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Jessica Winegar


PhD New York University 2003

Research and teaching interests

Sociocultural Anthropology, cultural politics and culture industries, material and visual culture, the culture concept, class, gender, intellectuals, Islam, Middle East and North Africa.


Jessica Winegar is a sociocultural anthropologist whose work investigates how people articulate understandings of history and political-economic change through cultural production and consumption, in particular through competing notions of culture and culturedness.  She is primarily concerned with the multiple ways that culture projects create social hierarchies and modern subjects while frequently hiding the mechanisms of these processes, thereby contributing to their durability. 

Her first book Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt (Stanford University Press, 2006) focused on these processes in the realm of the visual arts.  It is an ethnographic study of the intense debates over cultural authenticity and artistic value that occur in a postcolonial society undergoing market liberalization.  It examines how cultural elites reckon with the legacies of colonialism, socialism, and modernism in order to produce meaningful, yet competing, versions of national and elite visual culture in a context where “culture” itself is becoming increasingly globalized and commodified. 

Winegar's second book, co-authored with Lara Deeb, is Anthropology’s Politics: Disciplining the Middle East (Stanford University Press, Fall 2015).  The book uses Middle East anthropology as a lens through which to examine how national and global political-economic forces have enabled and constrained academic work from World War II through the War on Terror.  Based on ethnography and archival research, the book highlights the generational, racialized, and gendered aspects of academic politics as they intersect with the increasing militarization and corporatization of knowledge.

Winegar’s next book project, Culturing Youth: Democracy, Creativity, and Development in the Middle East, charts the meteoric rise, successes, and challenges of state and NGO cultural development programs directed towards poor and working class youth in Egypt. It is based on ethnographic research carried out in Egypt both before and after the 2011 uprising. This research was funded by Fulbright, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Howard Foundation.

At Northwestern, she is a core member of the Program in Middle East and North African Studies.  This program has an undergraduate major and minor, as well as a Graduate Cluster and Certificate Program

Winegar has also published numerous scholarly and popular articles on Middle Eastern visual arts and artists, North African visual culture, U.S. consumption of Middle Eastern arts, U.S. media coverage of the Middle East, and on U.S. academia.  Her articles have appeared in Cultural Anthropology, Anthropological Quarterly, Review of Middle East Studies, Middle East Report, Contemporary Practices, Critical Interventions and online at Jadaliyya and ArteEast.  She has played an active role in ArteEast, an arts organization dedicated to supporting and promoting artists from the Middle East and its diasporas. Winegar is also a founding member of the Task Force for Middle East Anthropology, a group dedicated to increasing the relevance, visibility, and application of anthropological perspectives on the Middle East.

Winegar has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, Social Science Research Council, Fulbright, and the Mellon Foundation.  She has enjoyed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of California at Berkeley, Cornell University, and the School for Advanced Research.

Recent courses taught

  • State and Subject
  • Global Orients
  • Anthropology of the Middle East
  • Middle Eastern Popular Culture
  • Art and Material Culture
  • Culture and Consumption

Selected publications


Anthropology’s Politics: Disciplining the Middle East (Stanford University Press, 2015). Co-authored with Lara Deeb.

Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt (Stanford University Press, 2006).  Winner of the 2007 Albert Hourani Book Award, given by the Middle East Studies Association for the best book in Middle East studies and the Arnold Rubin Outstanding Publication Award from the Arts Council of the African Studies Association.


2016      “A civilized revolution: Aesthetics and Political Action in Egypt,” American Ethnologist 43:609-622.

2014 “Civilizing Muslim Youth: Egyptian state culture programmes and Islamic television preachers,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 20:445-465.

2012.  “Anthropologies of Arab-Majority Societies,” Annual Review of Anthropology 41:537-558.  Co-authored with Lara Deeb.

2012   “The Privilege of Revolution: Gender, Class, Space, and Affect in Cairo.” American Ethnologist 39(1), 67-70.

2011      “Egypt: A Multigenerational Revolt,” Jadaliyya,

2010    “Culture is the Solution: The Civilizing Mission of the Egyptian State,” Review of Middle East Studies 43(2): 189-197.

2010    “The Culture Concept in Political Struggle,” Introduction to Special Section, co-edited and co-authored with Amahl Bishara.  Review of Middle East Studies 43(2):164-167.

2009     “The Question of Africanity in North African Visual Culture,” Special issue of Critical Interventions:  Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture, Issue 5.  Co-edited with Katarzyna Pieprzak.  Co-authored introductory essay entitled “Africa North, South, and In Between.”

2008    “The Humanity Game: Art, Islam, and the War on Terror,” Anthropological Quarterly, 81(3):651-681.

2006    “Cultural Sovereignty in a Global Art Economy: Egyptian Cultural Policy and the New Western Interest in Art from the Middle East,”

Cultural Anthropology 21(2):173-204.

2005     “Of Chadors and Purple Fingers: U.S. Visual Media Coverage of the Iraqi Elections,” Feminist Media Studies 5(3):391-395.

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