Photo of Hussam Ahmed

Hussam Ahmed

Assistant Professor - The Middle East; social and cultural history

Degrees:B.Sc. (The American University in Cairo), M.A. (McGill), Ph.D. (McGill)
Office:426 Paterson Hall

I am a social and cultural historian of the modern Middle East. I completed my Ph.D. in History at McGill University, and I held postdoctoral fellowships at KU Leuven and the University of Cambridge. I taught Middle East History at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, before moving back to Canada and coming to Carleton University. My research has received generous support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) as well as the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC). For outstanding teaching I was recognized as a “Teaching Hero” in 2021 by the Irish National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in collaboration with the Union of Students in Ireland.

My book, The Last Nahdawi: Taha Hussein and Institution Building in Egypt (Stanford University Press) was released in 2021, and an Arabic translation is forthcoming with Kalima in the United Arab Emirates. The book examines the efforts of Taha Hussein (1889-1973), one of the most influential thinkers and statesmen of the modern Arab world, in formulating and implementing Egypt’s cultural and educational policies within a challenging colonial context. The book offers both a history of modern state formation, revealing how the Egyptian state came to hold such a strong grip over culture and education, and a compelling examination of the life and work of one of the most iconic figures in modern Arab history. By exploring achievements in culture and education, such as introducing free education, opening Egyptian universities to women, and resisting French colonial policies in North Africa, the book situates modern Egypt’s cultural influence in the Arab-Islamic world within the structural changes and political processes of the parliamentary period (1922-1952).

Reviews of The Last Nahdawi have been overwhelmingly positive in and outside the Middle East. These reviews have appeared in Times Literary Supplement, Ahram Weekly, Akhbar al-Adab, Jadaliyya, Qantara, International Journal of Middle East Studies, and The Journal of North African Studies, among others.

My current project is a study of the history of journalism. I am particularly interested in the impact of cultural bureaucracies on cultural and intellectual production using state cultural policies under Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1954-1970) as an historical example.

This year, I will be teaching a Fourth-Year seminar on Anti-Colonial Resistance in the Modern Middle East (Fall 2023), a First-Year course on the History of the Global South, 1850 to the present (Winter 2023) and a Third-Year course on Arab Intellectual History. I have taught other courses such as: History of the Modern Middle East; History of Modern Egypt; the Mandate System in the Middle East; Handling Evidence; the Ottoman Empire; Globalization.


Selected Publications:

2020    Porous Boundaries: The “Local” and the “Foreign” in Cairo’s Vibrant Francophone Cultural Scene (1919-1939): 117-138. In Cultural Entanglement in the Pre-Independence Arab World: Arts, Thought and Literature, eds. Anthony Gorman and Sarah Irving. London: I.B. Tauris.

2018    “The Nahda in Parliament: Taha Husayn’s Career Building Knowledge Production Institutions, 1922-1952.” Arab Studies Journal 16, no. 1 (2018): 8-32.

2018    “Egyptian Cultural Expansionism: Taha Hussein Confronts the French in North Africa, 1950-1952.” Die Welt des Islams 58, no. 4 (2018): 409-441.

Selected Interviews:

2022    New Texts Out Now: “The Last Nahdawi: Taha Hussein and Institution Building in Egypt,” by Hussam R. Ahmed, Jadaliyya,

2019    Reflections on Egypt, the Middle East, and History: “Taha Hussein, Intellectual and Astute Politician,” by Hussam R. Ahmed,طه-حسين،-مفكراً-وسياسيا-محنكاً/?preview=true&_thumbnail_id=4261&fbclid=IwAR1rwKi2cNavy2ZiY1vpBKwyraueZG5GbIsbTf6bhQp4VucSfpsOJfRHIAA (in Arabic)

2018    New Texts Out Now: “The Nahda in Parliament,” by Hussam R. Ahmed, Jadaliyya,