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Photograph of Irene Calis

Irene Calis Director, Arab World Studies Critical Race Gender and Culture Studies

PhD in social anthropology, London School of Economics & Political Science (2012)

Languages Spoken
Arabic, French
Irene Calis is a decolonial scholar, educator, and organizer. Her research focuses on emancipatory politics from the perspective of those living their struggle, and on forging decolonial futures. Her scholarship, grounded in the Palestinian liberation struggle, involves long-term ethnographic fieldwork living and working with Palestinian farming and youth communities throughout the West Bank, as well as with popular struggles in South Africa, Oceania, and Indigenous North America.

Her current work on emancipatory futures situates the Palestinian liberation struggle in a wider conversation with the global South, bringing together perspectives from South Africa, Indigenous North America, and Palestine to explore how anti-colonial struggles imagine, collectivize their visions, and work to build their preferred futures. This comparative dialogue brings into view parallels between the colony and any potential post-colonial future.

Calis' longer-term work among Palestinian farmers examines what it means for families to live in systemic “on-going crisis” and what this entails for ideas about ordinary life. Specifically, it elucidates how the very nature of “the everyday” is affected as crisis, loss, and denial are made routine through the everyday practices of a settler colonial state.

In taking a wider, historical view of one community over time, this research distills the strategic interplay between both spectacular and routinized forms of violence as a key method of governance in colonial oppression. This considers the role of seemingly mundane state practices, such as bureaucracy, in both the formation and subordination of racialized others. Furthermore, in unpacking what survival entails for subordinated groups, it challenges notions of ‘resilience’ and the optimistic view of human agency in studies on resistance, and alerts us to the systemic denigration of both one’s ability and instinct to live.

As an educator, Calis' courses are grounded in a decolonial, intersectional knowledge-base that de-centers the persistent white, Euro-American canon in academia, encouraging students to find new ways to think and act in their world. An internationalist teaching perspective supports this aim. In addition to the US, she has held positions at the University formally known as Rhodes in South Africa, the University of Hawai`i in Oceania, and the University of Cambridge in England and regularly speaks with groups across these spaces. She writes for academic and wider public forums on issues that address the workings of power in society and how those on the underside of history are actively contesting and shaping the terms of their existence.


Spring 2024

  • WGSS-225 Gender, Politics & Power

  • WGSS-225 Gender, Politics & Power

Summer 2024

  • AWST-115 Introduction to the Arab World

Fall 2024

  • AWST-440 Palestine: Land, Life, Dignity

  • CORE-105 Complex Problems Seminar: Being Indigenous

  • CORE-105 Complex Problems Seminar: Being Indigenous

Partnerships & Affiliations

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

emancipatory futures; indigeneity; culture & power; violence, precarity, and the everyday; the politics of resistance; decolonial feminisms; theory from the global South; philosophy of race; critical pedagogy; Palestine; the Arab World; Oceania.

Selected Publications