Associate Professor


Ph.D., History/Middle Eastern Studies, New York University
M.A., Arab Studies, Georgetown University, 1997
B.A., History, University of Louisville, 1994

Regional and Thematic Interests

West Asia/Middle East


Professor Willis’ research area is the social and cultural history of the modern Middle East and the Indian Ocean. He is particularly interested in the relationship between state power and the geographical imagination, both as part of colonial modernity and movements of Islamic reform. He is the author of “Making Yemen Indian:  Rewriting the Boundaries of Imperial Arabia,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 41 no. 1 (February 2009) and Unmaking North and South: Cartographies of the Yemeni Past, 1857-1934 (Hurst/Columbia University Press, under contract).  His new research investigates debates over the future Islamic political community in the interwar period in the Arab world and South Asia.