Zaynab Quadri is a PhD student in the American Studies Department. She received her B.A. in History with honors from Northwestern University in 2015, where she was also a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. Working at the intersection of diplomatic history, critical theory, and cultural studies, her research interests center around domestic and transnational U.S. empire, popular culture, and security politics between the U.S. and the Middle East, vis a vis the "War on Terror" and the colonization of Palestine.
What are you studying now?
My goal overall in graduate school is to write on American empire, in particular American foreign policy in the Middle East, so right now I'm taking classes on Middle Eastern history and theories of capitalism and imperialism. I knew very little about theory coming into GW, so flexing new intellectual muscles has been both challenging and exciting.
What attracted you to GW to further your studies?
I was initially interested in GW because I was interested in the work of Melani McAlister, who is now my primary adviser. I read Epic Encounters
in college and I couldn't get it out of my head. I would have come to GW just for Melani, but it turned out that the American Studies department is so vibrant and wide-ranging in its research interests; when I came to visit, and learned more about the professors doing work here, it really impressed upon me that GW was the perfect fit, intellectually.
What advice would you give to aspiring graduate students in American Studies?
I'm basically still an aspiring graduate student myself right now; I've only been here a couple of months and everything still feels so new! But if I could give one piece of advice to someone going through the application cycle at the moment, I would say there's no substitute for talking to professors one on one and visiting the campus if possible. People are much cooler than they seem on their department bios, which are meant to sound more like resumes. I was a history major in college, and I never thought I'd be in an American Studies department, but it was meeting the people in the department that convinced me to make the switch.
What's your favorite place to hang out in DC?
I still haven't seen very much of D.C., with moving and then settling into the pace of graduate school. But campus-wise, one of my favorite things to do is get the kofte special from the Tasty Kebab food truck on Wednesdays and eat in the sunshine on one of the benches in Kogan Plaza. One thing I do want to do though, maybe in the spring when the threat of winter has subsided, is to take my readings up to the Lincoln Memorial and read on the steps with a little picnic. The aesthetic of studying American empire in the very memorialized center of it tickles my imagination.
What's been your favorite American Studies moment this semester?
An interesting moment I had in this department came very early into the semester, when a scholar I'd applied to work with from another institution came to GW to do a talk about his new book. Turns out, he's friends with my adviser, we got to chat a little bit, and then he signed a copy of the book for me. It was just amusing to me, getting a concrete sense of how small academia really is, and how everyone knows everyone. I felt honored and excited all over again, to become a part of the academic community myself.
Jeffrey C. Kasch Foundation Research Grant. Read about Zaynab's research here.