Sakthivel, Vishvini

Assistant Professor of International Studies

Address: 9 Glebe St., Room 301
Office Hours: Fall 2023: by appointment only. Please email to set up.
E-mail: sakthivelva AT


Ph.D. (DPhil), Modern Middle East Studies, University of Oxford (St. Antony’s College) 

M.P.P., Georgetown University (Arab Studies Minor, Georgetown School of Foreign Service) 

B.A., Philosophy, Race Studies, Bowling Green State University 

Research Interests

Dr. Sakthivel joined the College of Charleston in 2022. Prior to joining CofC, Dr. Sakthivel was a Lecturer in Political Science at Yale University, and a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale’s MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. Her research lies at the intersection of anthropology and political science and explores popular contestations around religion, legitimacy, and identity in North Africa. Her current book project—funded by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) Mellon Grant, among others—is an ethnographic study of the changing political/social discourses of members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Algeria and Morocco. 

Formerly a foreign policy analyst in Washington, D.C., and Peace Corps Volunteer to Morocco, Dr. Sakthivel is also interested in the history of U.S. foreign policy on the Middle East and North Africa, and its effects on MENA politics and culture, and on the role of Islam in statecraft. She has served as a senior analyst at two major think tanks at which time she published the monograph Al-Adl wal-Ihsan: Morocco’s Islamist Challenge (Washington Institute Press, 2014). She continues to be a regular source on Algeria and Morocco to the media and to the U.S. and foreign governments, and has been published in Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, The National Interest, among other publications, and with the Brookings Institution, the Hudson Institute, and the Middle East Institute. She is also a frequent guest lecturer to the Foreign Service Institute at the U.S. State Department in which she instructs government officials and future diplomats on North African political history and culture. 

As an educator and mentor, she is committed to ensuring BIPOC, disabled, and first-generation students access to actualized academic and professional journeys that surmount systemic racial, gender, class and other positional inequities.

Research Languages 

Arabic, North African Arabic Dialect, French, English, Tamil

Courses Taught

INTL 100 Introduction to International Studies

INTL 350 Cross-Regional Studies


“‘Moderate Islam’ in the Maghreb: How U.S. Foreign Policy Shapes Islamist Contention,” in The Geopolitics of Religious Soft Power (eds. Peter Mandaville & Shadi Hamid) (Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press) (2019) 


“Political Islam in Post-Conflict Algeria,” in Trends in Islamist Ideology, Vol. 22, pp. 116-142 (2017) 


“Morocco: Prospects for Civil Society,” in Beyond Islamists & Autocrats (ed. S. Feuer), pp. 16-28 (2015) 


“Party of Justice and Development,” in Oxford Islamic Studies. Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. (ed. John Esposito) (Oxford University Press) (2015) 


Al Adl wal Ihsan: Inside Morocco’s Islamist Challenge (Washington DC: Washington Institute Press) (2014) 


Works in Progress 

“Contesting Moderate Islam: Discourses and Polemics of Religious Legitimacy in Post-Conflict Algeria,” Middle East Journal (under review) 


Domestic-ating Islamism: Religion and the Politics of Belonging in Northwest Africa. Book manuscript in progress. 


Selected Policy Publications 

“Hirak: A political opportunity in COVID-19,” Insights, Middle East Institute (MEI), March 2020 

“Is a Democratic Transition Possible in Algeria?” Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), December 2019 

“Don’t Designate the Muslim Brotherhood a Foreign Terrorist Organization” The National Interest, May 2019 

Six years after the Arab Spring, Morocco is experiencing its own unrestThe Washington Post, August 2017 

Can Algeria’s Fractured Islamists Retain Movement Appeal?” World Politics Review, February 2017 

The Geopolitics of Sufi Promotion in North Africa” Foreign Policy Research Institute, December 2016 

“As the Bouteflika Era Ends, Crisis or Continuity for Algeria?” World Politics Review, October 2016 

Morocco’s New African NationalismForeign Policy Research Institute, July 2016 

“EU, Morocco, and the Western Sahara: A Chance for Justice” EU Council on Foreign Relations, June 2016  

“Algeria’s Next SuccessionForeign Affairs, December 2015 

Morocco Deepens Gulf TiesWorld Politics Review, November 2014 

“The Moroccan Move in Mali” Foreign Affairs, January 2014 

“DanielGate Sparks Moroccan Unrest” Al-Monitor, August 2013 

“Political Salafists in Morocco” PolicyWatch Series, The Washington Institute, August 2013