Omer Shah is a cultural anthropologist. His research interests include religion and secularism, expertise and knowledge production, and surveillance and security.
His current book project, Made in Mecca: Expertise, Technology, and Hospitality in the Post-Oil Holy City, examines recent efforts by the Saudi state to intensify and optimize Mecca’s pilgrimage through new sciences and technologies of crowd management, logistics and secular hospitality. His project demonstrates how these new forms of knowledge production operate in tension with older and decidedly more Islamic ways of knowing, managing and belonging in the holy city. Instead of approaching religious knowledge and secular knowledge as discrete spheres, Shah’s research explores their entanglements and aporias across a range of techno-political practices: navigation, hospitality, urban planning, systems thinking, crowd management, and optimization. Critically, his work argues that even in this moment of ritual intensity, the cosmopolitan logics of the holy city come to be blunted.
“7 Artifacts from the Smart City Being Built on the Back of the Ancient Sanctuary” in Flint Magazine, Issue No. 3, 2022.
“Screening Meccan Logistics,” Logistics in the Time of Covid, 2021.
“Crowds and Expertise: An Interview with Omer Shah,” The Derivative, Beirut Art Center, 2020.
“Mecca: The Weird and the Eerie” (Short Film), Jaffat Al-Aqlam, October 2020.
Ph.D., Anthropology, Columbia University
M.A., Near Eastern Studies, New York University
B.A., Anthropology, Bard College
Awards & Honors
Awards & Honors
Chau Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow in Anthropology, Pomona College 2022 - Present
Early Career Fellowship, Columbia University 2021-2022
SSRC International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2017-2018
Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant 2017-2018
SSRC Dissertation Proposal Writing Fellowship 2016
The Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship 2013-2014
The Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship 2012-2013
The Franz Boas/ Ruth Benedict Prize for Senior Projects in Anthropology, Bard College 2007