Timothy Mitchell

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Timothy P. Mitchell is a British born political theorist and student of the Arab world. He is a professor of Middle Eastern Studies[1] at Columbia University. He was previously Professor of Politics at New York University.[2]


Mitchell received his B.A. from Cambridge University in 1977 and his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1984.

Mitchell is married to Lila Abu-Lughod, a Columbia University anthropology and gender studies professor.[2]

Academic career[edit]

Mitchell arrived in the United States in 1977 to start a Ph.D. in Politics at Princeton.[3] He was "surprised to discover that the Politics Department at Princeton was teaching the same old positivism. I was interested in the politics of the Arab world, having traveled there several times, so I evaded political science by taking courses in Middle Eastern history and Arabic language and spent three of the next six years studying and researching in Cairo. Meanwhile, Discipline and Punish had just appeared in English and Orientalism came out a year later. I read these against the Marx I had studied as an undergraduate, and moved on to Derrida and Heidegger, all of which informed the book I eventually produced, Colonising Egypt."[3]

He is an expert on the economy of modern Egypt, and a contributor to postcolonial theory.

Jeffrey Azarva has called Mitchell's book Colonising Egypt a staple of university syllabi.[citation needed] Mitchell's book rests on the theory that the roots of colonialism are as much internal as external, and that power operates through representation and culture as well as brute force. Nineteenth century reforms and modernization, Mitchell asserts, were backdoor attempts to subjugate Egypt to British influence. Urban planning and other attempts to control the basic elements of daily life enabled subjugation.

Mitchell responded to 9/11 with a critique of American support for autocracy in the Muslim world and for Israel, asserting that "Washington continues to side with the exclusionary politics and expansionist militarism of the Israeli government. Most Palestinians endure this American-funded violence and collective imprisonment with a quite extraordinary forbearance and fortitude. But the resources for collective resistance are very few, the rule of the Palestinian authority is increasingly inept and corrupt, and for some the politics of despair and a reactive violence are never far away." [4]

Political activity[edit]

Mitchell is a supporter of the academic boycott of Israel.[2][5][6]

Mitchell also signed a petition "La démocratie en Iran, pas la guerre. Trois cents intellectuels appellent l'ONU à faire pression pour les droits de l'homme sans se focaliser sur le nucléaire",[7] a letter advocating democracy in Iran and discouraging militarism,[8] a letter supporting the right of NYU graduate teaching assistants to make their own decisions on unionization,[9] and many other political open letters signed by academics.[10][11][12]


  • Carbon Democracy, Verso, 2011.
  • Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity University of California Press, 2002.
  • Questions of Modernity, University of Minnesota Press, 2000 (editor and contributor).
  • Colonising Egypt, University of California Press, 1991.


External links[edit]

  • [2] Timothy Mitchell's faculty profile page at Columbia University.
  • [3] February 2010 interview with Timothy Mitchell at Sciences Po Paris.
  • Theory Talks 2013 interview with Timothy Mitchell