Aleksandar Shopov is a student in the CMES Joint PhD Program in History and Middle East Studies.
I was born in Skopje, Macedonia, which used to be one of the most important Ottoman cities, frequently mentioned in the sources as the “Abode of the Poets.” Despite the wars in the twentieth century and the catastrophic earthquake in 1963, the citizens of Skopje preserved many of the Ottoman kervansarays, hamams, churches, mosques, and the famous Stone Bridge. As a kid I always wondered who those people were that created these magnificent buildings that blend perfectly well with the natural environment.
As an exchange student at the University of Vermont I read Professor Kafadar’s book Between Two Worlds. In this book I recognized some of my ideas on how the history of my region could be written. I thought that Professor Kafadar would be a great advisor with his knowledge of the Ottoman sources and twentieth-century historiographies. CMES was also a place where I could meet scholars like Gülru Necipoğlu, Roger Owen, Roy Mottahedeh, Susan Kahn, Steve Caton, Himmet Taskomur and others known for their innovative approaches in their research. When you add to this the unceasing support of the staff at CMES and the treasures of Widener you get the perfect scholarly community.
I am interested in the creative energy of the people in my region. My dissertation is on the intersection of science, poetics, politics, and natural environment in the production of food in the Ottoman period. I will try to discuss the complexity of human and natural agencies and analyze the imagination and creativity of the people in the Eastern Mediterranean during Ottoman rule. My childhood in a family of poets, scientists, and revolutionaries made me realize that the prevalent image of my region as divided along ethnic and religious lines is a recent political construct. By looking at the creative energies of the people embodied in ideas about innovation, technology and production one can undertake a serious study of the past of this region without being mislead by common stereotypes and prejudices.
Living in Cambridge
I enjoy my time with friends and meeting all those interesting people in Cambridge. I love the bike lanes and the people that join me often on my bike rides. It's hard to imagine life in Cambridge without the exceptionally good musicians that perform often at different places.
I would like to continue doing the same thing: read, write, and teach. I will try to create a place where I can freely create and share my ideas.