Meet the Dean

Ilana Feldman, Interim Dean

photo: Ilana feldman


Ilana Feldman is a historical anthropologist with regional expertise on the Middle East. She received her PhD in Anthropology and History from the University of Michigan in 2002. She has an MA in Near Eastern Studies from New York University and a BA from the College of Letters at Wesleyan University. She has taught at George Washington University since 2007. Before coming to GW, she was an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow at the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU and prior to that a Mellow Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities and Lecturer in Anthropology at Columbia University.


Dr. Feldman’s research focuses on government, security, and humanitarianism in Palestine and among Palestinian communities across the Middle East. Her work lies at the intersection of enduring processes and crisis conditions, exploring how people and institutions confront the limits and possibilities of these circumstances. In each instance, her research asks how people engage in politics—working to alter their present and future conditions—in circumstances, and in relation to institutions, that hamper such efforts. Her investigation of these topics has included ethnographic and archival research in many locales. Over the course of thirty years, she has conducted ethnographic research in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jordan, and Lebanon. She has worked in archives in the Middle East (Gaza, Jerusalem, Cairo, Amman, Beirut), United States, Great Britain, and Switzerland. 


The author of three books and many articles, her research has been supported by numerous prestigious fellowships and grants, including from the American Council of Learned Societies, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Social Science Research Council, Palestinian American Research Center, Council of American Overseas Research Centers. Her scholarship has been awarded multiple prizes, including the Cultural Horizons Prize from the Society for Cultural Anthropology and the Fatima Mernissi book award from the Middle East Studies Association. In 2017 she was awarded the Distinguished Scholar Award by the Office of the Vice President for Research at GW.


Dr. Feldman’s first two books—Governing Gaza: Bureaucracy, Authority, and the Work of Rule (1917-1967) and Police Encounters: Security and Surveillance in Gaza under Egyptian Rule—examine the histories of bureaucracy and policing in the Gaza Strip. Her third book, Life Lived in Relief: Humanitarian Predicaments and Palestinian Refugee Politics, is the product of a decade of research in refugee camps across the Middle East and archives around the world. It investigates what happens when crisis-driven interventions, designed to save lives and alleviate suffering, are transformed into long-term apparatuses that provide services to multiple generations of displaced persons and become sites in which refugees engage in politics and live complex lives. 


She is active in service to the profession and community. She currently serves on the board of the Middle East Studies Association, is Vice President of the board of the Palestinian American Research Center, is co-editor of a Cornell University Press book series, Police/Worlds: Studies in Security, Crime, and Governance, and is a member of the advisory council of Anera, previously having served as a member of the board.