Melani McAlister

Melani McAlister

Chair, Department of American Studies Associate Professor of American Studies, International Affairs, and Media & Public Affairs
Suite 102
Address: 2108 G Street NW
District Of Columbia United States
Phone: 202-994-6071

Areas of Expertise

US in a global context/transnational US history; US media and cultural history; evangelical Christianity; religion and politics


Melani McAlister specializes in the multiple “global visions” produced by and for Americans. In her writing and teaching, she focuses on the ways in which cultural and political history intersect, and on the role of religion and culture in shaping US “interests” in other parts of the world. Her own interests include nationalism and transnationalism, religion and culture, the rhetoric of foreign policy, and media history (including television, film, print, and digital).

Professor McAlister is the author of Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945 (rev. ed. 2005, orig. 2001), and the co-editor, with R. Marie Griffith, of Religion and Politics in the Contemporary United States (2008). She has published in a broad range of academic journals, including the Journal of American History, American Literary History, American Quarterly, and South Atlantic Quarterly.

She has also written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Nation, and has spoken to a broad range of media outlets about US-Middle East relations and US evangelical life and culture, including PBS, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Irish Radio One, and national television stations in Germany, Austria, and Iran.

Professor McAlister received her PhD in American Civilization from Brown University and her BA in International Affairs from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She has been a Fellow at and Princeton’s Davis Center for Historical Studies, a Faculty Fellow at University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication, and a Fellow at Princeton’s Center for the Study of Religion. She currently serves on the International Advisory Board of the Center for American Studies and Research at the American University of Beirut. She is also a member of the editorial board of American Quarterly and the Journal of American History. She has lectured at dozens of universities, both nationally and internationally. She has also served as a consultant and lecturer for American Studies programs and institutes in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Palestine.

Current Research

Professor McAlister is currently completing a study of U.S. Christian evangelicals, popular culture, and international affairs, tentatively titled Our God in the World: The Global Visions of American Evangelicals. This book examines the ways in which US evangelicals understood their own international interests, from fears of decolonization in the 1960s to activism on international religious freedom in the 1990s to responses to the Iraq war after 2003. The book also explores how American believers came to understand themselves as part of a global evangelical community, and the impact of this internationalist understanding on their culture, political values, and religious experiences.

For her next project, Professor McAlister has begun work on a book that examines the global response to the Biafra crisis – the events surrounding the civil war in Nigeria from 1967-71. The book will explore the involvement of religious and secular NGOs, both from the US and Europe. It will also explore the foreign policy responses of the US, Europe, Israel, Egypt, and the Organization of African Unity.


PhD, Brown U., 1996

BA, UNC-Chapel Hill, 1984



Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press., 2005 rev. ed., o. 2001.

Religion and Politics in Contemporary America. Co-edited with R. Marie Griffith. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2008.

Manuscript in progress: “Our God in the World: The Global Visions of American Evangelicals.”

Journal Articles and Book Chapters:

“The Body in Crisis: Congo and the Transformations of Evangelical Internationalism, 1960-65,” in The US in the World, ed. Andrew Preston and Doug Rossinow, forthcoming Cornell UP, 2014.

“US Evangelicals and the Politics of Slave Redemption as Religious Freedom,” South Atlantic Quarterly, special issue on Religious Freedom, ed. Saba Mahmood and Peter Danchin, forthcoming Oct. 2013.

“The Persecuted Body: Evangelical Internationalism, Islam, and the Politics of Fear.” In Facing Fear: The History of an Emotion in Global Perspective. Ed. Michael Laffan and Max Weiss. Princeton: Princeton University Press, Oct. 2012.

"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: American Missionaries, The Problem of Racism, and Decolonization in the Congo,” OAH Magazine of History, 26 (Sumer 2012), 33-37

“A Virtual Muslim is Something to Be.” American Quarterly (June 2010): 221-231.

“What Would Jesus Do? Evangelicals, the Iraq War, and the Struggle for Position.” In America and Iraq: Policy-making, Intervention and Regional Politics. Ed. David Ryan and Patrick Kiely. New York: Routledge, 2009.

“What is Your Heart For? Affect and Internationalism in the Evangelical Public Sphere.” American Literary History (December 2008): 870-95.

“Is the Public Sphere Still Naked?” with Marie Griffith. American Quarterly (Sept. 2008): 527-563.

“Rethinking the ‘Clash of Civilizations’: American Evangelicals, the Bush Administration, and the Winding Road to the Iraq War.” In Race, Nation, and Empire in U.S. History. Ed. Matthew Guterl and James Campbell. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2007.

“American Feminists, Global Visions, and the Problem of Female Genital Surgeries.” In Americanism: New Perspectives on The History of an Ideal. Ed. Michael Kazin and Joe McCartin. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2006.

“Prophecy, Politics, and The Popular: The Left Behind Series and Christian Fundamentalism’s New World Order.” South Atlantic Quarterly (Fall 2003): 773-798.
      Reprinted in Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of and Popular Culture. Eds. Rebecca Stein, and Ted Swendenburg. Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2005.
      Revised version: “Left Behind and the Politics of Prophecy Talk.” In Exceptional State: Contemporary U.S. Culture and the New Imperialism. Eds. Ashley Dawon and Malini J. Schueller. Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2007.

“A Cultural History of the War Without End,” special issue Journal of American History (Sept. 2002): 439-456. This issue published as a book: September 11 and History. Ed. Joanne Meyerowitz. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 2003.
      Reprinted in Hollywood and War: A Film Reader. Ed. David Slocum. New York: Routledge, 2006.
      Reprinted in U.S.-Middle East Historical Encounters: A Critical Survey. Ed. Abbas Amanat and Magnus Bernhardsson. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007.

"One Black Allah: The Middle East in African American Cultural Politics, 1955-1967," American Quarterly (September 1999), 622-655.
       Reprinted in Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History. Ed. Antoinette Burton and Tony Ballantyne. Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2004.
       Revised version in Faith in the Market: Religion, Urban Identities, and Consumer Culture. Ed John Giggie and Diane Winston. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press, 2002.

"'The Common Heritage of Mankind': Negotiating Race, Nation, and Masculinity in the King Tut Exhibit." Representations 54 (Spring 1996), 80-103.

General Interest publications:

“The Persecuted Body: American Evangelicals, Islam and Religious Suffering.” Middle East Report. December 2008.

Libertas Blog. Review of Brian De Palma’s Redacted. December 2007.

“An Empire of Their Own.” The Nation. September 22, 2003.
Reprinted in Good Weekend Magazine, supplement to Australia’s two largest newspapers.

“Saving Private Lynch.” New York Times op-ed page. April 6, 2003.

"Armageddon on the Bestseller List." Washington Post, Outlook section. February 2, 2003.

“Television, Terrorism, and the Making of Incomprehension.” The Chronicle of Higher Education Review. December 7, 2001.

Books by Melani McAlister

Epic Encounters

Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945

Religion and Politics in the Contemporary United States

Religion and Politics in the Contemporary United States