Bios are often a limited way of painting an impression of one’s life and interests because they tend to only highlight one’s accomplishments.
It’s hard to avoid what one friend aptly called the “becoming-CV of the human” when writing a bio. So I thought I’d share a different sort of ‘about me’, one that offers a brief snapshot of what drove me to my intellectual commitments instead of the standard list of accomplishments.
I was born outside Portland, Oregon and grew up there and elsewhere along the west coast. My roots are working class. Starting in my early teens I worked different jobs from being a hod carrier (assistant to a bricklayer), a construction laborer, to a number of sales and other odd jobs.
I studied at a small town in Southern Oregon on a Pell Grant and some student loans. Although I mainly read philosophy now, it was through reading poetry that the world of thought first really opened up for me.
After college I ended up becoming part of a wider community focused on addressing conflict resolution and inter-religious dialogue. In order to enter the world of professional life from my blue collar roots my partner and I lived in the patronage of a wealthy businessman in Washington, DC who was interested in interfaith issues. I highlight this point because I believe that without this Algeristic support I would probably be back in Portland working construction labor.
As you might imagine my entry into this world sparked class consciousness in much more palpable ways than ever before. I began to realize that my labor situation in the world relied on receiving the financial support from paternalistic sources (completely outside of my family mind you) which had no reason to support me. We live in a society where if you are a working class person who does not have parents with money, there’s often only an outside chance that you will escape your social and economic conditions.
I began to associate and fraternize with wealthy people who did not share in this same struggle and who actually pretended it did not exist, or who looked upon it as a natural par for the course.
It was at this point that I began to really turn to socialism, philosophy and psychoanalysis as a source for thinking critically about class politics in my life and in the wider society. By the time the liberal messianic moment of Obama’s hope and change began to come about, I began to turn against liberalism.
During this time I also developed greater love for my work in interfaith bridge building and I began to see it as a calling. Looking back on this time, I consider my entry into this world as a spiritual event although it did not entail a religious conversion other than bringing me towards the Christianity of my youth in a way that is fuller and more critical.
I have sought to weave my worlds together, the world of critical thought and philosophy with interfaith conflict resolution–these are the two intersecting paths of my life. I teach philosophy at George Washington University as Professorial Lecturer and I am a professor (adjunct) at Marymount University where I teach social and political thought, ethics and introduction to philosophy. I also offer occasional seminars to graduate students and I offer seminars for inmates at the DC jail.
I am also interested in teaching and learning alternatives to the contemporary neoliberal university. From 2012 – 2015, I served as Professor of Critical Theory and Dean of Student Affairs at the Global Center for Advanced Studies.
I am the Director of Programs and a Producer at Unity Productions Foundation, a media and educational organization based in Washington, DC that makes documentary films and promotes nationwide education about Islam and Muslim culture.
I received my Ph.D. from the European Graduate School, division of Philosophy, Art, and Critical Thought under the supervision of one of the most important living philosophers, Alain Badiou. I also received a Masters of Arts in philosophy and ethics from American University in Washington, DC where I wrote my thesis on Žižek’s critique of liberalism.
This work won first place in 2012 and 2014 at the Žižek Studies conference. I then went on to study directly with Žižek and Badiou at the EGS in order to develop my ideas.
I am also affiliated as a Scholar with the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, D.C. where I write and present on Islamophobia, Muslims in the west and interfaith dialogue.