Sylvain Perdigon

​​​​​I joined the SOAM department in January 2013 as Assistant Professor of Anthropology. I was born and grew up in the southern half of France, studied Greek and Latin at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, and received my PhD in Anthropology from Johns Hopkins University in 2011. Before moving back to Lebanon, I taught at the American University in Cairo between September 2011 and December 2012. In 2015-16, I was a Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. I collect a variety of things into the Broom Closet. 

My research concerns questions of power and the disclosure of selves and worlds in the contemporary Middle East. In the project I am currently completing, I explore how the contradictory historical processes set in motion by the politics of empire, nationhood and sovereignty in the Eastern Mediterranean are critically refracted through emergent modes of obligation and affiliation to a range of human (relatives) and nonhuman (texts, dream-images, and angels) entities in a Palestinian refugee community in Tyre, South Lebanon. If Palestinian refugee worlds are the product of a distinctly modern imaginary pursuit (the nation-state), they also constitute a between and betwixt in which social belonging is not institutionally mediated by the category of citizenship, nor bound by the manner in which this category tethers a fantasy of the sovereign self to the sovereignty of the state. This paradoxical condition, I argue, allows both for the slow exhaustion of bodies and minds by the refugee regime, and for alternative social imaginaries, offbeat patterns of effort and conduct, even radically heterodox ways of telling what is, to endure or emerge diagonally to the governmentalities through which spacings of life and death are perpetuated or expanded. The book manuscript I'm working on (Between the Womb and the Hour: statelessness, obligation and the disclosure of the world in a Palestinian refugee community) thus chronicles everyday life in the camps of Tyre approached as "heteropias" (Foucault) or "spaces of the otherwise" (E. Povinelli), and tracks in particular the semiotic materials, practices and processes associated with a mode of relatedness my Palestinian interlocutors call al-rahim or ties-of-the-womb.

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My research, teaching and mentoring interests include, but are not limited to: ethics; religion, especially Islam; kinship; refugee worlds and social abandonment; sovereignty and the law; violence and social suffering; gender, sexuality and embodiment; language and semiotics; the everyday; human-nonhuman relations.​​

The courses I have been teaching since I joined AUB include:

  • SOAN 290/323 The Space of Refuge
  • SOAN 323 The Lives of Law in Islam: Anthropological Perspectives
  • SOAN 304 Anthropological Research Methods
  • SOAN 300 Graduate Research Methods
  • SOAN 236/323 Semiotic anthropology
  • SOAN 226 Religion and Society
  • SOAN 216 Hands-On Anthropology
  • SOAN 103 Reading Other Cultures


“Bleeding Dreams: al-Qreyne, al-Rahim and the Bindings of the Imaginal” in Living and Dying in the Contemporary World: A Compendium, edited by Veena Das and Clara Han, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2015.

“Ethnography in the Time of Martyrs: History and Pain in Current Anthropological Practice” in Wording the World: Veena Das and Scenes of Inheritance, edited by Roma Chatterji, New York: Fordham University Press, 2015.

“L’Ethnographie à l’Heure des Martyrs: Histoire, Violence, Souffrance dans la Pratique Anthropologique Contemporaine” Les Annales HSS (July-August 2010): 971–996.

“‘The One Still Surviving and Viable Institution’” in Palestinian Refugees: Identity, Space and Place in the Levant, edited by Sari Hanafi and Are Knudsen, London: Routledge, 2011, pp. 165–179.

“Bachelors’ Corniche: Transnationality and the Unmaking of Intimacy amongst Palestinian Youths in Jal al-Bahr, South Lebanon” in Manifestations of Identity, edited by Muhammad Ali Khalidi, Beirut/Washington D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2010, pp. 93–108 (also published in French and Arabic).

Book Review. Ho, Engseng. The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. Pount. Cahiers d’Etudes sur la Corne de l’Afrique et l’Arabie du Sud 3 (2009): 148–157.

Book Review. Aubin-Boltanski, Emma. Pèlerinages et Nationalisme en Palestine: Prophètes, Héros, et Ancêtres. Paris: Éditions de l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 2007. La Vie des Idées (10/30/2008).​

Book Review: Sfeir, Jihane. L’Exil Palestinien au Liban. Le Temps des Origines (1947-1952). Paris/Beirut: Karthala - IFPO, 2008. La Vie des Idées (10/01/2008).​​




Research interests: 

Ethics; religion, especially Islam; kinship; refugee worlds and social abandonment; sovereignty and the law; violence and social suffering; gender, sexuality and embodiment; language and semiotics; the everyday; human-nonhuman relations; animals.