Dr Chihab El Khachab

el khachab portrait


Associate Professor in Visual Anthropology
Fellow of Wolfson College

I am a social anthropologist specializing in visual and media anthropology, with a focus on Egyptian media production. I was educated at the University of Ottawa (BA) and the University of Oxford (DPhil). Prior to joining the School, I was a Junior Research Fellow in Anthropology in Christ Church (2016-2020) and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies in Cambridge (2020-2021). I have broader interests in cinema, labour, technology, bureaucracy, humour, and social theory.

Personal website: http://chihabelkhachab.com/


Email: chihab.elkhachab@anthro.ox.ac.uk

Tel: 01865 274675


Teaching and research interests

My first project consisted in an ethnographic study of the Egyptian film industry, with particular attention to labour dynamics, production practices, and the impact of digital technologies on filmmaking. Based on doctoral fieldwork in Cairo between 2013 and 2015, I examined how everyday labour and technological use can explain the process of cinematic creation as well as how filmmakers conceive and manage their unpredictable future. This research culminated in the publication of a monograph titled Making Film in Egypt: How Labor, Technology and Mediation Shape the Industry (American University in Cairo Press, 2021).

My current project combines historical and ethnographic methods to examine everyday bureaucratic practices at the Ministry of Culture (MOC) in Egypt. Based on archival and ethnographic fieldwork in Cairo between 2018 and 2019, I explore how MOC bureaucrats were instrumental in crafting a coherent state-idea through a range of writings, images, and administrative documents after national independence in 1952. I am also interested in exploring how the concept of “culture” is conceived as an object of government in this institutional setting.

I teach on the MSc/MPhil in Visual, Material, and Museum Anthropology (VMMA), with a particular focus on visual anthropology, digital anthropology, and visual/digital methods. I also write about film and social science for a wider audience in both Arabic and English, including a regular column on basic concepts in philosophy and social theory for Boring Books.

Selected publications

2021: Making Film in Egypt: How Labor, Technology and Mediation Shape the Industry. Cairo & New York: American University in Cairo Press.

2021: “The Reification of Concrete Work in Egyptian Film Production”, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 27 (3): 599-616.

2019: “The Sobky Recipe and the Struggle over ‘the Popular’ in Egypt”, Arab Studies Journal, 27 (1): 34-61.

2017: “Compressing Scales: Characters and Situations in Egyptian Internet Humor”, Middle East Critique, 26 (4): 331-353.

2017: “State Control over Film Production in Egypt”, Arab Media & Society, 23 (Winter/Spring).

2016: “‘What Does it Look Like?’: On the Use of Intermediary Images in Egyptian Film Production”, Visual Anthropology Review, 32 (2): 168-180.


Current DPhil students