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I am a doctoral candidate in the joint PhD program in Anthropology & Linguistics. Prior to joining the Department of Linguistics and School of Anthropology, I completed a Master’s of Arts in Sociolinguistics of the Arab World at the University of Essex. My Master’s research examined Arabic dialect contact in the Gaza Strip between indigenous Gaza Palestinians and Palestinian refugees originally from the city of Jaffa. More recently, in the summer of 2015 I conducted a three month pilot fieldwork project examining dialect contact in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Jordan.

My primary body of research draws on tools from both variationist sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology to examine the intersections of language, violence, belonging, and citizenship in the Middle East. To date this work has taken two different, but connected paths. One strand has focused on language change within varieties of Palestinian Arabic, situating change within the broader context of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the social, cultural, and political history of the Palestinian community. The second strand has explored how state apparatuses utilize language, specifically Arabic, in conflict areas. Within this body of work I am interested in how state militaries deploy Arabic in leaflets, phone calls, and SMS message as one of component of the broader project of conducting military conflict. Beyond the role that these forms of language play within military contexts, on a broader level I ask what role the use of Arabic plays in creating social and political imaginaries of the state and reinforcing ‘democratic’ discourses within the context of war.

In my dissertation research I focus on the use of verbal art, particularly oral poetic forms, and other performantive genres among communities of Palestinian refugees in the Jordanian capital of Amman. My goal in this project is to foreground the ways in which these performative genres create, reinforce, and shape discourses of citizenship, memory, and belonging within the Palestinian community.


Ph.D. (expected 2021) – Joint doctorate in Anthropology & Linguistics, The University of Arizona

M.A. (2017) – Linguistics, University of Arizona

M.A. (2013) – Sociolinguistics of the Arab World, University of Essex

B.I.S (2012) – Middle Eastern Studies, Georgia State University

William Cotter

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