Brian Edwards Crown Professor in Middle East Studies; Professor of English, Comparative Literary Studies, and American Studies

Brian T. Edwards (B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Yale University) teaches and writes about U.S. literature and culture in its international context, globalization and culture, and contemporary literary and cultural production of North Africa and the Middle East. His fields of interest include American studies, Middle East and North African studies, comparative literature, postcolonial and diaspora studies, film, and cultural anthropology.

He is the author of After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East (Columbia University Press, 2016; paperback April 2017) and Morocco Bound: Disorienting America's Maghreb, from Casablanca to the Marrakech Express (Duke University Press, 2005), as well as essays and Op-Eds in publications as diverse Public Culture, Salon, American Literary History, Chronicle of Higher Education, The Believer, McSweeney’s, Chicago Tribune, NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Journal of North African Studies, Foreign Policy, and many others. Edwards is co-editor, with Dilip Gaonkar, of Globalizing American Studies (University of Chicago Press, 2010), a collection of essays that provides global perspectives on US history and culture. He also edited and contributed to a volume of essays, On the Ground: New Directions in Middle East and North African Studies, published in both print (Northwestern University in Qatar, 2013) and electronic (2014) editions. In 2009, he edited a portfolio of new Egyptian writing for the NY literary journal A Public Space.

Edwards has lectured extensively in the US and abroad, including in including in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Qatar, India, Kyrgyzstan, and throughout Europe. In the US, he has given readings and talks at venues such as the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the KGB Bar in NYC, the Chicago Humanities Festival, the Women's Foreign Policy Group, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and numerous universities. Edwards has been visiting faculty at the University of Tehran (2007, 2009), École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris (2007, 2010), and University College Dublin (2012), and a Fulbright Senior Specialist at both Cairo University, Giza, and the Università degli studi di Napoli "L'Orientale" in Italy. A former Fulbright Fellow to Morocco, he is an active member of the Moroccan Cultural Studies Center at Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah University in Fez. He has served on the selection committee for the London Iranian Film Festival.

In 2005, Edwards was named a Carnegie Scholar by the Carnegie Corporation of NY as part of their “Islam Initiative” designed to develop public scholarship on Islam and Muslim societies. (click here  to read a Carnegie profile.) During 2008-09, as a recipient of a New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, he pursued training in sociocultural anthropology and Middle East studies at the University of Chicago, as well as advanced Arabic and Persian. In 2013, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs named him an Emerging Leader, one of 21 young leaders from the Chicago area selected as the Class of 2015.

He has been increasingly committed to questions of education policy around language instruction and in expanding Arabic language education, both in Chicago and nationally. He is lead author of a Chicago Council white paper entitled “Teaching Arabic in Our Schools: Globalizing Education for Chicago’s Next Generation” (CCGA, 2015), as well as related Op-Eds in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Chicago Tribune. Edwards is chair of the Chicago Arabic Teachers’ Council, funded by the Qatar Foundation, which brings together K-12 Arabic teachers from Chicagoland. He also served on the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Commission on Language Learning, which was charged by a bipartisan group of members of Congress to examine the state of language education in the US and make recommendations for ways to meet the nation’s future educational needs. The Commission issued a report in Washington, DC, on February 28, 2017. Read a summary of the report’s findings here or download the report here.

At Northwestern, he is the founding director (since 2011) of the Middle East and North African Studies Program (MENA), which features an undergraduate major and minor, a graduate cluster and Ph.D. certificate, a language program (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish), as well as a vibrant calendar of programming both on campus and in the community. In addition to serving in the English department, where he was Director of Graduate Studies from 2009-2012, Edwards is a core faculty member in Northwestern's programs of Comparative Literary Studies, American Studies, Middle East and North African Studies, and International Studies, and is a faculty affiliate of the Program of African Studies, Screen Cultures, Rhetoric and Public Culture, and the Buffett Institute for Global Studies.


On the Ground: New Directions in Middle East and North African Studies
On the Ground: New Directions in Middle East and North African Studies (Northwestern University in Qatar, 2013)
Contributors Brian Edwards, Katherine Hoffman, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Rebecca Johnson, Henri Lauzière, Sonali Pahwa, Wendy Pearlman, Joe Khalil, Kristen Stilt, and Jessica Winegar.
Globalizing American Studies
Globalizing American Studies (University of Chicago Press, 2010, 2010)
edited by Brian T. Edwards and Dilip P. Gaonkar
Cairo 2010: After Kefaya
Cairo 2010: After Kefaya (A Public Space, Issue 9, 2009)
a portfolio of work by the next generation of Cairo writers (plus a filmmaker and a comic artist), edited and introduced by Brian T. Edwards.
Morocco Bound: Disorienting America's Maghreb, from Casablanca to the Marrakech Express
Morocco Bound: Disorienting America's Maghreb, from Casablanca to the Marrakech Express (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 2005)
Part of the "New Americanists" series.


  • “Moving Target: Is ‘Homeland’ Still Racist?” Los Angeles Review of Books, March 31, 2017.
    • Click here to read the essay in LARB. 
    • Click here for a radio commentary on KPCC’s The Frame (SoCal Public Radio), April 7, 2017 (4:57 min).
  • “Baptism of Solitude: Paul Bowles’s Morocco Tapes,” podcast (writer and narrator), The Organist, Episode 72, a McSweeney’s and KCRW (Santa Monica Public Radio) arts and culture podcast, premiered Feb 9, 2017.
    • Click here to listen to the podcast (29:04 min).               
  • “Lose yourself in Paul Bowles’s 1959 Morocco tapes,” an essay accompanying podcast, (Santa Monica Public Radio), Feb 9, 2017. Click here to read the essay.
  • “Brian Edwards on US Culture in Iran,” Interview with David Andelman,, September 26, 2016. Click here to read the interview.
  • “They’ve destroyed us worldwide: Donald Trump, George W. Bush and the destruction of the American century,” Salon, January 10, 2016.
    • Click here to read the essay.
  • “‘Why Islam? Why are Muslims considered the worst by Americans?’ The questions young Muslims ask me about Donald Trump and America,” Salon, December 26, 2015.  
    Click here to read the essay.
  • “Why Culture?” Columbia University Press blog, December 2, 2015.
    • Click here to read the essay.
  • “Interview with Brian T. Edwards, author of ‘After the American Century,’” Columbia University Press blog, December 1, 2015.
    • Click here to read the interview.
  • “Baseball, Life, and a Moment with Yogi Berra,” Chicago Tribune, September 29, 2015, p. 13.
    • Click here to read the article.  
  • Brian T. Edwards, Roseanna Ander, Sarah Herda, “Teaching Arabic in Our Schools: Globalizing Education for Chicago’s Next Generation,” The Chicago Council on Global Affairs: Emerging Leaders Perspectives (Chicago: Chicago Council on Global Affairs, June 2015).  18 pp.  
    • Click here to download the report (PDF file).  
    • Click here to watch a 10-minute talk by Brian Edwards about why and how we should expand the teaching of Arabic language in Chicago Public Schools.
  • “To Make the World a Better Place, Teach Arabic,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 11, 2015, back page.
    • Click here to read the article.
  • "Teach Arabic in Public Schools,” Chicago Tribune, April 6, 2015, p. 15.
    • Click here to read the article.
  • Islam,” in Keywords for American Cultural Studies, 2nd edition, ed. Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler (NY: NYU Press, 2014): 137–141.
  • "Road to Rapid City," The Believer, vol. 12, no. 5 (June 2014): 27–35.
    An essay about Hollywood road movies, a family road trip, and a 4,000 mile moving film festival where they did—and didn't—come together.  
    Selected as "Notable Travel Writing of 2014” in The Best American Travel Writing 2015, Andrew McCarthy, guest editor (Houghton Mifflin 2015).
    • Click here to read the essay.
  • "Jumping Publics: Magdy el Shafee’s Cairo Comics," NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 47.1 (Spring 2014): 67–89.  Special issue: "Is the Novel Democratic?" Guest edited by Nancy Ruttenburg.
    • Click here to read the article.
  • "The World, the Text, and the Americanist," American Literary History 25.1 (Spring 2013): 231-246. 
    • Click here to read an extract.
  • review of Abdellah Taïa, An Arab Melancholia, Bookforum 19.1 (April/May 2012): 42–43.
    • Click here to read the review.
  • "Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock after the American Century:  Circulation and Non-return in The American Scene and Strangers on a Train," in The Men Who Knew Too Much: Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock, ed. Susan M. Griffin and Alan Nadel (NY: Oxford University Press, 2012), 48-58.
  • "Tahrir: Ends of Circulation,"  Public Culture 23.3 (fall 2011): 493-504.
    • Click here to read the essay.
  • "Logics and Contexts of Circulation," in A Companion to Comparative Literature, edited by Ali Behdad and Dominic Thomas (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2011), 454-472.  
  • "After the American Century," REAL: Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature, Vol. 27.
    Special issue: "States of Emergency - States of Crisis" ed. by Winfried Fluck, Katharina Motyl, Donald Pease and Christoph Raetzschl. (Tuebingen, Germany: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2011): 57-72.
    • Click here to read the essay. (Downloads 274kb pdf file).
  • review of Valerie Orlando, Francophone Voices of the ‘New’ Morocco in Film and Print,Journal of North African Studies, 16.3 (2011): 493-496.
  • "The Moroccan Paul Bowles," Michigan Quarterly Review 50.2 (Spring 2011): 191-209.
    • Click here to read the essay.
  • "Al Magharbah yahibun malikihum wa baladihum" (in Arabic), Maghrib al-Youm (Morocco), 18-24 February 2011, p. 19.
    • Click here to read the article. (Downloads 86 kb pdf file).
  • "The Next to Tumble?" Chicago Tribune, 10 February 2011.
    An Op-Ed on Morocco in the wake of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions.
    • Click here to read the article.
  • "You Had to Be There," A Public Space, issue 11 (Fall 2010), 11-12.  A mini-essay on jokes in Tehran, Cairo, Fez, and Casablanca.  
    Includes three jokes, suitable for retelling.
    • Click here to read the essay. (Downloads 2.4 mb pdf file).
  • "Globalizing American Studies" (with Dilip Gaonkar), an extended introductory essay to Globalizing American Studies, edited by B.T. Edwards and D. P. Gaonkar (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), pp 1-44.
  • "American Studies in Motion: Tehran, Hyderabad, Cairo," epilogue to Globalizing American Studies, edited by B.T. Edwards and D. P. Gaonkar (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), pp 300-321.
  • review of Susan Nance, How the Arabian Nights Inspired the American Dream, 1790-1935, Journal of American History, 97.2 (September 2010): 555-556.
  • "Fragments of America: Response to Marius Jucan,"  American, British and Canadian Studies (Journal of the Academic Anglophone Society of Romania), vol. 14 (June 2010): 96-103.
    • Click here to read the essay. (Downloads 176kb pdf file.)
  • "Letter from Cairo," McSweeney's,  issue 34 (Spring 2010), 16-18.
    A 1,200 word mini-essay about coffee-fasting during Ramadan, feeling like a speck, and a shared sense of community.
    • Click here to read the essay. (Downloads 52 kb pdf file.)
  • "Disorienting Captivity: A Response to Gordon Sayre" American Literary History 22.2 (Summer 2010): 360-367.
    Jointly published in Early American Literature.
    • Click here to read the essay.
  • review of Sandra Gayle Carter, What Moroccan Cinema?: A Historical and Critical Study, 1956-2006, The Middle East Journal, vol. 64, no. 3 (Summer 2010), 490-491.
  • "Watching Shrek in Tehran," The Believer, vol. 8, no. 3 (March/April 2010): 5-11.
    An essay on illegal ogres, immoral materials, Iranian film in its U.S. circulation and Hollywood film in Iranian circulation. 
    Selected as "Notable Travel Writing" in The Best American Travel Writing 2011, Sloane Crosley, guest editor, Jason Wilson, Series Editor (Houghton Mifflin 2011).
    Reprinted in Read Harder: Five More Years of Great Writing from The Believer, ed. Ed Park and Heidi Julavits (San Francisco: McSweeney’s Books, 2014), 137–148.
    • Click here to read the essay.
  • "Cairo 2010: After Kefaya," Introduction to Cairo Portfolio, A Public Space, issue 9 (Fall 2009): 128-33.
    • Click here to read the essay.
  • review of Gil Hochberg's In Spite of Partition: Jews, Arabs, and the Limits of the Separatist Imagination, Comparative Literature 60.2 (Spring 2009).
  • "Arab Ambivalence toward Obama and the Race Card," The Huffington Post, 26 November 2008.
    • Click here to read the article.
  • "We're already talking to Tehran," an Op-Ed on Obama and dialogue with Iran, Chicago Tribune (Sunday), 20 July 2008.
    • Click here to read the article.
  • "Kiddie Orientalism," an essay on Star Wars, North Africa, and the first post-9/11 generation of American children. The Believer, no. 54 (June 2008), 21-30.
    • Click here to read the essay.
  • "American Studies in Tehran," Public Culture 19.3 (2007): 415-24.
    selected as a "Notable Essay of 2007" in The Best American Essays 2008, Adam Gopnik, Guest Editor, Robert Atwan, Series Editor (Houghton Mifflin 2008).
    • Click here to read the essay.
  • "Marock in Morocco: Reading Moroccan Films in the Age of Circulation," Journal of North African Studies 12.3 (2007): 287-307.
    Special issue on North African cinema.
    Reprinted in North African Cinema in Global Context: Through the Lens of Diaspora, ed. Andrea Khalil (Routledge, 2008).
  • "Rethinking American Orientalism After the American Century," America in the Middle East: The Middle East in America, ed. Patrick McGreevy (Beirut, Lebanon: American University of Beirut, 2006), 41-52.
  • "On the Role of Intelligence in Globalization: Phases of Mrabet's Work," Moroccan Cultural Studies Journal, no. 3 (2006), 9-18.
    Special issue: "Mohammed Mrabet and Paul Bowles: Literary and Cultural Encounters."
  • "Following Casablanca: Recasting the Postcolonial City," Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, 5.1 (2005): 13-20. 
    Special issue: "African Cities."
  • "Sheltering Screens: Paul Bowles and Foreign Relations," American Literary History 17.2 (Summer 2005), 307-34.
  • "The Worlds of Paul Bowles," Tingis: A Moroccan-American Magazine of Ideas and Culture 2.2 (Spring 2005), 14-22.
    • Click here to read essay.
  • "The Maghreb in Black and White," Foreign Policy, no. 146 (January/February 2005):90-91
    [Translated into Spanish and Arabic for FP Spain and FP Arabic]
  • "What Happened in Tangier?" Introduction to Moroccan republication of Love with a Few Hairs (1967), by Mohammed Mrabet, translated by Paul Bowles (Fez: Moroccan Cultural Studies Center, 2004): i-xiv.
  • "Preposterous Encounters: Interrupting American Studies with the (Post)colonial, or Casablanca in the American Century," Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. 23.1-2 (2003): 70-86.
    Special issue: "Comparative (Post)colonialisms."
    • Click here to read the essay.
  • "The Well-Built Wall of Culture: Old New York and Its Harems," in The Age of Innocence (Norton Critical Edition), ed. Candace Waid (NY: W.W. Norton, 2003), 482-506.
  • "Fanon's al-Jaza'ir, or Algeria translated", Parallax 8.2 (April-June 2002): 99-115.
  • "Yankee Pashas and Buried Women: Containing Abundance in 1950s Hollywood Orientalism", Film & History 31.2 (2001): 13-24.
  • review of Jarrod Hayes' "Queer Nations: Marginal Sexualities in the Maghreb", The Journal of North African Studies 5.2 (2000): 94-98.
  • "Desert of Memory", FEED Magazine, 20 October 2000.