Nell Gabiam

Associate Professor of Anthropology, Director of Middle Eastern Studies Program


Dept:World Languages And Cultures
Office:3236 Pearson
505 Morrill Rd.
Ames IA

Area of expertise: Forced migration, Humanitarianism, International development, Palestinian refugees

Topics of interest: Global development, Migration in the Middle East and in Europe, Politics of the Middle East, War and humanitarianism


Nell Gabiam is Associate Professor of anthropology and political science and Co-Director of the Middle Eastern Studies Minor program at Iowa State University. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2008. She is the author of The Politics of Suffering: Syria’s Palestinian Refugee Camps (2016, Indiana University Press). She is currently working on her second book, which is the result of fieldwork conducted primarily in Lebanon, Turkey, France, Germany, and Sweden. Her second book project examines how mass displacement from Syria as a result of the ongoing war in that country has affected Palestinian identity and political claims.

Grants and Awards

  • 2020: ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies) fellowship.

  • 2020: Dean’s Emerging Faculty Leader Award. College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Iowa State University.

  • 2018: Visiting Fellowship. Institute for Advanced Study, Toulouse. Université Toulouse Capitole. France.

  • 2018: “Bridging the Divide” grant for collaborative research. Office of the Vice President for Research. Iowa State University.

  • 2016:Dean’s Emerging Faculty Leader Award. College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Iowa State University.

  • 2014: Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty. The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Recent / Major Publications


  • 2016: The Politics of Suffering: Syria’s Palestinian Refugee Camps. Indiana University Press: series on Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa.

Peer-Reviewed Articles:

  • Forthcoming: “Palestinian Refugees and Europe’s ‘Refugee Crisis’”: Seeking Asylum in France in the Wake of the Syrian War. Journal of Refugee Studies.

  • 2020: “Evaluating the Role of Structural Elements and Demographics on Social Capital in Refugee Camps.” With Michael Ward, Cristina Poleacovschi, Kassey Faust, and Carl Weems. Journal of Civil Engineering and Management.

  • 2018: “Mapping Palestinian Identity in the Diaspora: Affective Attachments and Political Spaces.” Special issue on “Palestine and Self-Determination beyond National Frames: Emerging Politics, Cultures, and Claims.” South Atlantic Quarterly, 117:1:65-90.

  • 2017: “Palestinians and the Arab Uprisings: Political Activism and Narratives of Home, Homeland, and Home-Camp.” With Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 43(5):731–748.

  • 2016: “Humanitarianism, Development, and Security in the 21st Century: Lessons from the Syrian Refugee Crisis.” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 48 (2): 382–386.

  • 2015: “Citizenship and Development: Palestinians in France and the Multiple Meanings of Statelessness.” Special Issue: “Population and Development.” Studies in Comparative International Development, 50:479–499.

  • 2012: “When ‘Humanitarianism’ Becomes ‘Development’: The Politics of International Aid in Syria’s Palestinian Refugee Camps.” American Anthropologist, 114(1):95–107.