I obtained a BA (Honours) in Political Science and Middle East & Islamic Studies from the University of Toronto, in 1987; and an MA (with Distinction) in Middle Eastern Politics from the University of Exeter, in 1988.
Following a career as a political lobbyist, specializing in the Middle East, and a parliamentary researcher, I returned to university in the late 1990s to pursue PhD research. Upon completing my PhD at the University of York in 2004, on the effects of violent conflict on Shi'i women and Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon, I was fortunate enough to get a short-term contract as a Research Fellow on the Democracy & Islam Programme at the University of Westminster. In 2007, I was given a permanent contract as a Lecturer. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer and then, in 2013, became a Reader in Politics in the Department of Politics & International Relations.
My current research interests fall into four main areas: (1) women and war in the Middle East; (2) the effects of violence on Arab women; (3) the influence of Islam, as faith and a form of activism, on Middle Eastern women's political activities, especially in light of the recent popular uprisings in several Arab countries; and (4) Palestinian women in the refugee camps of Lebanon; this builds on research conducted into Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (my book, published in Jerusalem in 1998, was translated into Arabic and became a key source of information and debate on this topic). As a result of my ethnographic-based work in the Middle East, I have developed a new methodology (as a result of this, I was invited to participate in a workshop in Washington DC organized by the United States Institute of Peace In November 2009 to discuss policy implications of women's roles in conflict; I was also invited to contribute a chapter to a book on the development of methodology in conflict and post-conflict areas). The role of women has been identified by the EU and US as crucial to the development of post-'Arab spring' states.
The research I am working on at the moment and will be developing over the next few years represents a steady progression from projects initiated and conducted since I started in 2004 as a Research Fellow in the Centre for the Study of Democracy (and, from 2009, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics & International Relations). In 2006-07, I received funding from the AHRC to conduct an ethnographic research project into Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon, in terms of memory, identity and change (this resulted in a number of peer-reviewed articles, several book chapters and conference papers, and evidence published as part of a House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Enquiry; I was also commissioned by the publisher I B Tauris to produce a book, which will appear in 2013). In 2007-08, I carried out another project (funded by the United States Institute of Peace) into the effects of Islamic resistance movements on Palestinian women in the West Bank and Shi'a women in Lebanon (this research, which included over 100 interviews with Lebanese and Palestinian women, male political and religious leaders, academics and journalists, also led to a number of publications, conference papers and a joint-authored book, to be published in 2013). One of the outputs of this research was a one-day conference, in November 2008, at the University of Westminster to discuss the findings of my research project on women and Islamic resistance; the conference included invited speakers from Palestine, Lebanon, the Netherlands and the UK, three panels and nine papers.
In response to my work, I have received expressions of interest from the Middle East, Europe and North America (for instance, I was invited in 2010 to participate in a Foreign & Commonwealth Office 'Prevent' consultation and, in March 2012, I was invited to address a NATO parliamentary group conference).