Natalie Khazaal Awarded Fellowship by American Council of Learned Societies

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Natalie Khazaal, assistant professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Modern Languages, has been awarded the 2019 fellowship by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)/Luce Program in Religion, Journalism, and International Affairs for her work on the making of a novel minority of atheists in Arab communities.

As a fellow, Khazaal will be doing research on Arab atheist communities both in the Arab world and in Arab diasporas while writing a book on the subject, entitled Arab Apostates: Media and the Making of a Defiant Minority. In addition, she will be forging connections with media organizations and journalists to catalyze conversations about this subject area.

Her book, which will be published by ACLS, seeks to understand how religious minorities in the Arab world fight stigma in the digital age. This project explores the effect of the Arab uprisings on Arab identity by focusing on the controversial case of Arab apostates in the context of a defiant turn where minorities use media to reject unifying nationalist narratives centered on Islamic identity.

Arab Apostates is based on the textual analysis of a large corpus of primary Arabic-language apostate accounts transmitted through a variety of media and is informed by theories of stigma and debates about post-secularism, contemporary Islams, and political questions about contemporary religious movements. As a critical cultural studies project, it challenges the academic neglect of a phenomenon with potentially dramatic consequences for the Middle East. It also corrects a bias in the apostasy literature, which favors apostates from cults, restoring the significance of the accounts of apostates from mainstream religions.

The School of Modern Languages is a unit of the Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.


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