Dr. Heba Gowayed: Migration, The Human-Centric Approach, and the Future of Sociology

Heba Gowayed, Janna Huang and Tiffany Hamidjaja

Dr. Heba Gowayed is a distinguished scholar and public intellectual whose research and writing push the boundaries of ethnographic approaches in Sociology and illuminate the human experience of migration, displacement, and borders around the world. She is an outspoken voice for justice, whose advocacy and work have impacted many immigrant communities across multiple countries. We were thrilled to sit down with her for an interview, where she shares how her Egyptian-American background and having a foot in each world shapes her human-centric approach to her scholarship; navigating an insider-outsider perspective while carrying out ethnography; and the future of Sociology as a field. 

Janna Huang (BJS): Hi Heba! We are so excited and honored that we get to speak with you today. Just to start things off, we were wondering if you could tell us a bit about your background, your family’s and community’s background, and also how both of those might have influenced your trajectory into Sociology and your research?

Heba Gowayed: I am Arab American, specifically Egyptian-American. As I write in my methods appendix in Refuge, this hyphenated identity is actually a really good way to identify me. I’m somebody who is both Egyptian and American, which is why the hyphen works. 

I was born in Cairo, and I grew up in the United States. And then I went back to Cairo for my undergrad where I worked for several years after graduation. 18-year-old Heba thought when she moved back that she would feel that she had gone home, that she would finally feel in place. But when I was there, I realized that I didn’t feel that way; I still felt out of place. 

I do think that having a foot in each world very much is where Refuge comes from. It came from my experience of immigration, the recognition of that feeling of displacement, but also from having had the experiences that life in Cairo afforded me and particularly from having participated in the Egyptian Revolution. Syrians were uprising against their government at the same time we were in Cairo. And for them, it turned out horribly. I had gone to Syria before – I was part of a public health network that involved Syrian, Lebanese, and other researchers, so for me, it’s not just part of my community in theory, but it was part of my community in practice. I knew people who were impacted, I knew people who were there, and I watched on screen in horror as the war broke out. And then as people tried to move towards refuge, in their faces were both the people who I had met, but also my uncles’, my cousins’, and my own. And so for me, being Arab and having that connection was very much a motivation for the work. 

But my identity as an American mattered too. When they were here in the United States, as they were trying to navigate these public services, I was a Ph.D. student at Princeton. So I had the social connections and the cultural capital, to be able to advocate for them in ways that they couldn’t advocate for themselves. I had the English fluency needed in order to be able to translate for them. I have the cultural knowledge of the United States, in a way that enabled me to understand their experiences with these various institutions.

And then the other thing, too, is that because I’m American, despite the fact that I grew up in a Muslim family and grew up in an Arab family and understand all the religious and cultural aspects and norms, I was also seen as somebody who wasn’t going to judge. So, for instance, when a child was coming out to her parents, they called me. When somebody was caught texting their boyfriend, they called me. When somebody was having conflicts with their husband, or when somebody felt like they were economically unable to send money home, I was somebody who could be a confidante on these various issues because I was both culturally proximate enough to understand but outside enough to not judge and to be somebody who could listen. So I think that from an ethnographic perspective, that positionality really did allow me to sort of have a foot in both places and allowed me to do this work in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to if I did not have this dual identity.

Janna Huang (BJS): Thank you so much for sharing that. That really resonates with us here. Our next question is we were interested in hearing you talk a little bit more about how you got started on writing Refuge? We know you mentioned this a little bit in your book, but we’d love to hear the story of how this book came to be for our readers who may have not read your book yet but would be interested in checking it out in the future?

Heba Gowayed: After I finished undergrad, I worked in Cairo for several years. I wanted to get my Master’s initially, which is why I came back to the United States, in order to get a better position in the policy institute where I was working. I wanted to be a PI rather than somebody who was a research assistant in one of these programs. I applied and got accepted to the PhD program at Princeton and I was still very much going to do research in Cairo. So I went back. It was the summer before my fourth year, and I went back to Cairo to begin that research. And what happened was that in the post-revolutionary period, there was a retrenchment of authoritarianism, which now has gotten quite bad as we’re having this conversation. At the time, the coup d’etat had happened and El-Sisi, who became the president. 

At the time, through my prior connections of working as a researcher before the revolution, I had insider access to this social poverty alleviation program. The plan was to do my PhD research on this project. But, those plans were thwarted as ministry officials worried about what I would write, and through a series of phone calls and messages relayed to me through other people that I would not be safe to stay and continue to do the research. This was horrible because I had set up everything to do this work. And so, I came back to the United States without a project. I came back to New Haven, Connecticut, because that’s where my now husband was living at the time. I was on the couch, and we were watching MSNBC. I was kind of moping around, feeling sad for myself, and he was making breakfast. On television, there was somebody who was interviewing Syrian refugees in New Haven, Connecticut. My husband leaned out from the kitchen and looked at me, and I was already googling to see how to get access to this organization. So, I meet them, I tell them a little bit about me and about what I would be interested in doing, that I speak Arabic. And I very quickly got involved with this organization because they needed people to interpret, which presented a whole array of issues of consent, which I deal with in the methods appendix, extensively. But, that’s how I got involved in how I began to write Refuge.

I do think that having a foot in each world very much is where Refuge comes from. It came from my experience of immigration, the recognition of that feeling of displacement, but also from having had the experiences that life in Cairo afforded me and particularly from having participated in the Egyptian Revolution.

Tiffany Hamidjaja (BJS): So your book gives us a deep inside look into the experience of Syrian families seeking refuge in host countries. And then in your appendix, you explicitly mention your positionality as the researcher that gives you both the insider-outsider perspective, which we’ve been talking about thus far, to the families that we follow throughout your work. As someone who has been educated and employed by one of the world’s most elite academic institutions like Princeton, how do you feel your privilege stemming from that educational background, may or may not have influenced how you studied or engaged with the inequality that you’re seeing in your academic work? And if it’s even, like, hindered your scholarship?

Heba Gowayed: I’ll answer this in a couple of ways. So while I did end up at Princeton, I did my undergrad in Cairo and  I went to public schools all my life. And so while Princeton absolutely has a privilege to it from a graduate school perspective, I felt like my privileges were way more my English language, my legal status, my class background, the fact that I grew up in a middle-class family and that my father’s a professor… So while Princeton does offer a layer of privilege within the academic realm, for me personally, the privileges that I felt like I needed to grapple with more were the privileges that got me to Princeton, for lack of a better framing. 

In terms of being at Princeton, I had a lot of support, I had excellent advisors. The main hindrance, I think, and I think this is something that the department has been facing, trying to face more, is that at the time that I was there, and this is a general problem in Sociology, is that there weren’t very many critical theorists there. So when I am trying to think through “How do I understand this issue of refuge from a colonial perspective”? or “How do I understand this issue of refuge from a critical race perspective?” I didn’t really have the guidance on that while I was a graduate student, and I actually think that’s pretty true across departments, unfortunately, particularly when you get to those top departments, and it’s because those are marginalized perspectives, whether they’re in our field or outside of our field. So I think that that was an aspect. I think that actually being at Princeton helped me because one of the things that I do care to do, or that I was very intentional in doing is that I tried to use the privileges that I had in order to leverage support for the people that I was speaking to, and this is also something I grapple with in Refuge’s methods appendix. 

So what that meant is that if I email somebody from an @princeton.edu email address, they’re much more likely to respond to me, whether that be somebody who works in my congress member’s office, or whether that be somebody who works at the social services office, they’re like, oh, you’re a graduate student at Princeton, it carries a different cache. And I did use that. I used it to the extent that I could, in order to get meetings that I wouldn’t otherwise get, get in front of audiences in front of people that I wouldn’t otherwise get, in order to support folks who were displaced. So for instance, one way in which this manifested was that they didn’t offer the driver’s license exam in Arabic. And I tried to advocate and lobby in order to get that test. I think that if I had a different kind of @.edu email address that wasn’t as recognizable or didn’t carry the same cache, we might have not gotten as far with that advocacy, and not just for my work, but my work in the resettlement agency and other people’s work to offer that driver’s license exam. So I think, yes, privilege, but privilege, is also a tool, if used correctly.

Janna Huang (BJS): A thread throughout this book is about taking this human-centric approach, which sort of goes against the dominant camps of immigration research that often focus on race or legal status, or the social networks of immigrants, their social mobility, or about whether or not they’re gonna assimilate into mainstream society. So you decided to take this human-centric approach. We were curious if you could just tell us more about this approach and specifically how you came to that? Was that something that your advisors or your cohort mates encouraged you towards? How did you sort of come across and decide to stick with this approach? Was it also from the things that you were seeing from following these families and realizing that you needed to approach your research this way? 

Heba Gowayed: I’m going to answer this in two ways. I think that the human-centric approach was the approach that I always took, just by definition of my entry to the people in my book, from the perspective of the community, so I was always much more interested in what they saw, what they felt, and how they experienced things. And part of that as a method of ethnography requires you to do that and another part of that is that I did relate and see myself as a member of their community. Their lives were proximate in some ways. I’m speaking the same language to them. We come from the same area in the world. I had participated in protests that they had also participated in. While they were strangers to me, and while I certainly am not a displaced person from Syria, it wasn’t hard for me to imagine myself having to make decisions similar to the ones they did. And so that idea of not being a stranger to people, requires you to see things from their perspective. It builds in a level of empathy and a level of recognition. And so while I think I took the human-centric approach, in the beginning, my question was always: “How do people navigate state services? How do these systems work or not work for these people?” I don’t think I recognized it as diverging from how we typically think of immigration, until way later, actually, when I was going through the proofs of the book. That’s when I put in those paragraphs in the conclusion, and that’s why it only appears a little bit in the introduction, and then in the conclusion. 

And even in the process of editing, I recognized that it is actually a divergence from a debate that we’ve long had about integration, assimilation, incorporation. I’m actually not interested in any of that. I’m just not interested in it and I’m not engaging in any of those conversations. I’m not looking at outcomes. For a long time when I presented the book I talked about this as a limitation of the work that I only look at process because I only look at the first five years. But, with time I recognized that this actually wasn’t a limitation of the work at all, it was just a different perspective to think about immigration altogether. And then once I saw that, I began to recognize that I was not alone in doing that. There were a lot of people doing this. And so I began to cite in that conclusion chapter other people’s work who do similar things. Just off the top of my head Neda Maghbouleh does similar things or Jean Beaman, you know, there’s a series of people who take the same approach. And it made me recognize that we need to begin to coin this as something separate, a different kind of perspective to think about immigration, than your sort of standard immigration canon.

I think that the human-centric approach was the approach that I always took, just by definition of my entry to the people in my book, from the perspective of the community, so I was always much more interested in what they saw, what they felt, and how they experienced things… And so that idea of not being a stranger to people, requires you to see things from their perspective. It builds in a level of empathy and a level of recognition.

Janna Huang (BJS): We’re curious how you’re integrating and continuing to pursue this human-centric approach in your ongoing work? 

Heba Gowayed: Yeah, so I have aspirations to write an article, maybe a short article that further elaborates on the human-centric approach for use. So hopefully, that is something that I can get done soon.  For my next project, the Cost of Borders project, I am taking this human-centric approach by looking at borders from the perspective of people crossing them. Cost of Borders is a new project that centers people’s migration journeys and sees the topography of borders through them.It looks at borders from the perspective of people crossing them. 

The idea behind the project emerged when I was doing interviews for Refuge in 2015, in Germany. The idea behind Refuge was to look at how people do in destination countries. And so, I had all these questions like, “how do you arrive?”; “what is the social assistance?”; “what is the housing assistance that you receive?” etc. But people invariably in Germany wanted to talk about their journeys to Germany. And we spent maybe the first hour at least of the interview, just talking about getting from Syria to Germany. And I recognize that these journeys were expensive, because people paid all the smugglers, taxi fees, boat fees to get from place A to place B, those expenses differ depending on the month, and sometimes the week that you traveled because enforcement changes day to day, week to week, they also differ depending on who you were. So families ended up paying more money, single women travelers paid more money, but young men traveling alone could pay less money in some ways or more money in other ways based on how they were racialized at the border or their physical mobility and bodily autonomy to travel. And so it made me recognize that actually, the journeys had much less to do with state sovereignty, had much less to do with where the borders are drawn on a map, and much more to do with these expenses, with these costs, and whether or not people could pay the costs. 

The costs are a function of smugglers, who are there to help people sort of traverse these border zones, but also they’re the result of different kinds of expenditures, which are the state expenditures on maintaining these borders, such as enforcement, industry, private prisons, private courts, or facilities that are at these borders, as well as the proliferation of AI, the use of robots, and the use of radar to manage the border. This is also a big conversation because Israel, of course, is a major exporter of this kind of AI to other places in the world. And so as we think through these things, you recognize that the border itself is actually a series of costs, it’s an economy rather than a sovereign line. So this project centers it by looking at borders from the perspective of the person on the move, examines them as a concatenation, as a series of these costs that sort of come together in spaces.

Tiffany Hamidjaja (BJS): There’s a dynamic that also exists in academia, where there’s a bit of tension and a pushback against social justice-oriented approaches. People say that’s not really methodologically, or scientifically, sound, or that we’re taking it too personally. And then simultaneously, we push back and say well the personal is political. So how do we keep maintaining that work, especially in academia? 

Heba Gowayed: Where I stand on this is that if you are seeing people who are experiencing these difficulties on a day-to-day basis, and you’re making the decision not to try to help them when you know, for sure that you cannot fix the structural conditions that result in this. But, you know, if you’re not doing everything in your effort to support them, in addition to reporting on what’s happening, I just don’t think that’s an ethical decision. And so when we think about our ethics, our morals, and our research, I think that the questions that gets overlooked is what do we owe people? And again, to the question of privilege, any privilege means that it’s at the expense of other people, right? When we think about these things, they’re intertwined. So how is it that we then can rectify and repair some of the damage that has been done in getting us to where we’re going? I think it’s by supporting other people and consistently thinking about our role and our responsibility towards others.

Tiffany Hamidjaja (BJS): Totally. I hope to live in a world where that truly does become the norm for everyone in Sociology.

Heba Gowayed: I was concerned about pushback, but I honestly haven’t gotten that much. You know, some people have things to say but I don’t actually care about what those people think, and for people who I care about what they think, I haven’t really gotten that much pushback. You just have to own what you’re saying. And the thing is because there’s more of us now, in academia, there are people who are going to select you because you were the person who said X or did X. And there are people who are going to shut the door in your face, because you were the person who said X and did X. And honestly, you don’t want to be around the latter, you don’t want to be their colleague, you don’t want to have your tenure reliant on them. And so I think these are important decisions to make. I mean, I think the biggest advice that I can give grad students is not to write or do anything scared. It’s just not worth it.

When we think about our ethics, our morals, and our research, I think that the questions that gets overlooked is what do we owe people?…So how is it that we then can rectify and repair some of the damage that has been done in getting us to where we’re going? I think it’s by supporting other
people and consistently thinking about our role and our responsibility towards others.

Tiffany Hamidjaja (BJS): As we all know, there’s a lot of displacement happening in Gaza. And so if we lived in a perfect world, where policymakers actually listened to sociologists, how do you think that Sociology could contribute to the current political moment, and how do you navigate even the politics within Sociology?

Heba Gowayed: Yeah, I mean, I think that we still have not had the American Sociological Association issue a statement for a ceasefire. We are at a very basic level here. We study inequality. We study race. We study genocide, we study war, we study displacement. We study these things, right? This is what we do. We study social inequality, social structure, and dehumanization. And we can’t issue a ceasefire statement, with over 30,000 people dead, 10,000 of whom are children! So I mean, I can tell you a lot of things Sociology could do, should do, but we’re just not even at a 101 here, and it’s devastating. It’s 120 days in! I am disappointed because I expect better and I expect more because I do think that Sociology has an important role to play because I think we are a discipline that takes structure and inequality very seriously, where critical approaches are central to the foundation of our discipline, where they motivate a lot of our work, where it is a place where people have very interesting and important things to say about colonialism, decolonization, migration, mobility, war, that I expect better, right? And so I am sad and disappointed at the current state that leaves us in a place where we are very, very far behind other disciplines who have issued similar statements. Now, I am heartened by the fact that a letter did go out from sociologists in support of Palestine and that it has thousands of signatures and the majority of those were students or the people coming up. So, as we’re sort of thinking about what this discipline looks like, I think that the future is bright, or brighter than the present and so I am heartened for our future. But I am disappointed with our present. And I think that those things work in ways that are structured against minoritized candidates. Also, there are people out there who have said publicly that they are keeping a list of the names and will be checking and will you know, actively use it to block people from opportunities and I also call those people out. 

And so we’re in a very sad scenario right now, where still, the discipline is very lopsided. And we have a new cohort of people coming up who do take seriously their scholarship and its impact on the world and recognize the humanity of the people who they’re studying and want to center the humanity of the people they’re studying. So back to the human-centric approach, there’s a real opportunity and that’s actually not even that new because when we place it in the context of the DuBoisian approach; it’s to think about where people sit in social structure as you talk about them, and how social structure works for them. So as we have a reclaiming of that, of Black feminist thought, as we have a re-centering of our discipline towards something that already existed, as there are more of us awakening and embracing this perspective, I think there is an opportunity for a better future, but I’m just disappointed at our present, I have to say.

Janna Huang (BJS): I think that’s what really motivates Tiffany and I to be continuing to run one of the only graduate student-run sociology journals, and we do have this focus on Public Sociology. In your own practice, how have you tried to bridge your academic scholarship with wider audiences, whether that’s communicating this book back to the people who were part of this research process, or what are some other ways have you tried to make your research accessible to audiences outside of academia?

Heba Gowayed: In terms of audiences, this work is very much targeted, not to the people who are part of the project. So, you know, they know what they’re enduring. They know what they’re going through. We’ve had a lot of conversations about it, but I’m not writing to them. I’m writing to a couple of different people, I’m writing for other scholars of color, particularly up-and-coming, who I hope can be inspired by this work to do work in their own communities and in places where they find community, or people who they feel connected to. I am writing for a policy audience in order to show them, to demonstrate to them, what the lives of people are like. And I’m writing to sort of the general interested reader who doesn’t know anything about this. And to that end, another thing that I do is I write a lot of op-eds and I do podcasts wherever I’m able, and I also have done work with policy organizations. So I’ve had a lot of conversations with voluntary agencies who work with resettlement, both formal and informal. I also give webinars where I’m asked, and that is something that I see as part of my responsibility to disseminate sort of the knowledge that’s been created here. And I do, as you know, a lot of Twitter advocacy, that’s where I yell, I like to say, and so I use that mostly for advocacy and for politics. And so those are the ways that I think about disseminating my research more broadly. I also will consult for different agencies, if they’re doing work with immigrants, or with refugees or displaced people, though I’m a little bit careful about that because whenever you consult for people, they have their own interests. So, I do less of that just because of the political dimension of it. 

At BU, I started a citizenship clinic. At this clinic we taught people who are formerly displaced, but actually, any immigrant, how to take the US citizenship exam. And I’ve written about how the US citizenship exam is actually a tool of exclusion. It’s very expensive, has really stupid questions, really racist questions, has a very rigid understanding of American history, and it requires you to speak English in order to take it despite the fact that we don’t actually have English learning support for new arrivals, particularly for displaced people. And so, growing up an immigrant, to the issue of community growing up in an immigrant community, I knew a lot of aunties, who did not speak English, and who passed that exam. And so I recognized that you can kind of teach the exam, and that’s what I did. So I started this citizenship clinic, where I trained undergrads who are taking Arabic classes, who are learning Arabic, to train people who are displaced on taking the exam. So for people who were seeking American citizenship, those who were taking the exam, it was like a language exchange, because they were also teaching them English phrases. And I had 13 people by the end pass the citizenship exam from that program. And that came out of a recognition of the English language issue, recognition of the citizenship issue, people actually reaching out to me saying, I don’t know what to do about this. I also got them connected to a lawyer in Connecticut who was able to file their issues, because there was an issue of access to a pro-bono lawyer. And so that’s one thing that I did after the book was done to sort of focus and give back to that particular impacted community. But also, you know, expanded it to others, because I did this online, so I was able to support both the people in New Haven and other people around the country who needed the support contemporaneously.

Janna Huang (BJS): Wow, yeah, that’s awesome. Tiffany and I are both graduate students and a lot of graduate students follow our journal. We’re wondering as we’re building up our research and building up our academic skills, what can we do now as graduate students to make sure that we’re not isolated in our academic bubbles and really just continuing to be engaged in our communities?

Heba Gowayed: I think the issue with graduate school is that you’re basically taught that there are scarce jobs, you’re constantly vying for people’s attention, whether that be faculty in your department, whether it be positions outside of your department, postdocs, jobs, etc. And the thing about it is that you’re not actually in competition with anyone, right? Like, the job that’s coming for you is coming for you, the one that’s not coming for you is not coming for you. I encourage all students to think about alternative, alt-academic jobs, just because academia has shrunk in terms of what it’s able to offer students. I highly encourage folks to think about other pathways that they could take, other pathways that would bring them joy. And I feel like once you recognize that you’re not in competition with people, that there are other pathways out there, that you need to sort of center your own mental health, the project that excites you and interests you, the people who are important to you, that is a great foundation to create community and create relationships, friendships, right, not just relationships around work or writing, but friendships, people who you can actually go to for social and emotional support. That’s so critical and so important because the people who are with you in your cohort are going to understand what you’re going through as a graduate student, what the pressures that are in front of you. 

People like to write about how academia is catty and petty, and the review process etc, and I’ve had my fair share of that… Like, I’ve had shitty reviews that were clearly somebody who just didn’t like me. But I derived a lot of support, and I have had the best advocates from other people in academia, particularly other people of color in academia, and other immigrants, who have supported me, advocated for my career, pushed me forward, mentored me, befriended me, and are good friends of mine. So I really think that there is a lot of love and camaraderie, even alongside some of the other more negative aspects. And I think that, if we approach academia like any other kind of job, but at the same time as something that is a little bit more all-consuming, particularly when you’re in grad school, that we can find those connections and create healthy environments for ourselves that aren’t as pernicious as people like to make out this sort of this image of like this cutthroat, negative, catty environment.

Sociology has an important role to play because I think we are a discipline that takes structure and inequality very seriously, where critical approaches are central to the foundation of our discipline, where they motivate a lot of our work, where it is a place where people have very interesting and
important things to say about colonialism, decolonization, migration, mobility, war.

Tiffany Hamidjaja (BJS): You mentioned a little bit about Cost of Borders. Is there anything else that’s exciting that you’re working on that you’d want to share with people? 

Heba Gowayed: I talked about the Cost of Borders project, I talked a little bit about the human-centric migration project. I’m co-authoring on a project looking at resettlement across the United States. So you know, one of the limitations of Refuge is that it does take a country approach. But actually, resettlement does differ across the country. And so I’m working on that, hopefully out soon. And then I’m working with Julie Dahlstrom, who is my colleague at BU on a series of articles on human trafficking in the United States, particularly the use of the T-visa. 

So, taking an approach that recognizes, survivors of trafficking as people who are navigating a very difficult and inhospitable migration system in the United States, and at the same time trying to sort of restart their lives, how do you access legal support, how do you get access to this T-visa, which is a sort of coveted destination, when your legal status is precarious, when your travel to the United States is reliant on other people, and you’ve experienced some form of violence through this trafficking process? And so that’s another project that I’m working on that I’m really excited for.

Tiffany Hamidjaja (BJS): Our last question is who or what is inspiring you these days?

Heba Gowayed: Oh, my goodness. I have so many answers to this. From a writing perspective, I’m always inspired by James Baldwin. I’m particularly inspired today because I’ve been reading a lot of his writing on race, but also on Israel and Palestine, and I think that he just had this incredible insight and he is also somebody who connects the personal and the general, the political. I’m a big fan of Baldwin. I’m inspired by Palestinian people who are advocating for Gaza from within Gaza, who are maintaining a level head despite all that they’re enduring and going through, and nobody should have to endure that, nobody should have to go through any of this. And I hate the hero narratives that get attached because I feel like it turns people from human beings who are just like us into something that is extra human, which is just not true. But I am inspired that they find the ability to continue to persist and shout and keep their moral compass, and advocate for their people and I think we can all learn from that. And I’m inspired by the number of people who signed onto the sociology for Palestine letter, I’m inspired by what the future of Sociology looks like. I’m inspired by you all, by the diversity that’s coming up, by all the people who are committed to social justice, and who are looking to change the discipline through micro-interactions like this and also through rethinking our theoretical framings, rethinking our empirical conceptions and centering humans in our work. 

Janna Huang (BJS): Thanks so much for sharing!

Heba Gowayed: Oh, this is great. Thank you so much.

Dr. Heba Gowayed is an Associate Professor of Sociology at CUNY Hunter College & Graduate Center. Her research and writing centers the lives of people who migrate across borders and the unequal and often violent institutions they face. Her award-winning book Refuge (Princeton University Press) takes readers into the lives of displaced Syrians who sought refuge in the US, Canada, and Germany. She is currently working on her second book, The Cost of Borders, where she argues that borders, rather than markers of sovereign territory, are marketplaces comprised of always costly, and often deadly transactions. Moving from Lesbos, to Gaza, to Tijuana, the project shows how the costs of borders, patterned by inequalities of racism, sexism, and disability, fluctuate over time and space, and differ depending on who is attempting to cross.She is published in academic journals and outlets including Slate, Al Jazeera English, The New Humanitarian, and Teen Vogue, and had her work featured on podcasts including her favorite one Code Switch.