American Univesity of Beirut

Elizabeth Saleh

Academic Summary: Elizabeth Saleh works at the intersection of political and economic anthropology. She is currently working on a monograph with the working title Junk Territory: Growing up at a Beirut Scrapyard. The book tells the story of underage Syrian waste pickers growing up at a small scrapyard located in a run-down building in Beirut. Drawing on more than six years of fieldwork, the book documents how different schemas of worth and value intersect with profit-making infrastructures, currencies of intergenerational obligation, and the interplay between host and migrant communities. It shows how Beirut is a city pieced together through a medley of different enterprises and projects facilitating an equally hodgepodge provision of public services.

Elizabeth is working on a second book project that draws from research carried out in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, and that culminated in her PhD thesis in 2014. Upon completion of her PhD, Elizabeth conducted further research which has brought to light the analytical importance to better understand plant mobilities as part of the political and social processes through which people become “fixed" and “rooted" to a particular place. These findings will be basis for this book project which has the working title of Botanical Migration: Replanting Home and Territory and will focus on the transnational movements of vines, and how grapes, in particular, frame narratives of home during times of crisis and uncertainty.  

You can find Elizabeth and some of her work here



Value and Labor

Capitalism and Migrations

Infrastructures and Ecologies



Undergraduate Level:

SOAN 103: Reading Other Cultures

SOAN 203: Introduction to Anthropology

SOAN 212: History and Theory in Anthropology

SOAN 216 Hands on Anthropology

SOAN 290 Food: Anthropological Perspective

Master's Level:

SOAN 301 Ethnographer's Craft

SOAN 304 Anthropology Research Methods

SOAN 323 AG Assembling the Middle East: Infrastructures and Materiality

SOAN 323 AE Making and Unmaking Markets: Politics, Labor, and Money



2022. “Lebanon Bark: False Dichotomies and Playful Commoning" in Kaedbey, Deem, T. Safaa, & Diran, Zeinab (eds) What Remains: Eco-Feminist Pursuits. Al Warsha. Beirut. (In English and Arabic)

2021.“Recycling Policies from the Bottom Up: Waste Work in Lebanon" in the Arab Reform Initiative. (also available in Arabic in different versions)

2021.Co-authored with Al-Masri, Muzna, Kanafani, Samar, Moghnie, Lamia, Nassif, Helena, Sawwaf, Zina, “On Reflexivity in Ethnographic Practice and Knowledge Production: Thoughts from the Arabic World." Commoning Ethnography. 4(1). (in process for translation into Arabic)

2018. “City as Play". in (eds) Fawaz, Mona; Gharbieh, Ahmad; Harb, Mona & Salame, Dounia. Refugees as City –Makers. Publication by the Social Justice Program based at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, American University of Beirut. (also available in Arabic)

2018. Co-authored with Adrien Zakar “The Joke is on Us: Irony and Community at a Beirut Scrapyard." Anthropology Today. 24(3). Pp. 3-6.

2017. “A Tangled Web of Lies: reflections on ethnographic fieldwork with Syrian Turkmen women on the side of a road in Beirut" in Contemporary Levant. Volume 3. 55-60.

2016. “The Master Cockroach: Scrap Metals, Garbage and Informal Syrian Labour in Beirut' in Contemporary Levant. Volume 2.pp. 93-107.




2019                British Academy's Urban Infrastructures of Wellbeing programme. Project Title: Developing Infrastructural Solution for Lebanon's Challenges of Mass Displacement. In partnership with the Global Institute for Prosperity at the University College London. At AUB, collaborators are: Professor Howayda Al-Harithy (Lead Pi), Dr. Nadim Farjallah (Co-Pi) and Dr. Elizabeth Saleh (Co-Pi)


2018                Arab Council for Social Sciences Research Grant Cycle 5 on “Environmentalism, Impoverishment and Social Justice Movements: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Project Title: Salvaging Labor Time: Scrap Metal and Syrian Workers inside Beirut's Informal Economy.


2018                Principal Investigator for Ford Foundation: (Asfari Institute for Citizenship and Civil Society) Project Title: The Lay of the Land: A Social Mapping of Daily Practices in Informality amongst Syrian Displaced Communities in Lebanon




BA in Archaeology and Art History: University of Reading

MA in Anthropology and Cultural Politics: Goldsmiths, University of London

PhD in Anthropology: Goldsmiths, University of London



Assistant Professor in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at the American University of Beirut

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