Sumayya Kassamali holds a PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University (2017), where her dissertation focused on the lifeworlds of African and Asian migrant workers in Beirut, Lebanon. Her larger research asks how belonging is forged under conditions of structural exclusion and urban violence, and she is additionally interested in the politics of post-9/11 North America, the War of Terror, and the cultures of the contemporary Middle East.
Sumayya's project examines an informal labour sector in the capital city of Lebanon, a country home to over half a million African and Asian domestic workers and approximately one million Syrian refugees. The work discovers a Beirut where inhabitants excluded from citizenship and political recognition have built a set of religious and commercial establishments, informal services, community rituals, internal codes, ways of speaking Arabic, and underground spaces for leisure, consumption, and desire. Drawing on two years of fieldwork, the research shows how these communities have come together in an urban exile that has enabled new kinds of sociality and politics both.