Dr. Emily Jane O'Dell is a Research Scholar in Law and Islamic Law and Civilization Research Fellow in the Abdallah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization at Yale Law School, and an editor of SHARIAsource at Harvard Law School, after having spent over half a decade teaching in the Middle East at the American University of Beirut as the Whittlesey Chair of History and Archaeology and at Sultan Qaboos University in the Sultanate of Oman.  She has also taught at Columbia University, Brown University, and Harvard University, where she received an award for teaching excellence.  She received her BA, MFA, MA and PhD from Brown and a Masters in Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies from Columbia.  She completed her Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard in the Humanities Center and Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations under postcolonial theorist Professor Homi Bhabha.  She was the Chief Epigrapher at the Great Pyramids of Giza for a Cairo University and Brown University excavation, and more recently excavated a Meroitic temple in Sudan, unearthed Islamic archaeology in Turkmenistan, and preserved Sufi shrines on the Silk Road.  Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, NPR, Salon, Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera, and Huffington Post, and she is a global mentor for the Coalition for Women in Journalism.  Emily regularly performs the Javanese gamelan in concert at Lincoln Center, Asia Society, and in Java.  She is also a produced playwright and has worked in television and film.

Research Interests:

At Yale, Emily is preparing a monograph on post-Soviet Islamic jurisprudence in Central Asia which explores how Islamic law has been employed in the wake of communism to demarcate the parameters of the national project and shape religious/cultural/ethnic identities.  She has similarly published on Sufism and politics in post-Soviet Central Asia and the necropolitics of Sufi shrine destruction in Mali.  Her research on global cinema analyzes the influence of Russians on the history of filmmaking in Iran, representations of disability and spirituality in Iranian film, and Sufism in global cinema.  Her research on Malcolm X's time in Sudan and Beirut traces the influence of Sudanese students and religious leaders on his evolution.  Her upcoming publications include “Memories of Sexual Slavery in Zanzibar Rendered in Literature, Testimonials, and Film,” which she presented at the Slavery and Sexual Labor in the Middle East and North Africa Conference at the University of California Santa Barbara, and “Disability in Arab Cinema,” which she presented at the Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Disability Studies at the University of Malta.  She is currently publishing her research on geographies of the Caspian in Turkmen poetry, which she is presenting this spring at the Caspian in the History of Early Modern and Modern Eurasia Conference at Yale, as well as on Rimbaud’s colonial performance of disablement in Yemen and Ethiopia, which she presented at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman.  Her forthcoming book for Brill, The Contendings of Horus & Seth: Translation, Literary Analysis, & Commentary, is a translation of the longest narrative papyrus ever found in ancient Egypt.  This summer she will continue her field-research on post-Soviet religious economies in Mongolia.  Emily conducts research at the advanced level in Russian, Mongolian, Arabic, Persian/Tajik, Czech, Indonesian, French, German, Italian, Old Egyptian, Middle Egyptian, Late Egyptian, Coptic, Demotic, Ge’ez and Akkadian.

Key Terms:

  • Islamic legal anthropology
  • Egyptology & Nubiology
  • Sufism and Shamanism on the Silk Road
  • Post-Soviet studies/nationalisms
  • Subaltern and Postcolonial Studies
  • Disability in Iranian & Arab cinema
  • Theories of Embodiment, Emotion & Affect
  • Late Egyptian philology
  • Performance & Media Studies
  • Zanzibari and Omani Studies