Maytha Alhassen, Ph.D.
Maytha alhassen, Ph.D. is a historian, journalist, social justice artist, and mending practitioner. Her work bridges the worlds of organizing, academic research, media engagement, artistic expression and spiritually-guided healing practices.
Social Justice Artist Work
As both artist and organizer, alhassen performed and wrote for internationally touring play “Hijabi Monologues” (composed of lived experiences scribed by Muslim women) and worked with arts-based social justice organization Blackout Arts Collective. As a member of the collective, she facilitated creative literacy workshops with incarcerated youth at Rikers Island, assisted in organizing a Hip Hop Film Festival in the prison’s high school and wrote an introduction on the role of love in dismantling the prison industrial complex for an anthology of the youth’s poetry and visual art titled One Mic. As a poet, actress, and speaker Alhassen has performed at the Kennedy Center, Shrine Auditorium, in a Sundance film, on the TED stage, at South by Southwest in 2010 and 2012, and at many universities.
In 2015, alhassen established and designed the Social Justice Institute, in collaboration with the Office of Student Affairs at Occidental College to train fellows in social justice praxis. Previously, maytha served as a 2014 core steering committee member of Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), involved in MuslimARC’s early digital organizing campaigns addressing racism in the Muslim American community. A year later, alhassen joined a group of Arab diasporic peoples to form Arabs for Black Power, a collective committed to solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) that emerged in response to the M4BL platform in 2016. Alhassen returned to the Muslim American social justice space and prison abolition organizing work in 2018, leading a campaign with three other Muslim women scholars to activate the Muslim community around ending mass incarceration and money bail called Believers Bail Out. The initiative was profiled by Chicago Tribune and Teen Vogue.
For the last 4 years, alhassen has worked with refugee populations from Turkey to Greece as a journalist, translator and healer. In October 2017, alhassen piloted her “Yoga to the Displaced People” program—a trauma-informed yoga intervention geared towards displaced and marginalized peoples—with a population of refugee women in Greece. More recently, alhassen completed a TED residency that culminated in a performance of a poem she wrote for her ancestral homeland of Syria and in order to speak to the limited frameworks we use to understand this crisis of seeking refuge. In a departure from standard TED talk structure, the poem was born out of a desire to deracinate popular narrative scripts that imagine Syria as a “geography of violence.”
In Fall 2017, alhassen was awarded a 2017-2018 Pop Culture Collaborative Senior Fellowship geared towards studying and shifting Muslim narratives. As a Senior Fellow, Alhassen will lead a project to unlock new pathways to create and popularize authentic narratives for Muslims in pop culture, including the report on representations of Muslims on screen for the last 100 years and recommendations for transforming prevailing narratives.
Writing and TV appearances
alhassen has written for CNN, Boston Review, Huffington Post, Mic, The Baffler, La Vanguardia, Feminist.com, and Counterpunch. Alhassen is a co-editor of Demanding Dignity: Young Voices from the Front Lines of the Arab Revolutions, published in 2012. Currently, alhassen serves as a member on the editorial board of the electronic version of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.
As a commentator, alhassen has been featured on CNN, BET, Al Jazeera, Fusion, HuffPost Live, Splinter, The Young Turks, NPR, CBC, Pivot, ATTN, WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” Power106’s “Knowledge is Power,” Splinter and KPFK. She appears regularly as a guest co-host and digital producer Al Jazeera English’s current-events program “The Stream,” and guest co-hosting The Young Turk’s main hour. Previously, Alhassen co-hosted an Arab-American TV variety show on ART called What’s Happening. Her work has been profiled by The Nation, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Vox, The Root, The Intercept, Teen Vogue, Social Text and featured in a number of academic articles and books.
In a transition to behind the camera work, alhassen has been consulting on depiction the depiction of Arabs and Muslims for documentaries, major studio films and TV shows. She is currently advising on the development a TV show on the Muslim American experience. In her capacity as an educator, she lectures nationally across college campuses on the history of the silver and small screen’s portrayal of Arabs and Muslims, tying pop culture representations of these communities to prevailing political narratives and U.S. foreign policy in the respective regions. alhassen’s speaking gigs and moderated conversations have taken her to universities, conferences, and community centers in the South Africa, UK (England, Wales, and Scotland), Germany, Mexico, Lebanon, France, Poland, Egypt, Canada, Portugal, Greece, Kosovo, and Bahamian waters (Summit at Sea).
maytha alhassen received her Ph.D. in American Studies and Ethnicity from University of Southern California in December 2017. She studies historical encounters between Black internationalism and the Arab diaspora, race and ethnicity, transnationalism, social justice and the arts, travel and global flows, gender, media and narrative healing. While a doctoral student at USC, alhassen assisted in the launch of the Middle East Studies Program (now a department).
alhassen received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Arabic and Islamic studies from the UCLA in 2004 and her master’s degree in Anthropology from Columbia University in 2008. While at Columbia, alhassen conducted research for the university’s Malcolm X Project.