As an Open Society Fellow, Bayat is studying unconventional forms of activism “from below,” which may have played a major role in bringing about the Arab uprisings. He is investigating whether international donors and policymakers tend to favor civil society organizations and formal associations, which often represent powerful constituencies and are marked by significant disparities of class and status, at the expense of un-organized grassroots groupings and informal collectives that may be more representative of popular interests. Bayat is a professor of Sociology and Middle East Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is the author or editor of ten books, including Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (2010).
Previously, he served at the Director of the International Institute for the Study of Islam at the Leiden University, and taught sociology and Middle East studies at the American University in Cairo. He has held visiting positions at the University of California, Berkeley, Columbia University and Oxford. Bayat has also served on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Development and Change, ISIM Review, Middle East Report, Middle East Critique, Eutopia, and Cairo Papers in Social Science.