Assist. Prof. Dr. Mona Oraby

Amherst College, USA

Curriculum Vitae

Assist. Prof. Dr. Mona Oraby is a scholar of law and religion with research interests in group formation, membership, and belonging. She obtained her doctorate from Northwestern University in 2017 with a thesis entitled The Difference that Affiliation Makes: Religious Conversion, Minorities, and the Rule of Law. She was the Jerome Hall Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Law, Society, and Culture at Indiana University Maurer School of Law before becoming an assistant professor in the Department of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought at Amherst College. She has been a fellow or visiting scholar at research centers in North America and Europe including the American Bar Foundation (Chicago), the Institute for Critical Social Inquiry at The New School (New York), and the Max Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity (Göttingen).

She is editor of the Social Science Research Council’s digital publication The Immanent Frame, a forum for interdisciplinary exchange on secularism, religion, and the public sphere. She additionally serves as a steering committee member of the Secularism and Secularity Unit of the American Academy of Religion. Her editorial board memberships include Arab Law Quarterly and Middle East Law and Governance.

From October 2020 to March 2021 Assist. Prof. Dr. Mona Oraby was a Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center "Law as Culture“ in Bonn.

Research Project

“How Will We Know Who We Are? Devotion to the Administrative State”

Why are those marginalized by the law among its most faithful subjects? What explains their counterintuitive fidelity to regimes of recognition? This book project draws on the case of contemporary Egypt where religion is a compulsory feature of civil status. Religious affiliation determines the scope of one’s public and private rights, and non-affiliation is not an option. My research reveals that over the last three decades of public and judicial debate over status conversion, the right to amend religious affiliation on vital records, non-Muslims routinely seek recognition of their difference rather than advocate for state indifference toward religion. I argue based on administrative jurisprudential trends and observations of legal counsel and their clients for a rethinking of the relationship between inequality and freedom. Contrary to prevailing conceptions within critical legal studies and the anthropology of religion regarding the pernicious effect of secular law on religious life, I show the extent to which self-understanding, national belonging, and communal coherence are indebted to state recognition of one’s inequality in relation to others.

Publications (selected)

  • Mona Oraby and Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, “Law and Religion: Reimagining the Entanglement of Two Universals,” Annual Review of Law and Social Science, vol. 16. (October 2020): 257-276 (PDF)
  • Mona Oraby, “Law, the State, and Public Order: Regulating Religion in Contemporary Egypt,” Law & Society Review 52, no. 3 (September 2018): 574-602 (PDF)
  • Mona Oraby, “The Difference That Affiliation Makes: Religious Conversion, Minorities, and the Rule of Law” (Ph.D. dissertation, Northwestern University, 2017).
  • Mona Oraby, “Authorizing Religious Conversion in Administrative Courts: Law, Rights and Secular Indeterminacy,” New Diversities 17, no. 1 (2015): 63-75 (PDF)