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Marwa Ghazali, Ph.D.

Ghazali Assistant Professor
Ph.D. University of Kansas, KS

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Biographical Summary

Dr. Marwa Ghazali is a cultural and medical anthropologist with interdisciplinary expertise in African and African Diaspora studies, Muslim American studies, Islamic studies, peace and conflict studies, and biology. Most recently, she was a W. E. B. Du Bois Research Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Dr. Ghazali’s research and scholarship center around themes of migration, structural oppression, urban precarity, racial, gender, and health inequalities, and the politics of death and dying. She pairs multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork with historical and archival research to shed light on experiential dimensions of state violence. Her analysis delineates structural factors that shape (im)mobility, morbidity, and mortality among marginalized communities in Africa, the Middle East, and the US. Ghazali’s scholarship puts medical anthropology in conversation with Black feminist, Pan-African, decolonial, and critical race studies and highlights the intersectional and nuanced ways violence and inequality are brought to bear on individual and communal bodies. Her work attends to creative agencies, embodied modes, political subjectivities, emergent moralities, alternative economies, and social networks people cultivate to live and die with dignity. Dr. Ghazali’s scholarship has been featured on NPR/KCUR Public Radio. 

Currently, Dr. Ghazali is working on a book project entitled City of Living-Death, which is based on archival and ethnographic research carried out with Egyptians who occupy tombs in Cairo’s medieval necropolis, known as the “City of the Dead.” Over the last two hundred years, cemeteries have increasingly filled with rural and urban destitute families who are unable to afford housing costs. These communities have invested energy and resources to transform tombs into homes and cemeteries into societies. In 2020, tomb demolitions began displacing residents and unearthing corpses to make space for an urban development project. City of Living-Death grapples with these entanglements between life and death and shines new light on necropolitics in the Nile Valley. The book addresses Egyptian cemeteries as contested sites where relationships of power are realigned. Ghazali’s analysis of an experience described by residents as “living-death” shows that economic liberalization, urban development, necrotourism, and emergency laws embed Egyptians’ bodies, homes, and livelihoods in processes of death, dying, and decay. Living-death is a social, spatial, and embodied experience in which the boundaries between life and death, and the living and the dead, are blurred by violence. Ghazali’s work demonstrates that living-death is not a passive state, but rather, requires careful and consistent work on the self, society, and on one’s surroundings. The book follows residents as they build social infrastructures and illuminates the innovative strategies they employ to grow life, family, and community among the dead. City of Living-Death (re)situates Egypt within African studies and contributes innovative, applied, and theoretical perspectives to humanistic and social science research about urban precarity, gentrification, displacement, and migration; racial capitalism, racism, colorism; health, housing, and gender inequalities; cemeteries, museums, human remains, ethics, and repatriation; and structural oppression, police brutality, and social justice movements. 

In addition to her scholarship on necropolitics in northeast Africa, Ghazali’s longitudinal research with Afrodiasporic Muslims in the US connects immigration regulation and enforcement practices to the politics of death and dying. African-descended and Black Muslims face racial profiling, enhanced policing and surveillance, extreme vetting, indefinite delays, pre-textual denials, deportations, family separations, and travel bans that are detrimental to health and wellbeing. Ghazali situates these practices in a deeper history of Afrodiasporic Muslim (im)mobilities in the Americas and explores the dynamic approaches people take to secure health, home, family, and legal status from a position of structural vulnerability. The ethnography captures individuals’ efforts to cope with the deaths of relatives and friends in the US and abroad, tend to ailing and aging bodies, and prepare for their own endings. Ghazali’s work addresses intergenerational forms of trauma that reverberate across transnational family and social networks and sheds light on what it means to live and die in the Diaspora. The research contributes to scholarship about structural violence, racism, islamophobia, immigration and naturalization, health and gender inequalities, necropolitics, and the afterlife of the Indian Ocean/East African Arab slave trade in the US. 

Dr. Ghazali is extending her research to the Houston area and to the broader US South. Houston is home to large communities of Muslims from diverse backgrounds and cultures and is an important site for the study of immigration. Drawing on historical, archival, and ethnographic research methods, she will work to recover Houston’s Afrodiasporic, Black, and Arab Muslim legacies and to shed light on contemporary experiences. 

Dr. Ghazali has extensive teaching and advising experience in Anthropology, African and African American Studies, Humanities, Peace and Conflict Studies, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Arabic and Islamic Studies at institutions in the USA, Africa, and Europe. She has advised and mentored undergraduate and graduate students as well as African, Black, and Muslim student organizations. Dr. Ghazali has previously served as Ethnographic Research Coordinator at the Kansas African Studies Center and is an Editorial Board Member of the Sage Handbook of Cultural Anthropology. Beyond academia, Dr. Ghazali has also worked with (i)NGOs on issues pertaining to health and displacement in the Middle East and North Africa. She is active in community outreach and serves on the Board of Directors for the Uplift Institute. 

Selected Publications: 

Ghazali, Marwa. 2021. “City of Living-Death: Urban Precarity and Social Transformation in an Egyptian Cemetery.” City & Society 33 (2): 346–63. 

Ghazali, M., Bennett, M. and Pedersen, L. 2020. “Legacies Review,” Film and Video. General Anthropology, 27: 13-15. 

MacGonagle, Elizabeth and Marwa Ghazali. November 12, 2016. “In the Wake of a Midwestern Terrorism Plot.” The Huffington Post. wake-of- amidwestern- terrorism- plot_us_58272805e4b060adb56ea0c1. Accessed November 12, 2016. 

Ghazali, Marwa H. 2014. “When the Heart Grows Sad: Loss, Absence, and the Embodiment of Traumatic Memory among Somali Bantu Refugees.” In Medical Anthropology in Global Africa. Kathryn Rhine, John M. Janzen, Glenn Adams, and Heather Aldersy, eds. Pp. 165-170. Lawrence: University of Kansas Publications in Anthropology. 

Ghazali, Marwa. 2012. “On the Suffering of Rooted Bodies: Exploring the Relationship Between Spaces of Suffering and the Embodiment of Trauma among Somali Bantu Refugees in Kansas City.” In Bodies and Culture: Discourses, Communities, Representations, Performances. Damon Talbott, Marike Janzen, and Christopher E. Forth, eds. Newcastle on Tyne: Cambridge Scholarly Publishing.