Dahlia El Zein

El Zein

Ph.D. Candidate

I specialize in the study of race, gender, migration, and empire in the late 19th and 20th centuries, focusing on the connections between the Eastern Mediterranean and West Africa. My research investigates the intersections of race, migration, gender, and empire in colonial and postcolonial contexts.

My current dissertation project entitled "Beirut to Dakar: Race-Making, Migration, and Intermarriage in West Africa and the Levant, 1920-1960" traces the genealogies of racial hierarchies in Lebanon and its West African diaspora under French colonial rule. It delves into the complex intersections of colonialism, race, and identity through the experiences of Lebanese Syrian migrants in French West Africa and West African soldiers (tirailleurs sénégalais) who served in Lebanon and Syria as part of the French colonial army during the mandate period (1920-1946) after the First World War.

In addition to my work on migration and empire, I am also interested in postcolonial constructions of race as it intersects with nation-building. I have written on the educational project of the United Arab Republic during the period of unification between Egypt and Syria (1958-1961), with a focus on the negotiations of cultural, class, and gender dynamics.

In a previous life, I taught history courses on the Middle East and Immigration at a Princeton University precollege summer program. I have also worked for the Middle East Institute and the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University, as well as in human rights for several years covering the Middle East and North Africa region.

Committee Members: Eve Troutt Powell, Cheikh Anta Babou, Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet





M.A. History, University of Pennsylvania

M.A. Arab Studies, Georgetown University

Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies 

B.A. International Relations, Webster University


Research Interests

19th and 20th century Middle East and Africa, Transregional and Transnational histories, Colonialism, Migration, Empire, Race and Racial Identity, Gender, Cross-Colonial Encounters

Courses Taught

TA for:

HIST 075 Africa Before 1800 (Spring 2020)

HIST 166 Arab-Israeli Conflict Through Literature and Film (Spring 2021)

Selected Publications

“Cultural Sensitivity in a Military Occupation: The U.S. Military in Iraq,” Rochelle Davis with Dahlia El Zein and Dena Takruri in Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency. (University of Chicago Press: 2010)

When Egypt & Syria United: The Rise & Fall of the UAR (1958-1961)” Fiker Institute, August 2023.