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Ussama Makdisi

Personal Info

  • Country of residence: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Born in: 1968
  • Age: 43
  • Curriculum vitae :


Rice University professor Ussama Makdisi works to provide a historically accurate answer to one of the most vexing questions of our time: "Why do they hate us?" As the first holder of Rice's Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair in Arabic Studies and an Associate Professor of History, Makdisi explores the history and roots of anti-American thought in the Arab world.

Born in Washington, DC in 1968, Makdisi spent his early years in Beirut. Returning to the US, he received his BA from Wesleyan and his PhD from Princeton University.

Makdisi says his Palestinian mother and Lebanese father imbued him with respect for both cultures and an appreciation for bringing justice to the Palestinians. "It was always part of our background and identity," he says.

In exploring the question "Why do they hate us?" Makdisi explains, "It began with the issue of Palestine and fundamentally still is about Palestine. The conflict over Israel/Palestine, and, of course, Iraq today, is what is driving Arabs and Americans apart. It's so basic and so clear for anyone who looks at the historical record."

Makdisi is the author of The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (UC Press) and co-editor of Memory And Violence in the Middle East And North Africa (Indiana University Press). He has also authored more than a dozen book chapters and journal essays including "Anti-Americanism in the Arab World: An Interpretation of Brief History" which appeared in the Journal of American History. His book on American missionaries in the Ottoman Arab world is complete and scheduled for publication in 2008 with Cornell University Press. In 2004-2005, Makdisi received Fellowships from both the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the American Council of Learned Societies and has lectured widely at universities both in the United States and Middle East.

Currently, Makdisi is working on a new book that examines US-Arab relations from the 19th century to modern times.

"So much of the story today is framed around anti-Americanism," says Makdisi. "If you examine the actual historical record, however, you see that it didn't exist in the Arab world in the 19th century. In fact, it's a history that contradicts the notion of a clash of civilizations. It's a history that does not inevitably lead to the impasse we have now. Nothing in the history of US-Arab relations prior to 1948 - and the subsequent massive US support of Israel - could have predicted the current situation."


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