Dr Alex Henley
GPISH Programme Leader


Alex has overall operational responsibility for the three-year Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities (GPISH).  This includes strategic planning and design, student admissions and progression, recruitment of lecturers, and oversight of curriculum and assessment for the two-year MA validated by SOAS.  He is the first point of contact for students on academic matters and is on hand for consultation by teaching staff.


Alex has taught across themes of religion and politics in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, as well as theory and method in the Study of Religion.  Before coming to the IIS he was a lecturer at Oxford's Faculty of Theology & Religion (2016-20).  He previously spent four years in the US, first as a doctoral research fellow at Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies (2012-14) and then as the inaugural American Druzeinfo-icon Foundation Fellow at Georgetown's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (2015-16).  He has also served as a visiting professor at Qatar University, George Washington University, and Middlebury College's Arabic Summer School.  Alex studied at Durham University for his BA (2006) and MA (2007), at Manchester University for his PhD (2014), combined with Arabic studies at Edinburgh and Damascus Universities and the Qasid Institute in Amman.




As an anthropological historian of Islam in the modern Middle East, Alex is interested in how changing conceptions of ‘religion’ have contributed to the institutionalisation of Islam and sectarianisation of Middle Eastern societies.  He has conducted fieldwork in Lebanon and Jordan, supported by visiting fellowships at the American University of Beirut, Notre Dame University Louaizeh, the Brookings Doha Center, and the British Institute in Amman.


Alex is an associate member of Oxford's Faculty of Theology & Religion, through which he coordinates an interdisciplinary research network on "Categories of Religion and the Secular in Islam" (CRSI.theology.ox.ac.uk).



  • Journal articles:
    • “Islam as a Challenge to the Ideology of Religious Studies: Failures of Religious Studies in the Middle East”, Implicit Religion 22/3-4 (2020), special issue “Twenty Years After: The Ideology of Religious Studies”.
    • “Between Sect and State in Lebanon: Religious leaders at the interface”, Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies 1/1 (2016), special inaugural issue on sectarianism.
    • “Remaking the Mosaic: Religious leaders and secular borders in the colonial Levant“, Religion and Society: Advances in Research 6 (2015), special issue “Religion and Borderlands”.
    • “Politics of a Church at War: Maronite Catholicism in the Lebanese Civil War”, Mediterranean Politics 13/3 (2008).
  • Book chapters:
    • “Mashyakhat al-‘Aqlinfo-icon: The making of a modern Lebanese Druze institution”, in The Druze Millennium, ed. A. Abu-Husayn and M. Rabah (American University of Beirut Press, forthcoming in 2020).
    • “‘Religion’ and the Study of ‘Religious Leadership’”, in the Critical Religion Reader, ed. M. Barbato, C. Montgomery and R. Nadadur Kannan (Studio Dreamshare Press, forthcoming in 2020).
    • “Who Defines Religion in the Colony?”, in the Critical Religion Reader, ed. M. Barbato, C. Montgomery and R. Nadadur Kannan (Studio Dreamshare Press, forthcoming in 2020).
    • “The Maronites”, in the Routledge Handbook of Minorities in the Middle East, ed. P. Rowe (Routledge, 2018).
    • “Religious Authority and Sectarianism in Lebanon”, in Beyond Sunni and Shia: The roots of sectarianism in a changing Middle East, ed. F. Wehrey (Oxford University Press, 2017).
    • “Religious Nationalism in the Official Culture of Multi-Confessional Lebanon”, in The Struggle to Define a Nation: Rethinking religious nationalism in the contemporary Islamic World, ed. M. Demichelis and P. Maggiolini (Gorgias Press, Modern Muslim World series, 2017).
  • Other: