Prager, Laila

Senior Humanities Research Fellow Affiliation: NYU Abu Dhabi

Laila Prager is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Hamburg (Germany) and a member of AGYA (Arab-German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities). Formerly, she worked as a researcher and senior lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Münster and Leipzig (Germany). She has conducted ethnographic research among Bedouin societies in Syria and Jordan, with a special emphasis on the narrative representation and performance of the past. In addition, she has done extensive fieldwork among the Arab speaking Alawi/Alawite (Nusairy) society in South Eastern Turkey (Hatay/Çukurova) and among Alawi migrant communities in Germany, focusing on topics relating to kinship, cosmology, inter-religious conflicts, ritual healing, and migration. She has also conducted research among Kuwaiti-Palestinian refugees in Jordan and Germany.

Since 2014, her research focuses on the upsurge of heritage related discourses and performances in the Gulf Region. Drawing on data collected during fieldwork in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Syria, and Jordan, Prager is undertaking an extensive comparative study of the various ways in which heritage is displayed, enacted, and appropriated at local, national, and transnational levels. In this context, Prager examines heritage museums and parks, cultural festivals, local sport events, oral history initiatives, the reinvigoration of “traditional” art and architecture, heritage as covered in various media productions, and the interrelations between local heritage productions and UNESCO World Heritage discourses. By looking into the ways in which ‘heritage’ is utilized to frame and legitimize cultural identities, Prager is particularly interested in the revitalization of imageries relating to ‘Bedouinities,’ ‘Tribalism,’ and ‘Auto-Orientalism.’

Moreover, Prager is building up an interdisciplinary research project on the societal transformations emerging from the increase of major diseases in the Gulf region, such as diabetes type 2, thalassemia, and other genetically induced illnesses.

Laila Prager joined NYUAD in September 2016 as a Senior Research Fellow in the Humanities Research Fellowship Program.