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Sabra Webber

Sabra Webber

Sabra Webber

Professor Emerita, Department of Comparative Studies


614 292-9255

314 Hagerty Hall
1775 College Road
Columbus, OH

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  • Ph.D. (Anthropology, Folklore) University of Texas, Austin, 1981
  • MA (Folklore) University of California, Berkeley, 1975
  • BA (English Literature) Occidental College, Los Angeles, 1966

Professional History

  • U.S. Peace Corps, Tunisia. Volunteer Kindergarten Teacher, 1967-69 and Training Staff Member, 1974
  • The Ohio State University. Assistant Professor, 1983-90, Associate Professor, 1990-present
  • Division (Department) of Comparative Studies in the Humanities, Chair, 1990-96
  • Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Acting Chair, Fall Quarter 2008 and Fall & Winter Quarters 2009-10 and 2010-11


  • National Endowment for the Humanities Independent Research Fellow, 1982-83
  • CASA III Fellow, Cairo. Summer, 1985
  • American Research Center in Egypt Fellow, 1986-87
  • Rockefeller Residency Fellow, Washington University. 1988-89
  • Albert Hourani Prize. Honorable Mention for Romancing the Real (U of Penn, 1991). One of four best English language scholarly books about the Middle East, any discipline, published between 1991 and 1993 (from 95 works submitted).
  • Fulbright Senior Regional Research Fellow (Tunisia and Morocco). 1997-98
  • Social Science Research Council Senior Fellow (Tunisia) Six month fellowship, 1998
  • Judge. Fulbright Regional and Arab World Senior Fellowships. 1999-2001.
  • Member, Board of Directors, American Institute of Maghribi Studies. 2000-2003
  • Judge, Albert Hourani book award. 2004
  • Sphinx, Senior Honorary Outstanding Faculty Award.
  • Ohio Humanities Council, Summer Institute for Teachers Award. 2006
  • Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. 2006
  • British Academy/Huntington Library Research Grant. Summer, 2007
  • Keynote Address: “Challenges and Opportunities for OSU’s Muslim Students” Islamic Council of Ohio’s 20th Anniversary Celebration. November 3, 2007.
  • Judge. U.S. Student Fulbright National Screening CommitteeNorth Africa (Egypt) 80+ Applicants. Fall Quarter 2008


Books and Monographs

1969. Lisagharina (“For Our Children”). Tunis: National Publishing House.
1991. Romancing the Real: Folklore and Ethnographic Representation in North Africa. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
1996. Fantasy or Ethnography: Irony and Collusion in Subaltern Representation. Papers in Comparative Studies, vol. 8. Columbus: Division of Comparative Studies. (co-editor with Margaret Lynd)
Under Contract with Waveland Press. Folklore and the Disciplines.
In Preparation. Traveler as Trickster: Sir Richard Burton and the Royal Anthropologicals.

Recent Articles

1990. “Les fonctions communicatives des devinettes de Kelibia (Tunisie).” (“A sociostructural analysis of Tunisian Riddles.”) Journal of the Institute des Belles Lettres Arabes (IBLA). 53 (166): 1-21.
1993. “Canonicity and Middle Eastern Folk Narrative.” Edebiyyat. NS 4:35-48.
1996. “Comparative Cultural Studies: Irony, Collusion and Scholarly Practice.”Fantasy or Ethnography: Irony and Collusion in Subaltern Representation. Papers in Comparative Studies 8. (with Margaret Lynd)
1997. “Romancer le reel: histoires populaires racontees a Kelibia, Tunisie.” Pages 221-230 inEspaces Publiques, Paroles Publiques au Maghreb et au Machrek. Edited by Hannah Davis Taieb, Rabia Bekkar, Jean-Claude David. Paris: Editions L’Harmattan. (with Hannah Davis Taieb)
1998. “Middle East Studies and Subaltern Studies.” Middle East Studies Association Bulletin31(1): 11-16.
1999. “Tunisian Storytelling Today.” Pages 356-364 in Traditional Storytelling Today: An International Sourcebook. Edited by Margaret Read MacDonald. London/Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
2001 “Connaissance narrative et l'histoire d'un reve” (written in French and Arabic). Revue de l'Institut des Belles Lettres Arabes (IBLA) 187 (July 2001): 39-50.
2004. “Arabic and Berber Oral Traditions in North Africa.” Pages 49-70 in The Cambridge History of African and Caribbean Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2005. “Humor and Religion: Humor and Islam.” Pages 4210-4218 in Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd ed. Vol. 6. Edited by Lindsay Jones. Macmillan Reference USA.
2007. “The Horror! The Horror!” A Response to Stanley Kurtz’ ‘Marriage and the Terror War,’ Part I.Anthropology News 48 (5): 17-18.
2007. “The Horror! The Horror!” A Response to Stanley Kurtz’ ‘Marriage and the Terror War,’ Part II.Anthropology News 48 (6): 6-7
2007. “Between Global Comparativism and Ethnographic Precision: Toward a Mediterranean Anthropology?” (“Entre vision globale comparatiste et précision ethnographique: vers une anthropologie méditerranéenne?”). Pages 207-222 in Terrains et savoirs actuels de l’anthropologie. Serie Anthropologie-Ethnologie 1. Tunis: Cahiers du C.E.R.E.S.

Video Productions

2007. “Alan Jabbour Fiddling Around.” June, 2006. Copyright: Sabra J. Webber and The Ohio State University.
2007. “A Cultured Man: The Arab American Family Immigration Saga of Dr. Alan Jabbour.” January, 2007. Copyright: Sabra J. Webber and The Ohio State University.

Recent Reviews

1990. Review of Susan Slyomovics, “Merchant of Art.” Journal of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic 23:165-170.
1997. Review of Allen Douglas and Fedwa Malti-Douglas, “Arab Comic Strips: Politics of an Emerging Mass Culture.” Inks: Cartoon and Comic Art Studies 3 (3): 39-41.
Review of Peter Heath, “The Thirsty Sword: Sirat Antar and the Arabic Popular Epic.” Middle Eastern Studies Association Bulletin 32 (2): 181-2 2000. Review of Deborah Kapchan, “Women in the Market Place.” Middle Eastern Studies Association Bulletin 3:100-101
2003. Review of Veronika Gorog-Karady and Christiane Seydou (eds.), La fille difficile: un conte-type africain. Paris: CNRS, 2001. In Research in African Literature 34 (3): 200-202.
2003. Review of Paula Holmes-Eber, Daughters of Tunis: Women, Family, and Networks in a Muslim City. Boulder: Westview Press.
2004. Review of Burke O. Long, Imagining the Holy Land: Maps, Models and Fantasy Travels. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
2008. Review of Celia E. Rothenberg, “Spirits of Palestine.” Oxford: Lexington Books, 2004. InJournal of Middle East Women’s Studies 4 (1): 135-138.

Scholarly Editorial Work

Faculty Editor: Middle East and South Asia Folklore Bulletin 1990-2005. (3 issues per year)

Encyclopedia Articles

“Libyen” for Enzyklopadie des Marchens 8(4/5):1030-1033. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
In Preparation. “Tunesien”for Enzyklopadie des Marchens.

Scholarly Papers (Last Ten Years)

  • 1998. Invited Lecture: “A Sociostructural Analysis of Riddling in the Maghrib,” presented to Faculty and Students at al-Akhawayn University. Ifrane, Morocco.
  • 2001. Discussant and Chair: “Gender and Diversity in the Middle East” and “Art, Architecture and Identity.” Middle Eastern Studies Association. San Francisco, California.
  • Chair and Discussant for Panel: “Narrative Techniques for the Stage.” The 25th Comparative Drama Conference: OSU, Columbus OH. Spring, 2001.
  • 2003. Invited Paper: “El-Bedoui’s Reminiscence,” for the panel, Trends in Autobiography in North Africa, at the African Literature Association meeting, Literature Re-Lit. Alexandria, Egypt. March 21, 2003.
  • 2005. Invited Speaker: “Between Global Comparativism and Ethnographic Precision: Toward a Mediterranean Anthropology?” and “Entre vision globale comparatiste et précision ethnographique: vers une anthropologie méditerranéenne?” Conference to inaugurate the first graduate program in anthropology in Tunisia: Terrains et Savoirs Actuels de l’Anthropologie. Tunis, Tunisia. December 8, 2005.
  • 2005. Président de Séance (Session President): 8eme Séance Scientifique: Patrimoine, Tourisme et Culture. Tunis, Tunisia. December 10, 2005.
  • 2005. Invited Speaker: “The Future of the Geneva Conventions,” at the Culture, Law and Society Seminar. University of Tunis School of Law. Tunis, Tunisia. December 10, 2005.
  • 2006. Popular media presentation: Panel Presentation to law students and faculty of The Ohio State University on the Prophet Mohamed cartoons. Columbus, OH. February, 2006.
  • 2008. Invited Paper: “Sir Richard and the Royal Anthropologicals,” at the American Anthropological Association meetings. San Francisco. November 20, 2008.
  • 2009. Invited Paper: “Back to Iraq: Betwixt and Between with Salam/Pax in Baghdad (or, What is BJ to Salam/Pax or Salam/Pax to Her?).” Guests of BJ Conference, in memory of Elizabeth Warnock Fernea. University of Texas, Austin. October 15-17, 2009.
  • 2009. Paper/Forum: “Differential Ideologies: Global Folklore for the Accidental Folklorist.” American Folklore Society. Boise, ID. October 21-24, 2009.


Thesis / Disserattion Advising

--MA Theses:

Comparative Studies 
The Art of Illustration / by Susan Jill Myers, 1990.
The Celtic Peasantry and the Spiritual in the Early Works of W. B. Yeats and Paul Gauguin / by Kathleen Barbara Riemenschneider, 1996.
Quests for Healing and Redemption: Locating the Celtic Moment in Imagined Histories / by Kimberly Ann Spring, 2000.
From Harem Fantasy to Female Empowerment: Rhetorical Strategies and Dynamics of Style in American Belly Dance / by Sheila Marie Bock,2001.
Symbolism in the Suburbs: A Study of the Relationship of the "Postcard" Image to Reality in Worthington, Ohio / by Susan Stimson Hanson, 2001.
Beyond Crack Mother: Narratives of Drug Addiction and Recovery / by Tracy R. Carpenter, 2004.
The Embodied Storyteller: Emerging Amidst Tensions of Body, Culture, and Medicine / by Sarah Louise Vargo, 2005.

Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
Carpets in Context: Explorations in Moroccan Material Culture / by Sandra Elaine Welch, 1992.
The Hidden Child Speaks: Folklore in the Construction of Identity / by Janet Letow Epstein, 1993.
Lowering the Veil: Daughters of the Harem Speak / by Sandra Shadchehr, 2001.
Peripheral Agents: Marginality in Arab Folk Narrative / by Christopher T. Hemming, 2009.

--Honors Theses:

Comparative Studies 
Dance of Dogs: The Radical Heritage of Folk Puppetry / by Brian Deller, 2006.
Negotiating Familial Ideals through Conversational Narrative: Relationships of Exchange in a Quiteño Family / by Taylor C. Nelms, 2006.

Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
Traditional Ijtihad and Modern Islamic Legal Reform: Legitimacy, Implementation, and Social Impact / by Marci Lawson, 1992.

--PhD Dissertation:

Greek and Latin
Negotiating Identity, Connecting through Culture: Hellenism and Neohellinism in Greek America /by Georgios Anagnostu, 1999.

Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures
The Stranger in the City: Genre and Place in the Works of Nikolai Gogol and Liudmila Petrushevskaia / by Kristin Anne Peterson, 2000 (Russian).


  • American Anthropological Association
  • American Folklore Society
  • American Institute of Maghribi Studies
  • Middle Eastern Studies Association


  • Tunisian Arabic, very good speaking
  • French, very good reading comprehension, adequate speaking, poor writing
  • Modern Standard Arabic, read with difficulty

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