- Near Eastern Studies
Aaron Rock-Singer is a social and intellectual historian of the Modern Middle East and Islam. He received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania and his M.Phil from St. Antony's College, Oxford. He is currently a PhD candidate in Princeton's Department of Near Eastern Studies and a visiting scholar at Columbia's Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life.
His dissertation explores the emergence of the Islamic Revival in Sadat’s Egypt (1970–1981). It examines how Egyptians turned towards multiple religious projects through Islamic magazines, audiocassette sermons, and television programs from this period. By focusing on “public” religious practices—most notably daily prayer within government-run schools and bureaucratic institutions, practices of modest dress and comportment, and alternative models of religious literacy—this project bridges between intellectual histories that trace the changing ideas of religious elites and social histories and ethnographic studies that focus on local practice. This close analysis of changing models of public religiosity highlights how the Islamic Revival arose and the ways in which it continues to shape the relationship between religion and politics in contemporary Egypt.
Other research has explored broader contestations over religious authority and gender in the Middle East among unaffiliated lay preachers, Muslim Brothers, and Salafis during the past half century. Most recently, I have come to focus on gender relations and masculinity within contemporary Salafism. One article, forthcoming in Islamic Law and Society, traces the emergence of gender segregation as a non-negotiable norm among Salafis in 1970s Egypt, and a second study (currently under review) analyzes the ways in which Salafi men today perform masculinity through the cultivation of a proper beard.
Aaron's teaching interests emerge from his research and over six years in the Middle East. He has taught at Princeton and at St. Francis College. Sample syllabi, available upon request, include introductory courses to Islam and modern Middle Eastern history as well as “The Arab Spring: A New Middle East?”; “Egypt 1952–Present: Free Officers to Free Egyptians?”; and “Islam and Mass Media.”
“Amr Khaled: From Da’wa to Political and Religious Leadership,” The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 37:1 (2010), pp. 15–37.
“A Mass Public: Islamic Magazines and Revival in Egypt, 1976-1981,” The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 42:4 (2015), pp. 427–46.
“The Salafi Mystique: The Rise of Gender Segregation in 1970s Egypt,” Islamic Law and Society (forthcoming, 2016).
“Prayer and the Islamic Revival: A Timely Challenge,” The International Journal of Middle East Studies (forthcoming, 2016).
“Scholarly Authority and Lay Mobilization: Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s Vision of Da‘wa, 1978-1984,” The Muslim World (Forthcoming, 2016)
Review of James Toth, “Sayyid Qutb: The Life and Legacy of a Radical Islamic Intellectual,” The Journal of Contemporary Islam, August 2014.