OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Melani McAlister

Portrait of Melani McAlister

Melani McAlister teaches American studies and international affairs at George Washington University. She is the author of Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East (updated edition, 2005), an interdisciplinary study of factors that construct a "common sense" about U.S. power in the Middle East. McAlister is also interested in the politics of religion and international relations. She is a coeditor, with R. Marie Griffith, of Religion and Politics in the Contemporary United States (2008). She has recently completed "The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of American Evangelicals," a broad study of evangelical internationalism since 1960, looking particularly at U.S. evangelical relations with the Middle East and Africa. Her next book considers the transnational response to the Biafra crisis and Nigerian civil war of 1967–1970. McAlister has been invited to speak to more than 50 university and public audiences about her research, including keynote or plenary addresses for a number of international conferences and workshops across the Middle East and Europe.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

US evangelicals are often considered to be outside the struggle against apartheid, when they are discussed in scholarship at all. In fact, a transnational approach shows that US conservative Christians had a range of ties to South African evangelicals, both black and white, several of whom were also leading anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. This meant that white US evangelicals in particular were challenged in their presumed support for "constructive engagement" with South Africa, and that black evangelical opponents of apartheid had evangelical voices from South Africa to support their cause. Exploring evangelicalism as a global phenomenon, this paper complicates assumptions of the international stances of conservative Christians in the US.
This lecture examines the rise of a discourse of "Persecuted Christians" in US and global evangelical life, starting in the late 1960s. It explores how visions of Christians as suffering for their faith were central to the Cold War logic of much of American evangelicalism, and then how "persecution" became an even more energized framework for post-9/11 politics, as Christian evangelicals imagined themselves in a global conflict with Islam. These developments enabled and shaped the Trump administration's "Muslim ban."