Emily Jane O’Dell

Research Scholar in Law and Islamic Law and Civilization Research Fellow


Emily Jane O'Dell is a Research Scholar in Law and Islamic Law and Civilization Research Fellow at Yale Law School and an editor of SHARIAsource at Harvard Law School, after having spent over half a decade teaching in the Middle East at the American University of Beirut as the Whittlesey Chair of History and Archaeology and at Sultan Qaboos University in the Sultanate of Oman. She is an expert on Islam, Sufism, and Islamic law.

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Education & Curriculum Vitae


M.A., Columbia University, 2010
Ph.D., Brown University, 2008
M.A., Brown University, 2006
M.F.A., Brown University, 2003
B.A. Brown University, 2001

Courses Taught


Emily Jane O'Dell is a Research Scholar in Law and Islamic Law and Civilization Research Fellow at Yale Law School and an editor of SHARIAsource at Harvard Law School, after having spent over half a decade teaching in the Middle East at the American University of Beirut as the Whittlesey Chair of History and Archaeology and at Sultan Qaboos University in the Sultanate of Oman. Stateside she has taught at Columbia University, Brown University, and Harvard University—where she received an award for excellence in teaching. She received her B.A., M.F.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from Brown and a M.A. in Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies from Columbia. She completed her Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University in the Humanities Center and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations under the direction of postcolonial theorist Professor Homi Bhabha. As a Research Fellow for the Islamopedia Initiative at Harvard, O’Dell collected fatwas from around the world in multiple languages. In addition to having taught Islam stateside and abroad in Beirut, she has also had the rare experience of speaking on Islamic affairs at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Muftiate of Turkey.

For her in-country field research on Islamic law, O’Dell has been an Edward A. Hewett Policy Fellow (Tajikistan & Afghanistan), Fulbright Fellow (Indonesia), a Harvard Traveling Fellow (Iran), a Columbia University Pepsico Fellow (Uzbekistan/Karakalpakstan), an IREX Fellow (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic & Hungary), an American Center for Mongolian Studies Fellow (Mongolia), an American Council Fellow (Turkmenistan), and a State Department Fellow (Tajikistan). For her archaeological fieldwork in Central Asia, she preserved Sufi shrines on the Silk Road and excavated the medieval Islamic bazaar of Merv in Turkmenistan. She conducts research at the advanced level in fifteen languages.

Her writing on the region has appeared in The New York Times, Al Jazeera, NPR, Salon, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, and Jadaliyya, and she is a global mentor for the Coalition for Women in Journalism. In addition to her scholarly endeavors, she regularly performs the Javanese gamelan in concert at Lincoln Center, Asia Society, and with the masters in Java.  She also does advocacy work in the Middle East with child refugees, young people with mental illness, and people with disabilities. She is a regular guest speaker for Harvard, Columbia, and the Commonwealth Club in the Islamic Republic of Iran, East Africa, India, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.

While a Resident Scholar at Yale Law School, O’Dell will be preparing a monograph on post-Soviet Islamic law in Central Asia for publication. Grounded in Islamic legal anthropology, this research explores the problematics of contemporary Islamic jurisprudence, surveys competing sources of Islamic legal authority, and investigates normative frameworks in cyberspace that dictate how Islam and Muslim identities are articulated through information and communication technologies. The book traces how Islamic law has been used since the fall of communism to demarcate the parameters of the national project and define the relationship between state and non-state religious actors. Highlighting specific conflicts of Islam with agendas of secularization and reform within a post-Soviet context, special attention is paid to gender, politics, terrorism, and mysticism.