-20th century. One project involves an analysis of the discursive framings utilized during the 1950s regarding “Arab women in Israel,” in which Israeli officials appropriated Mandate-era Palestinian nationalist discourses to position the state as an emancipator of Palestinian women. Yet some Palestinian women pushed back against these discourses, in part by deploying Israel’s own narratives of gender equality to call for more equitable treatment. Another project examines how Palestinian intellectuals in the 1950s and ‘60s challenged stereotypical images of Arabs in Western and Israeli expressions of popular culture, which they saw as part of the larger Palestinian struggle to win global hearts and minds.

In keeping with my interest in the transnational circulation of political vocabularies, I am also exploring how Palestinian writers engaged with the Black American freedom movement during the 1960s and 1970s. While scholars have recently examined how certain Black American intellectuals became interested in the question of Palestine during this period, little attention has been paid to how Palestinians drew on the vocabularies of Black liberation to make legible their own conditions, whether as citizens of Israel, under occupation, or in exile.

My next book project attends to the debates that have emerged among Palestinian intellectuals, especially since the 1967 War, regarding the possibilities and potential forms of a Palestinian state. Taking into account the various and sometimes overlapping positionalities of Palestinians living in Israel, under occupation and in exile, this book will offer an account of the nuanced and sharply contested formulations of Palestinian liberation that complicate all-too-common binaries that posit “moderate” and “radical” Palestinian positions.

I teach graduate and undergraduate courses on Middle Eastern history and historiography, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and Islamic thought. I have conducted fieldwork in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel/Palestine.

I am also a 2017-2018 Tucson Public Voices Fellow with the Op-Ed Project. My pieces have appeared in The Washington Post, The Conversation, and other media outlets.


Ph.D. (with honors) University of Chicago, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 2006

M.A. University of Chicago, Middle Eastern Studies, 1999

B.A. Benedictine University, English Language and Literature, Secondary Education (minor), Summa Cum Laude, 1997


Selected Publications


Brothers Apart: Palestinian Citizens of Israel and the Arab World (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2017)


“’My Struggle Embraces Every Struggle’: Palestinians in Israel and Solidarity with Afro- Asian Decolonization Movements,” Arab Studies Journal, 22, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 74-101.

“Palestinian Citizens of Israel and the Discourse on the Right of Return, 1948-1959.” Journal of Palestine Studies 40, no. 4 (Summer 2011): 45-60.

“The Marginal as Central: Al-Jadid and the Development of a Palestinian Public Sphere,   1953–1970,” Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication 3, no. 3 (November 2010): 333-51.  

Book Chapters:

“My Resilient Flag,” in Being Palestinian, ed. Yasir Suleiman (forthcoming with Oxford University Press)

“Looking Out, Cheering On: Global Leftist Vocabularies among Palestinian Citizens of Israel,” in The Global Sixties: Conventions, Contests, and Countercultures, edited by Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney and Tamara Chaplin (London: Routledge, 2017)

Book Reviews:

Zareena Grewal, Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority (2014).  American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 32 (2015): 113-6.

Ilan Peleg and Dov Waxman, Israel’s Palestinians: The Conflict Within (2008). International Journal of Middle East Studies, 45 (2013): 631-3.

Hillel Cohen, Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948, tr. Haim Watzman (2008).  International Journal of Middle East Studies, 41 (2009): 506-7.

Shawkat Toorawa (translator), Adonis, A Time between Ashes and Roses: Poems (2004).       Journal of Arabic Literature 38, no. 2 (2007): 240-3.

To view my articles, visit

Maha Nassar's picture

Contact Information

Maha Nassar
Associate Professor (Tenure Track), Modern Middle East History, Islamic Studies
Telephone: 520-626-5189
Office: Marshall 453
Office Hours: By Appointment

Courses Taught

MENA 160 A1: Religion of Islam (Tier 1 General Education)

MENA/HIST 277A: History of the Middle East, 600-1453 (Tier 2 General Education)

MENA/HIST 277B: History of the Middle East, 1453-present (Tier 2 General Education)

MENA/RELI 334: Islamic Thought  (Tier 2 General Education)

MENA/GWS 463/563: Gender Issues and Women’s Literature in the Middle East

MENA/HIST 480/580: The Middle East in the 20th Century

MENA/HIST/POLI 484/584: History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

MENA 595D: Introduction to the Study of the Middle East

MENA 696Y: Nationalism and Islam