Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Deborah A. Thomas


Drawing on two years of ethnographic fieldwork and analysis in Washington DC, my dissertation evaluates the culture and politics of "security expertise" in the context of U.S. policy debates on the “Middle East” (and Iran and Egypt specifically) since 2001. Looking primarily at experts working at Washington-based think tanks, I examine how these epistemic-political actors collectively help identify and interpret different regional “threats” for the U.S. security state and ultimately legitimate policy responses to such threats. This research builds upon and brings together anthropological scholarship on the logics and apparatuses of national security and war with interdisciplinary studies on experts, who have influenced U.S. foreign policy in the past and present, as well as studies on governance and power to better explain how and why these “outside” experts have been able to influence U.S. government policies on the Middle East since 9/11. Throughout the dissertation, I point to the complex ways the security state's goal of "countering terror" in this region have exceeded the capabilities and boundaries of the U.S. government, allowing more outside groups and actors to exert power on U.S. policy through the realm of expertise. At the same time, my research evaluates the relationships, subjectivities, practices, and political structures that empower certain types of experts and forms of regional knowledge to dominate U.S. policy debates, while also shedding light on those actors within the foreign policy establishment who are pushing back on these long-standing hierarchies and policy dynamics.