Food Studies Centre

Dr Sami Zubaida

Key information

Food Studies Centre Professorial Research Associate
Food Studies Centre
Email address


Sami Zubaida is Emeritus Professor of Politics and Sociology at Birkbeck, University of London and has held visiting positions in Cairo, Istanbul, Beirut, Aix-en-Provence, Berkeley CA, Paris and New York.  His research interests include Middle East Politics, Religion and Law, Nationalism, Food and Culture. Professor Zubaida is a regular contributor to the LMEI’s The Middle East in London magazine and has published extensively on the Middle East, most recently an article in openDemocracy on Islam and Reform.  He is also a Professorial Research Associate of the Food Studies Centre, SOAS and has published widely on food and culinary cultures including 'Drink, meals and social boundaries', in Jakob A. Klein and Anne Murcott (eds), Food Consumption in Global Perspective: Essays in the Anthropology of Food in Honour of Jack Goody (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East (ed. with Richard Tapper, Tauris Parke, 2001).

Latest highlights

  • Professeur Invite, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, Summer 2003
  • Visting Hauser Global Professor of Law, The Law School, New York University, Spring 2006
  • Shaykh Zayed Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the American University of Beirut, October 2008
  • Delivered the Peter Green Lecture on the Modern Middle East at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA, on Community, Class and Religion in Iraqi Politics and Society, April 2009
  • Delivered the MacKay Lecture at Dalhousie University, Canada, on Mapping Identities: Food and the Creation of Boundaries, October 2009
  • Organised an international conference on Jews from Arab Lands at SOAS, November 2010
  • Published a book, Beyond Islam: A New Understanding of the Middle East (I B Tauris, London) January 2011
  • Public Lecture at Ravenna University, Italy, on Discourses of Difference: Islam and the West, April 2011
  • Keynote Lecture at the International Association of Media and Communication Research Conference, Istanbul, July 2011, on Cosmopolitan Cities
  • Keynote Lecture  at seminar on Arab Thought at the Crossroads of World Civilization, on Communalities and Contrasts Between the European and Arab Shores of the Mediterranean, Arab Thought Forum, Amman, Jordan, September 2011

Research interests

  • Middle East Politics
  • Religion and Law
  • Nationalism
  • Food and Culture
Recent publications
  • Islam, the People and the State: Political Ideas and Movements in the Middle East, 3rd edition, London 2009, translated into Arabic, Hebrew, Italian and Turkish
  • A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East (co-edited with Richard Tapper, 2nd edition, London 2000), translated into Arabic and Turkish
  • Law and Power in the Islamic World, London 2003/5, translated into Arabic, Danish and Turkish
  • Beyond Islam: A New Understanding of the Middle East, London 2011
Articles and Chapters
  • ‘The Idea of Indian Food: Between the Colonial and the Global’, Food and History, Vol. 7 No. 1, 2009, 191-210
  • ‘Urban Social Movements 1750-1950’, in Peter Sluglett, ed., A Social History of Middle Eastern Cities, 2008
  • ‘Sects in Islam’, in Oxford Handbook on Sociology of Religion, 2008
  • ‘Political Modernity’, in M Khalid Masud, A Salvatore and Martin van Bruinessen, eds., Islam and Modernity: Key Issues and Debates, Edinburgh 2009
  • ‘Role and Strength of Institutions: The Contrasting Cases of Iran and Iraq’, in Contested Sovereignties: Government and Democracy in Middle Eastern and European Perspectives, eds. Elisabeth Ozdalga and Sune Persson, Istanbul: Swedish Research Institute 2010, 121-130
  • ‘Contemporary Trends in Muslim Legal Thought and Ideology’, The New Cambridge History of Islam, Volume 6, Robert Hefner, ed., Muslims and Modernity: Culture and Society Since 1800, CUP 2010, 270-295
Articles and Chapters on Food
  • “Explanations of Biblical Food Prohibitions”, Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, London: Prospect Books 1986, pp180-183
  • “Fat and the Near East”, in Alan Davidson, ed., On Fasting and Feasting, London: Macdonald Orbis 1988, pp162-164
  • "Rice and Wheat in Middle Eastern Cultures", in Staple Food, Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 1989, London: Prospect Books 1990
  • “Ramadan: Fasting and Feasting”, Feasting and Fasting: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, London: Prospect Books 1991
  • “Utility and Symbol in Public Eating”, Harlan Walker, ed., Public Eating, Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, London: Prospect Books 1992, 1-5
  • “Foreign Food and Social Status”, Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on Food and Cookery, Istanbul 1992, Konya (Turkey) 1993, pp301-306
  • ‘Kebab’ in Mediterraneans, 6, 1994
  • "National, Communal and Global Dimensions in Middle Eastern Food Cultures", In Zubaida and Tapper eds., Culinary Cultures of the Middle East, 1994, London: I.B.Tauris, pp 33-48
  • "Rice in the Culinary Cultures of the Middle East", in Zubaida and Tapper, eds., Culinary Cultures of the Middle East, London: I.B.Tauris 1994
  • “Banquets in Gogol’s Dead Souls”, in Food in the Arts, Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, Blackawton: Prospect Books 1999, 237-240
  • “Drink in the Structure of the Meal: Middle Eastern Patterns”, Harlan Walker, ed., The Meal, Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2001, Blackawton: Prospect Books 2002, pp265-270
  • ‘A Culinary History of “National” Cuisine: Egypt and the Middle East’, Cairo Papers in Social Science, 27: 1&2, 2004/2006, 143-155
  • Articles in the web journal OpenDemocracy on current and historical issues in Middle East politics and society
Research projects
  • Transformations in Middle East politics and society: comparative perspectives, Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Turkey
  • Food cultures and discourses on national, regional and diaspora cuisines: the Middle East, Europe and India
  • Member of the Editorial Board, Economy and Society
  • Contributing Editor, Middle East Report, Washington DC

Contact Sami