MSU’s Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures welcomes new department head

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

Hsain Ilahiane (Photo by Beth Wynn)

STARKVILLE, Miss. – An anthropology professor with a research focus on the Middle East and North Africa is the new leader of Mississippi State’s Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures.

Hsain Ilahiane joined MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences as AMEC’s department head in July.

A native of Morocco, Ilahiane said he plans to build on the existing strengths of the department and “establish links with North African and Middle Eastern universities as well as other Global South institutions.” 

Fluent in Berber, Arabic, French, English and Spanish, Ilahiane is from a small farming village in the Ziz Oasis of Southern Morocco, in the Province of Errachidia. He comes to MSU from the University of Kentucky, where he served as a professor of anthropology since 2009. He previously was on the faculty of Iowa State University from 1999-2009. In 2015-16, he served as co-guest editor of the Journal of Economic Anthropology. He also has worked frequently with Intel Corporation where he helped colleagues “understand the impact of mobile technology on productivity growth in businesses in emerging markets.”

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Rick Travis said Ilahiane brings new vision and energy to the department and will “enhance our international connections while also strengthening our ability to grow the Middle Eastern cultures and Arabic language efforts.”

Travis said Ilahiane brings “a strong interest in applied anthropology and experience in business anthropology, which links anthropological ideas about culture to business and industrial firms.”

“I look forward to working with him for years to come,” Travis said.

Ilahiane has participated in research in Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa, specifically in Morocco, Uganda, Kenya and South Africa.

Ilahiane’s Intel research examined digital money, cultural meanings of money, and the use of Islamic charitable institutions  ̶  called waqf and zakat  ̶  to fund sustainable community-based technology development strategies in Morocco, specifically investigating ways to make mobile technology accessible to the developing world. 

A long-term project Ilahiane plans to explore is the study of climate change and its impact on oasis farming and society.  

“As an applied anthropologist whose focus is the Middle East and North Africa, I am intrigued by the Middle East anthropology component of the [MSU] department and how I can contribute to that endeavor,” Ilahiane said.

His interest­­ in the MSU position was piqued by an opportunity to lead a “dynamic” department of anthropologists “dedicated to solving real-world problems through research endeavors pursued by the faculty and students.” 

Developing an applied anthropology focus on economic anthropology, business anthropology and design anthropology with links to industry/business is among Ilahiane’s goals for AMEC. 

“I hope to facilitate partnerships between the department and other colleges and departments at MSU to explore collaborative areas of research,” he said.

Ilahiane received his doctorate in anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1998, a master’s degree in international development from George Washington University in 1989 and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Catholic University of America in 1987.  A first-generation college graduate, Ilahiane earned his Baccalauréat from Lycée Sijilmassa, Errachidia, Morocco, in 1983.

AMEC’s mission is committed to holistic research concerning past and present human artifactual, biological, cultural and historical diversity and to training students in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies. The department educates and serves the people of Mississippi through advancement of the science and application of anthropology.

MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences includes more than 5,200 students, 300 full-time faculty members, nine doctoral programs and 25 academic majors offered in 14 departments. Complete details about the College of Arts and Sciences and Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures are online at and  

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