Sonali Pahwa

Photo of Sonali Pahwa

Contact Me

Theatre Arts and Dance RarigC
330 21st Avenue S Rm 580

  • Theatre Arts and Dance
  • Liberal Arts: Moving Image & Media Studies
  • Liberal Arts: Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
  • Liberal Arts: African Studies Initiative

I am an ethnographer of stage, street, and digital performance, with a particular interest in youth culture in the Arab world. My forthcoming book Theaters of Citizenship: Aesthetics and Politics of Egypt’s Avant-Gardes (Northwestern University Press, 2020) examines the cultural politics of identity in Egyptian underground theater, before and after 2011. A generation of Egyptians disillusioned with electoral process used theatrical performance and acting workshops as sites of staging cultural politics. Their embodied debates on gender, media, refugee rights, and self-help, were a locus of an underground intellectual scene that endured Egypt’s political cataclysms. Since 2011, I’ve launched a second project on young Arab women’s digital performances. Beginning with an article on Egyptian bloggers who used intimate digital spaces to talk about self and sexuality, as well as revolutionary politics, I have studied the performances of a Saudi beauty vlogger and Egyptian hijab evangelist on Instagram. Their multiple stages – on personal and corporate media platforms – assemble inventive embodiments of young Arab womanhood. I am interested in how their roles evolve across platforms and study them as posthuman performances, built by algorithmic, technological, and bodily processes.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • PhD: Anthropology, Columbia University.
  • BA: Amherst College.


  • Middle East Studies, performance studies, digital media, gender studies, youth culture, Egypt
Courses Taught
  • TH 1102 Stage, Screen, and Society: Performance in the Media Age
  • TH 1914 Cyborgs and Hackers: Ethics of Digital Life
  • HSEM 2064H Sex, Gender, and the Digital Body
  • TH 3172 History of the Theatre: Age of Enlightenment to the Present
  • TH 4177 Dramatic Literature: Strategic Interpretation
  • TH 8115 History and Theory of Western Theatre: 20th Century Through World War II
  • TH 8120 Performing Politics; Digital Performance Cultures
  • “Mediating Modesty on Saudi YouTube: From Postfeminist to Posthuman Performance.” Women and Performance (2): 162-178
  • “Making Revolution Everyday: Quotidian Performance and Utopian Imagination in Egypt’s Streets and Squares.” Text and Performance Quarterly 39 (1).
  • Politics in the Digital Boudoir: Sentimentality and the Transformation of Civil Debate in Egyptian Women's Blogs: Pahwa, Sonali, Duke University Press, Freedom Without Permission: Bodies and Space in the Arab Revlutions, 2016.