Owain Lawson


  • Visiting Assistant Professor of Middle East History

Areas of Study


  • PhD, history, Columbia University
  • MA, Middle East studies, The American University in Cairo
  • BA, English, Concordia University


Owain Lawson is a historian of environment, development, and social movements in the modern Middle East. He serves as coeditor of Arab Studies Journal and coeditor of the Environment page on Jadaliyya. His principle focus of scholarship is 20th-century Lebanon, anchored in a global and transnational perspective. His first book project, Power Failures: Water, Electricity, and Social Justice in Lebanon is a history of how Lebanese engineers, the World Bank, and river basin communities remade the Litani River.

At Oberlin, Owain is offering introductory surveys of Middle Eastern history, an intermediate course on carceral institutions in the 20th-century Middle East, and upper-level seminars on the history of development and environmental history. Alongside his teaching in the academy, Owain has taught courses in World and Middle Eastern history for incarcerated students through the Prison Education Programs of Cornell and Columbia.

Owain’s scholarly writing has appeared in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Jadaliyya, and theCairo Review of Global Affairs. Fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and Doris G. Quinn Foundation, among others, have supported his research. In 2018–19, he was fellow-in-residence at the Orient-Institut Beirut.

Fall 2021

History of the Middle East and North Africa, from the Rise of Islam to 1800 — HIST 121
Social History of Development in the Modern MENA — HIST 330

Spring 2022

MENA History from 1800 to the Present — HIST 122
Incarceration in the Modern MENA — HIST 268
Environmental History of the Middle East and North Africa — HIST 430