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 first book, Staging a Slow Revolution, 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 the underground intellectual scene that endured through Egypt’s political cataclysms. After the revolution, the cultural underground has become a more visible, and yet oppositional, site of thought and art. Since 2011, I’ve initiated a second project on young Arab women’s digital performances. It started with an article on Egyptian bloggers who used intimate digital spaces to talk about self and sexuality, as well as revolutionary politics. As YouTube and Instagram grew in popularity in the Arab world, I studied the digital performances of a Saudi beauty vlogger and Egyptian Instagram star. Their multiple stages – on personal and corporate media platforms – allowed them to assemble roles from transnational genres and Arab youth cultures, producing 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.


  • 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 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
  • “Ambassadors of No Nation: International Festivals and Transnational Theatre Circuits in Egypt.”: Pahwa, Sonali, African Theatre, 11 68-74, 2012.
  • Culture, State & Revolution: Pahwa, Sonali, Jessica Winegar, Middle East Research and Information Project, 263 , 2012.
  • “Culture, State and Revolution: Arts Wars Between Religious and Secular Autocracies in Post-Revolution Egypt.”: Pahwa, Sonali, Catha Paquette & Karen Kleinfelder, Eds., In and Out of Sight: Art Censorship Then and Now, Under Review.
  • 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.