Email Address
Christian A. Johnson 213
On Leave/Away
Spring ’25, Fall ’25

Though primarily a scholar of modern Arabic literature, Rama Alhabian draws on previous work in English, Anglophone, postcolonial East African, comparative, and world literatures. Her first monograph, tentatively titled In Praise of the Inimitable: Nineteenth-Century Arabic Maqamat in an Age of Literary Comparison, focuses on the Arab Nahda (Renaissance) maqama, a rhymed-prose narrative genre centering on the ruses of a trickster figure, which was invented by Badi' al-Zaman al-Hamadhani in tenth-century Baghdad. 

Trained as a medievalist and modernist, Alhabian strives to make a case for how medievalists and postcolonial scholars of Arabic studies can benefit from working together toward a critical take on Arabic literary histories. Besides Arabic, her work engages languages of the Islamicate world: Judaeo-Arabic, Hebrew, and Swahili. 

At Hamilton, she teaches courses in geopoetics, petrocriticism, (post)colonial modernity, and the literary archive of the Indian Ocean. Alhabian’s teaching focuses on transcending the narrow confines of nationalism; she looks at how literature and the arts create routes and spaces that expand and challenge modern imaginaries of belonging.

Recent Courses Taught

First Term Arabic
Second Term Arabic
Third Term Arabic
Fourth Term Arabic
Advanced Topics in Language and Culture
Advanced Arabic
Modern Arabic Fiction and Film
Islands in Literature
Petrofictions: Modernity and the Oil Encounter

Research Interests

Modern and Medieval Arabic Literature; Postcolonial Studies and Literature; Geopoetics; Translation and Genre Studies. The Novel and the Sea, Islands in Literature, Science Fiction.


  • Dean of Faculty Work in Progress Grant Program, Hamilton College, September 2023; January 2023.
  • The John R. Hatch Excellence in Teaching Award, Hamilton College, May 2023.
  • Center for Middle East Studies, the University of Chicago, Great Lakes Adiban Workshop Travel Grant, October 2022.
  • The Levitt Center Social Change Course Development Grant for an advanced course on Petromodernities and the Oil Encounter, Hamilton College, August 2022.
  • Andrew Mellon Fellowship in Arabic, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME 2020-21.
  • President’s Travel Fund for the Humanities, Cornell University, November 2019.
  • Cornell University Department of Near Eastern Studies Travel Grant, August 2016, March 2018, October 2019.
  • Indiana University Bloomington Great Lakes Adiban Workshop Travel Grant, September 2019.
  • American Comparative Literature Association Travel Grant, February 2018.
  • Sage Fellowship, Near Eastern Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 2013, 2017.
  • Cornell University Graduate School Travel Grant, February 2017, November 2017, November 2018, October 2019.
  • School of Criticism and Theory Fellowship, “Story of Reason in Islam,” led by Sari Nusseibeh. Cornell University, Ithaca, 2015.
  • Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace, the Hebrew Language School, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, 2014.
  • Purdue University Department of Comparative Literature Travel Grant, February 2013.
  • Lynn Fellowship, Comparative Literature, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, 2011.

Select Publications

Peer-reviewed Articles and Book Chapters:

  • “The Maqama of Yamama” in Sensory History of the Islamic World, eds. Adam Bursi and Christian Lange, Brill. (2025)
  • “Multilingual worlds in Hariri’s monolingual maqamat: A study of al-maqama ar-Raqtaa'  (the spotted)” in Postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies, special issue: Translingual and Multilingual Poetics in the Premodern Islamic World of Literature, ed. Hany Rashwan. (2024)

Book Reviews:

  • The Maqamat of Badi' Al-Zaman Al-Hamadhani: Authorship, Texts, and Contexts by Bilal Orfali and Maurice Pomerantz, in The Journal of Arabic Literature. (2024)

College Service

  • Student Fellowships Committee
  • Language Center Advisory Committee
  • Middle East/Islamicate World Studies Committee

Professional Affiliations

  • American Association of Teaching of Arabic
  • American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
  • Modern Language Association
  • Middle East Studies Association

Appointed to the Faculty


Educational Background

Ph.D., Cornell University
M.A., Cornell University
M.A., King Saud University
B.A., Effat University

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