Zina Sawaf

Assistant Professor of Gender Studies

Dr. Zina Sawaf is an assistant professor of gender studies at the Lebanese American University. Dr. Sawaf’s research and teaching span the subfields of social anthropology, gender studies and gulf studies. She holds a PhD in anthropology from The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, an MSc in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics and an MSc in foreign service from Georgetown University.

In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, practicing yoga, and from time to time immersing herself in a Netflix series. 

Research Interests and Projects

She has written and published on ethnographic practice in the Arab region, divorce and intimate life in Saudi Arabia, and the history of anthropology in Lebanon. Her book manuscript provisionally titled Encountering the State: Women and Intimate Lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in the Arabian Peninsula, is a study of embodied encounters between women and the processes, offices, and officials of the state.

Dr. Sawaf has worked and consulted for a variety of UN and international organizations in Lebanon. She recently led a nation-wide research project for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the female municipal police in Lebanon. 



  • 2018 “Divorce and the Feminizing State in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,” in Arabian Humanities, No. 10, Spring 2018.   
  • 2017 “From the Compound to the Trailer: Bounding the Field in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,” in Contemporary Levant, Special Issue, Spring 2017.   
  • 2017 “Ethnographic Knowledge Production in the Arab Region: Accounts from the Field,” guest eds. Kanafani, Samar and Zina Sawaf in Contemporary Levant, Special Issue, Spring 2017.
  • 2012 “Youth and the Revolution in Egypt: What Kinship Tells Us,” in Contemporary Arab Affairs 6(1): 1-16. 

Book Chapters 

  • 2020 “A History of Anthropology in Lebanon,” in Un Miroir des Sciences Sociales. Acteurs, Pratiques et Savoirs au Liban, ed. Myriam Catusse (Forthcoming).   

Academic degrees

  • PhD in Anthropology, summa cum laude Dissertation: “Encountering the State: Women and Intimate Lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia”, The Graduate Institute, Geneva, 2017 
  • MSc in Social Anthropology, awarded with Distinction, London School of Economics, 2011
  • MSc in Foreign Service and International Development, Georgetown University, 2007
  • BA in Political Studies, awarded with Distinction, American University of Beirut, 2004