The Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine is at the forefront of innovation in anthropological research.

 
The most recent National Research Council assessment of U.S. doctoral programs has placed UC Irvine's Department of Anthropology near the top of the 82 anthropology departments surveyed. UCI anthropology was ranked as in the top eight programs in the nation, ranked closely behind UC Berkeley and UCLA. It is remarkable for a young sociocultural department to be in the company of such established, larger, four-field departments. Based on this assessment, the UC Irvine program sits alongside the prestigious and much larger programs at Harvard, Michigan, Stanford, Chicago, UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Davis, outranking some of these programs on many of the measures used in the NRC assessment. The Department of Anthropology acknowledges that UCI is located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Acjachemen/Juaneño and Tongva Nation. Learn more . . . 


 

 

A Statement from the Chair of the UCI Department of Anthropology
in Memory of Tarek Moustafa Mohamed

Earlier this month, the UCI Department of Anthropology lost a cherished member of its community. Tarek Moustafa Mohamed, a doctoral candidate in our program, passed away unexpectedly at their home in Cairo, Egypt, where they had been living for the past year while they were undertaking research and writing related to their dissertation thesis. We join the wide community of scholars, advocates, friends, and family in grieving this tragic loss.

Tarek’s emergent scholarly voice was a singular one. Their expansive and innovative research project was centered on fieldwork with Egyptian LGBTIQ community organizers, activists, intellectuals, and artists. Their work stood at the intersection of queer anthropology, political anthropology, the anthropology of religion, the anthropology of diaspora, and Middle East Studies. A constant emphasis for Tarek was linking these scholarly conversations to questions of violence and trauma, but also accountability, justice, and healing. Tarek fundamentally sought to link ethnographic and historical methods, particularly in the analysis of colonialism as it has shaped forms of state oppression that emerged with the postcolonial Egyptian state. With regard to these intersections of history, culture, and power, Tarek was particularly interested in the legacy of the “Arab Spring” and how the repression of that movement shapes contemporary homophobia and transphobia in Egypt.

Tarek was part of a cohort of activist-scholars in Middle East Studies who, based on the empirical reality of everyday lifeworlds and forms of selfhood, rejected the idea that Egyptians who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or otherwise queer are inauthentic victims of some global gay movement. While highly attentive to the role of Western colonialism and hegemony, Tarek sought to explore how those forms of power are articulated through the Egyptian state as elements of its ideology and violence. Furthermore, Tarek’s interest in globalization foregrounded the migration of bodies as well as culture. Drawing on frameworks of “exodus” that have longstanding valence in Egypt, Tarek sought to link Egyptian LGBTIQ activists in Egypt, in diaspora, in exile, in return, and in new places of home. As Tarek put it, “exodus has always been a moment of rebirth or genesis.” In other words, in Tarek’s analysis it is not genesis that always proceeds exodus: movement itself, even under conditions of unequal power and marginalization, can be the source of new subjectivities, communities, and politics.

We can only imagine where Tarek’s research would have taken anthropology and the multiple other disciplines to which their work would have contributed. What we can know is that it would have proceeded from brilliant insight, intellectual generosity, and an insistence on the mutual constitution of activism and theory in the forging of new futures. As Tarek put it, “queer theory is the hope that the world needs at the moment. This is the main argument that I am making.”

I speak on behalf of UCI Anthropology in extending our deepest condolences to Tarek's friends, family, and everyone in their close community (in Egypt, the US, and around the globe), with whom we grieve over the loss that comes with Tarek's passing. In my roles as both Graduate Director and now Chair, I routinely heard from graduate students in our program who would tell me about the counsel they received from Tarek, the gratitude they felt for their warm embrace and thoughtful guidance, and how much they counted Tarek as one of the bright lights of our program. To think that we will no longer have the benefit of their perspective and empathy is so very sad, not just for those who knew Tarek well, but equally for those who didn't, and will now not get the chance. I have to admit I count myself among those who didn't know Tarek well, but of what I did know and observe, Tarek appeared a fearless advocate for kindness and decency, not of the facile variety, that avoided hard conversations in the name of keeping the peace, but rather someone who embraced the complexity of human relations as the grist for making lasting connections based on dignity, respect, and really seeing each other. In this respect, and like so much of the best anthropological research, Tarek’s scholarly commitments echoed the best aspects of how Tarek carried themselves in the world generally. Both displayed a rare twinning of courage and compassion, intellectual acuity and energetic empathy, in a manner that was unique to Tarek. They will be sorely missed.

 
Justin B. Richland
Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology
University of California, Irvine

 


 

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