A Matter of Timing

Tamirace Fakhoury uses time to decode the impact of conflict on people’s lives
A candid photo of Tamirace Fakhoury sitting on a panel.

Professor Tamirace Fakhoury is a student of time. As associate professor of international politics and conflict, she investigates the interplay between political systems, conflict, and people’s lives. She possesses an intimate understanding of how important — and misunderstood — time can be in academia.  

“I'm interested in how political systems shape our lifetime,” said Fakhoury. “Having lived through conflicts where I had to wait for hours in traffic, had slow internet, or had to wait for electricity in Beirut, I was fascinated by the question of why politics have so much control over my time, my future, and the way I spend my minutes.” 

Against this backdrop, she’s working on a book about how postwar political systems fashion people’s time — both their use of it and how they make sense of it. In part, she draws from personal experience; Fakhoury was born during Lebanon’s civil war and attributes her professional trajectory to growing up in conflict. 

“Drawing on Lebanon's civil war and the uncertainty that the post-war order brought along, I developed this curiosity to understand how conflicts shape people's aspirations and futures,” she said. “I'm drawing on Lebanon's revolutionary uprising in 2019 in order to see how people used this opportunity to recreate time and to recapture stolen time.”  

An Adept Approach to Studying Conflict 

Fakhoury works to comprehend the relationship between state-level problems and civilian lives. She specializes in complex power transitions in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. She also studies migration and refugee issues in conflict zones. With a particular interest in how conflicts trickle down to the everyday lives of citizens, refugees, and LGBTQ communities, she recently co-published a book with the sociologist John Nagle called Resisting Sectarianism: Queer Activism in Postwar Lebanon. Through her work, Fakhoury pays close attention to methodology, evaluating the ways in which academics approach and interrogate their subjects from a distance.  

“I tend to endorse the view that you cannot research conflicts while being away from them, and this is why it is at the heart of my research to find ways to relate to people, establish trust, and let them also inform my writing,” she said.  

Fakhoury is collaborating with a team of scholars to assess how they can reshape conflict studies to better interpret their overlapping dynamics as well as the positionality of the people who want to relate their stories.   

Her current project reflects this imperative. Through process tracing, institutional ethnography, and historical institutionalism, Fakhoury is examining the effects of Lebanon’s political system on people’s time, and she uses vignettes and narrative storytelling to illustrate more clearly the human impact.  

A Polycentric World Order  

Fakhoury brings this fresh perspective to Fletcher. This semester, she’s teaching the course, “Conflict Management in a Polycentric World Order.”  

“We live in a fragmented world where there are multiple sites of authority,” said Fakhoury. “Multilateral cooperation over conflicts is under strain, and various actors are shaping the so-called ‘Westphalian state system.’ Often times, however, policymaking is ill-equipped to deal with hybrid sovereignties and multi-sited conflict actors". 

“A core question that shapes this course is, whenever you have this plethora of actors, how do they diverge? How do they intersect? How does this impact the management of conflicts themselves?” 

In the course, Fakhoury will integrate conflict management theories with complexity and polycentric governance theories to help students untangle the web of interests on the global stage today.  

“When we study conflicts, we usually look at them through a linear process. How did they break out? What happened? But then we don't look at how many actors shape them through the politics of scale from the supranational level to the local level.”  

Taking the time to grapple with polycentricism, Fakhoury can approach with greater clarity the most important questions: how these actors come together, diverge, and bring more dissonance to conflict.