I teach and write about colonialism, political economy, the politics of energy, and the making of expert knowledge. Trained in the fields of law, history, and political theory, I work across the disciplinary boundaries of history and the social sciences. Many of my writings explore materials from the history and contemporary politics of Egypt, where I have conducted research over many years.
I am currently working on a study of durability, examining how the more durable apparatuses for capturing wealth characteristic of late nineteenth-century colonialism (railways, canals, apartment buildings, dams) engineered a new method of extracting income from the future—a future we now inhabit precariously today. Like much of my work, this research combines the study of the built world, technical devices, ecological processes, and the history of economic and political concepts.
I am based in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University, where I am the William B. Ransford Professor of Middle Eastern Studies . I served as chair of the department from 2011 until my liberation in 2017. I also teach occasionally in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.