American University of Beirut

Kirsten Scheid


Kirsten Scheid is an associate professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Media Studies at American University of Beirut. She earned her PhD in Anthropology from Princeton University and her BA in Art History from Columbia University. Her research and teaching interests are the Anthropology of Art, Aesthetics, Art Historiography and Theory, Modernization and Cosmopolitanism, Affect, and Elites. She has conducted field and archival research since 1992 in Lebanon and Palestine. In 2009, Kirsten was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, with its research program, “Europe in the Middle East, the Middle East in Europe.” Her research has been supported by the Palestinian American Research Center, the Barakat Trust, and the Issam Fares Institute. Kirsten has also contributed extensively to the art community, curating, exhibiting, writing in art journals and popular media, and founding both a cultural resource center and an Arabic children’s books line.

Selected Publications
2013: “Distinctions That Could Be Drawn: Choucair’s Paris and Beirut,” in Saloua Raouda Choucair in Retrospective. Exhibition catalogue. Ed. Jessica Morgan. London: The Tate Modern, Scheduled for April 2013.

2012: “On Arabs and the Art Awakening: Warnings from a Narcoleptic Population,”​ on-line, at Jadaliyya, August 31. Http://

2012: “The Study of Islamic Art at a Crossroad, and Humanity as a Whole,” in Islamic Art and the Museum: Discussions on scientific and museological approaches to art and archaeology of the Muslim world. Eds. Benoit Junod, Georges Khalil, Stefan Weber. Pp. 90-94. London: Saqi Books.

2010: “Necessary Nudes —Hadatha and Mu`asara in the Lives of Modern Lebanese,”​ with International Journal of Middle East Studies, 42 (2, May):203-230.

2008: “What We Do Not Know: Questions for a Study of Contemporary Arab Art,” in International Institute for Studies of Islam in the Modern World Review (ISIM), 22 (Autumn): 14-15.

2007: ​​“No Innocent Victims: Postwar Activism and Lebanon’s Civil Society,”​ in The War on Lebanon: A Reader. Ed. Nubar Hovsepian. Pp. 176-199. Northampton, MA: Interlink Publishing, Spring 2007.

2007: “The Agency of Art and Studying Arab Modernity,”​ in MIT-Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies (MIT-IJMES), 7 (Spring):6-23. On-line at

2006: “Seeing in Stereo: A Study of the Market for Orientalist Copies in Lebanon,”​ in European University Institute Working Paper Series, 2006/03. Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Working Papers Series, Badia Fiesolana, San Domenico di Fiesole, Italy.

2004: Guest editor, “Mutual Creation: New Approaches to the Study of Contemporary Art in the Mediterranean Muslim World,” Al-Adab (Arabic literary and cultural review) special issue, including seven scholarly studies. (January-February, 2004) 

Courses Taught
Graduate Courses: Art, Aesthetics, and Social Change; Art, Aesthetics, and Anthropology;  Performing Lebanon: Taste, Place, and Identity; The Ethnographer’s Craft

Undergraduate Courses: Reading Other Cultures; Introduction to Anthropology; Introduction to Sociology; Arab Culture and Society; Anthropology of America; Political Anthropology; Cultural Identities and Boundaries; Seminar in Art and Culture

Theses (at AUB)

In progress            Jennifer Le Varge, “Children in Preschool: Embodiment, Agency and Disciplined Childhood.”

2012                       Sarah Sabban, “Islamic Art in Two Museums.” 

2009                       Heghnar Yeghiayan,  “Nature as a Cultural Construct in `Anjar.”

2009                       Ha Yeon Lee, “Filipina Domestic Workers and Their Employers in Lebanon: Power, Symbols, and Agency.”

2009                       Hiba Morcos, “Negotiating Women: Female Centered Support Networks in Abidjan.”

2008                       Rania Jaber, “What’s Cooking and What’s Not: Hybrid Arab Women Artists and Their Challenge to Art Networks through Food.”

2008                       Nadia Bou Ali, “Performing the Nahda: Science and Progress in the Nineteenth-Century Muqtataf.”

2008                       Julianne Ivany, "Looking in the I: A Study of Children's Photographic Self-portraits as a Means of Experiencing and Exploring Selves.”

2007                       Susan Barclay, “Performing Memory, Violence, Identity, and the Politics of the Present with UMAM.”

Theses at other universities

2012                       Dina Ramadan, “The Aesthetics of the Modern: Producing Artists, Cultivating Collectors, and Imagining Audiences in Egypt 1908-1958.” Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University. Committee Member

Conferences Panels, Presentations, and Invited Lectures
2013                       Co-Organizer with Anneka Lenssen: “A Relocated Politics: Making Art Elsewhere than the Nation” panel, Middle East Studies Association. New Orleans, Oct. 10-13.

2013                       “Fine Art, Nature, and the Sense of a Civic Sphere in ‘Lebanese’ Landscapes,” for “The Mashriq in the Age of Late Imperialism,” conference, Princeton University. Princeton, Sept. 20-22.

2012                       “Turks Have No Taste for Art,” for “City Crossings: Claiming the Past, Making the Present in Beirut, Cairo and Istanbul” workshop, Sabanci University and Istanbul Policy Center. Istanbul, Dec. 7-8. 

2012                       “Between Promise and Fragility: Aesthetic Belonging in Palestinian Art,” at Columbia University. New York, Oct. 11.

2012                       “Pious Secularity and the Modern Lebanese Citizen: a study of social debates in the form of paintings,” at New York University. New York, Feb. 28.

2011                       “From Landscapers of Heritage to Journalists of the Street,” for “State of the Artists, Street of the Artists” panel, “Teaching Arab Intellectual Thought and the Changing Role of the Literati” conference, Columbia University. New York, May 7-8.

2010                       “Unbounded Landscapes: Secular Modernism and Subversive Nationalism?” for “Modernity in Translation? Changing Views” symposium, Center for Advanced Studies, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Munich, Dec. 4.

2010                       “How is there no Art here? An Invented Dilemma for Contemporary Arab Art and the Case of Lebanon,” for “Kunst, Architektur und materielle Kultur des Vorderen Orients” symposium, Centrum für Nah- und Mittelost-Studien, Philipps-Universitaet Marburg. Marburg, May 27.

2010                       “The Political Aesthetics of Slumber and Amnesia,” for “Constructions of History and its Aesthetic Transcription in Arab Contemporary Arts” conference, Free University of Berlin. Berlin, April 30-May 1.

2010                       “Erasure and Distortion: the Ottoman Memory in Contemporary Beirut Art Production,” for “Ottoman Urban Studies” seminar, Zentrum Moderner Orient. Berlin, April 19.

2010                       Co-Organizer with Jessica Winegar: “Aesthetics, Politics, and Cultural Practices in Arab Societies Today” workshop, sponsored by the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, “Europe in the Middle East – the Middle East in Europe” program. Berlin, July 14-16.

2009                       “Secular Landscapes: Aesthetics and Citizenship in the Paintings of the Arab Renaissance,” for the “Berliner Seminar,” Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Berlin, Dec. 16.

2009                       "You're Invited: Virtues, Aesthetics, and Networks of Elite Beiruti Youth." Department of Anthropology, Swarthmore College. Swarthmore, Nov. 30.

2009                       “Outrageous Performances: Rites of Passage among Elite Lebanese Pubescents,” for “Music, Popular, and Cyber Culture,” session of “Marginalization and Mobilization of Youth in the Near East” conference, Center for Behavioral Research. Beirut, May 29-31.

2009                       “In the Red Glow: Upper-Class Lebanese Birthday Parties as Virtual Rites of Passage.” Issam Fares Policy Center. Beirut, March 30. Also posted online at

2006                       Chair and Organizer: “Stop and Go, Look and Learn: Forming Modernity through Mandate Lebanon” panel, Middle East Studies Association meetings. Boston, Nov. 18-21.

2006                       Co-Organizer with Maha Yahya: “Nationalism, Imperialism and the Cultural Formations of Modern Capital Cities in the Middle East and North Africa” roundtable, Middle East Studies Association meetings. Boston, Nov. 18-21.

2005                       Co-Organizer with Jessica Winegar: “Art and War” panel, Middle East Studies Association meetings. Washington DC., Nov. 19-22.

Art & Museum Experience
2011                       “The Mysterious Sculpture and Its Missing Fixity,” art installation as part of the “Museum as Hub: Beirut Art Center: Due to unforeseen events…” exhibition, the New Museum. New York, Dec. 14, 2011-Feb. 5, 2012.

2009                       “The Mysterious Sculpture and Its Missing Fixity,” presentation for “The Lives of Artworks In and After War” round table, Beirut Art Center. Beirut, June 24.

2008                       Co-Curator with Jessica Winegar for online exhibition series, "History Modernisms in the Middle East" with four artist retrospectives, at the ArteEast Virtual Gallery, at

2007                       Curator, Retrospective for Flavia Codsi, ArteEast Gallery Exhibition, October – December, at

2005                       Curator, Retrospective for Rafik Majzoub, ArteEast Gallery Exhibition, July – September, at

2001                       Curator, “Women at an Exhibition: Four Generations of Lebanese Women Painting Women,” with twelve participating artists, at Nadi al-Saha, Beirut, March – April.

To the Professional Community

Middle East Section, American Anthropological Association – board member (2012-present)

Arab Studies Journal – editorial board member (2008 – present)

Encounters  – editorial board member (2008 – present)

Anthropological Society in Lebanon (ASIL) – founding member and organizer (2005-present)

To the University Community

Acting Chair, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Media Studies (February 2012)

Anthropology Graduate and Undergraduate Programs – coordinator (2005 – present)

University Art Gallery Steering Committee – member (2012 – present)

Arts & Humanities Initiative Committee – member (2010 – 2012)

Institutional Review Board – SBS – member (2010 – 2012)

Freshmen Advisor (2008-9, 2010 – present)

Center for Arab and Middle East Studies Steering Committee – member (2012 – present)

Center for American Studies and Research Executive Committee  – member (2005 – 2009)

To the Art Community

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Primary Documents series: Arab Art in the Twentieth Century. International Publications series. Consultant  (2013 to present)

Lebanon chapter Welfare Association (WA) committee for Art and Culture – member (2012 – present)

Lebanese National Committee for the 54th Venice Biennale National Executive Committee – member (2011)

ArteEast Virtual Gallery Advisory Board – member (2004 – 2008)

Children’s book series Hikayat walad min Bayrout (11 titles), Dar al-Adab, Beirut – editor and coordinator (2003 – 2009)               

Nadi al-Saha, arts and cultural facilities center serving the Mar Elias, Wata al-Moussaitbeh, and the Arab University area of Beirut – co-founder, arts coordinator, and board member (2001 – 2005)

The Center for Popular Arts, Ramallah, Palestinian West Bank – research assistant  (1992)

Research interests: 

Materialities, Imaginations, Aesthetics and Ethics, Art Theory, Middle East Anthropology, Modern and Contemporary Arab Artists, Elites, Colonialism, Universalism, Cultural Production in Post-Colonial Societies, Affect, Gender, Social Change, Identity processes, Lebanon, Palestine, America as a Primitive Society.

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