Publications by Faculty & Alumni

Sohrabi, Naghmeh. “Signs Taken for Wonder: Nineteenth Century Persian Travel Literature to Europe.” History and MES, 2005. Publisher's VersionAbstract

My dissertation, Signs taken for Wonder: Nineteenth Century Persian Travel Literature to Europe is a re-examination of the significance of Persian travel narratives to Europe for Qajar Iran (1796–1925). Through textual and contextual analysis of Qajar travel accounts to Europe, I have demonstrated the ways in which Qajar historiography's focus on travelogues as sites of Europe is a result of an anticipatory history that reads the nineteenth century in light of later developments that the historical actors themselves could not have foreseen. This has led to the omission of certain nineteenth century travelogues from the historiography and also blinded historians to other interpretive possibilities of these texts, specifically the ways in which they narrate Qajar Imperial power, reveal changes in the writing culture of Iran in the nineteenth century, and demonstrate the state's growing interest in geographical knowledge.

By shifting my analytical framework from “what” was written to “why” these travelogues were written, and more importantly, how they were consumed, I argue for an interpretation of travel literature to Europe as narrators of the power of the Qajar court, and later in the century, that of Iran's territorial integrity. Additionally, by contextualizing the travelogues within the larger body of geographical and historical writings of their own period, I demonstrate the ways in which these texts interacted with other types of narratives, such as chronicles, geographies, and the court's official gazette.

Yilmaz, Huseyin. “The Sultan and the Sultanate: Envisioning Rulership in the Age of Süleymān the Lawgiver (1520-1566).” History and MES, 2005. Publisher's VersionAbstract

My thesis examines the formation of a uniquely Ottoman theory of rulership during the age of Suleiman the Lawgiver (1520–1566) through an extensive study of political treatises written in this period, most of which are in manuscript form and new to current scholarship. My thesis shows that a paradigmatic transformation took place in political reasoning that in turn led to a new mode of political writing and an extensive reshuffling of political ideals, visions, symbols, and theories in this period that had a lasting impact on the way the Ottoman ruling elite viewed their ruler, government, and society.

The conventional perception of rulership as a continuation of the historical caliphate with the claim of presenting the sultan as the universal head of the Muslim community lost its appeal. Instead, because of the permeation of Sufistic imageries into political theory, the caliphate was defined as a cosmic rank between Man and God, attained in the spiritual sphere. The pursuit of moralism and piety in rulership that dominated the previous political theory gave way to legalism that evaluated governance by the ruler's observation of laws rather than his moral behavior. In this approach, the observance of customs, religious code, and sultanic laws became the touchstone for measuring the quality of government that was previously gauged on the basis of the sultan's piety.

The focus of political analysis shifted from the personality of the ruler to the existing government, its institutions, and procedural practices. In contrast to previous conceptions that reigned supreme in political theory, in the new paradigm, the grand vizier replaced the sultan as the center of government. The sultan was then conceived to be a distant but a legitimating figure for the dynasty while the grand vizier was promoted to the position of actual ruler in the Ottoman state. Consequently, relatively divorced from the moralistic, idealistic, personality-oriented, and sultan-centric paradigm in political reasoning, this realist and empirical approach to the question of rulership promoted such ideas as ‘government by law’ and ‘institutional continuity of the state’ as primary objectives of rulership.

Innocents Abroad: American Tourists, Travel Narratives, the Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy in the Late Nineteenth Century.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2005.
From Usama Ibn Munqidh to Usama Bin Laden: Islamic Rememberings of the Crusades.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2005.
Public Health and Colonialism in 1920's Morocco.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2005.
Al-Kawakibi's Thesis and Its Echoes in the Modern and Contemporary Arab World: Arabism, Islamism, Secularism, and Beyond Ideologization.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2005.
Who Muted the Libyan? A Research Agenda for the Libyan Colonial Period: 1911–1943.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2005.
Writing History from Memory: How Memory Narratives Become History in Jenin Refugee Camp.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2005.
Economic Diversification in the Gulf States of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and UAE.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2005.
'The Organization of Law, the Organization of Space and Subjects' Experience of Justice and Imperial Power in the Ottoman Empire, 1453–1566.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2005.
Abouali, Diana. “Family and Society in a Seventeenth Century Ottoman City: The ’Alamīs of Jerusalem.” History and MES, 2004. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation is a study of an Arab-Muslim family from Jerusalem during the early seventeenth century. It examines the life and times of the ’Alamī family, an ‘ulamā’ family of long-standing social and cultural prestige that had been living in Jerusalem for many generations. The seventeenth century was witness to many changes in the social, cultural and political landscape of Jerusalem as it became more firmly integrated into the Ottoman Empire. These changes posed challenges for the 'Alamīs, their claims to prestige and status, and their strategies for maintaining their privileged position in society. Like urban a`yān elsewhere in the Arab-Ottoman world, the ’Alamī family's elite status rested on their access to and accumulation of material and symbolic wealth. This dissertation explores the various strategies employed by members of this family to ensure the continuation of their status as elites.

This study lies at the juncture of family history and the history of Ottoman Palestine, and more specifically Ottoman Jerusalem. The family as a category of historical analysis has been shown to be a useful tool for unearthing the social, cultural, economic and political history of the city and region. This dissertation can be seen as a preliminary foray into the writing of the history of family and family life in seventeenth century Jerusalem. The dissertation unfolds as four chapters. Chapter One provides a general overview of the geographic, political and spiritual importance of Jerusalem in the Ottoman worldview; the urban geography of the city; and the demographic and social composition of the city's residents. Chapter Two looks at the construction of prestige and elite status through the configuration of lineage and genealogies and through the marital strategies employed by the ’Alamīs. Chapter Three examines the accumulation of economic wealth and the ties forged through moneylending and property exchange. The final chapter explores how some members of the ’Alamī family created a niche for themselves in the new religious environment in Jerusalem while drawing upon commonly recognized religious and cultural symbols.

Khuri-Makdisi, Ilham. “Levantine Trajectories: The Formulation and Dissemination of Radical Ideas in and between Beirut, Cairo, and Alexandria, 1860-1914.” History and MES, 2004. Publisher's VersionAbstract

My dissertation investigates the articulation and dissemination of radicalism in and between Beirut, Cairo and Alexandria in the late 19th and early 20th century. It argues that there existed a deep connection between the brand of radicalism that emerged in these cities, its dissemination, and the movements of various social and intellectual networks between the three cities. It establishes the existence of a geography of contestation, or a special radical trajectory linking Beirut, Cairo and Alexandria, and underlines the strong similarities between the brands of leftist thought, projects, and militant practices that emerged in each of these cities, and in particular in Beirut and Alexandria.

This work emphasizes the role of subversive and potentially subversive social practices in facilitating or predisposing the emergence of radicalism. Specifically, it links radicalism to the rise of new genres, new forums and new spaces, and in particular to the press and the theater. It also emphasizes the establishment of trans-national networks of intellectuals, dramastists, and workers, that allowed for the circulation of people and radical ideas especially between Beirut, Cairo and Alexandria, and the emergence of a geography of contestation linking the three cities. This study also suggests reading radicalism partly as the appropriation, by emerging new classes and categories, of discursive spheres that had hitherto been reserved to specific and “traditional” sources of authority, namely political and cultural elites. With this appropriation came the right to perform, consume, and hence re-interpret religious, political, contemporary, and international topics.

One central argument of this study is that radicalism was linked to globalization. Indeed, we suggest viewing radicalism as simultaneously an indicator and a shaper of the first wave of globalization that was characterized first and foremost by extensive and unprecedented movement: of people, commodities, information and ideas. This dissertation explores the radical and subversive implications in the movement of people and information, through the press, the theater, and through labor networks. In particular, it shows how Beirut, Cairo and Alexandria attracted a number of networks whose members were attracted to, articulated, and promoted various brands of socialism and anarchism. It sheds light on the links established between these networks of intellectuals and workers on one hand, and internationalist and radical institutions throughout the world on the other. Specifically, it argues that there existed a privileged set of linkages between the three cities in question, which magnified radicalism in each one of them.

Casale, Giancarlo L.The Ottoman Age of Exploration: Spices, Maps and Conquest in the Sixteenth Century Indian Ocean.” History and MES, 2004. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation is a study of Ottoman expansion in the Indian Ocean, beginning with Sultan Selim the Grim's conquest of Egypt in 1517, and ending with the corsair Mir Ali Beg's last naval expedition to the Swahili Coast in 1589. The aim of my research is to create a coherent narrative of the most important events during this period, while at the same time placing them within the context of the larger story of European overseas expansion during the Age of Exploration. Specifically, my thesis argues that the establishment of Ottoman suzerainty over the northwest Indian Ocean littoral (including Yemen, the Horn of Africa, Basra and the Persian Gulf) mirrored both qualitatively and chronologically the overseas expansion of the Iberian powers, and particularly the rival and contemporaneous establishment of the Portuguese Estado da India.

Like the Portuguese, the Ottomans in the sixteenth century strove to seize control of the lucrative trade in spices between India and the markets of the Mediterranean, and began to articulate a claim to universal sovereignty whose legitimacy, also like that of the Portuguese, hinged on an ability to control the network of maritime communications that crisscrossed the Indian Ocean. As the century progressed, the Ottomans developed a constantly expanding array of tactics to defend this claim, including the strategic use of predatory corsair attacks against Portuguese shipping, the creation of a “state monopoly” of the transit pepper trade through the Red Sea, and the construction of an extensive web of diplomatic and mercantile alliances stretching from Mombasa and Gujarat to Ceylon and Sumatra. Meanwhile, this unprecedented engagement with the outside world sparked a period of remarkable intellectual fluorescence at home. Throughout the century, but especially in the years after the mid 1550's, Ottoman scholars began to produce entirely new kinds of maps, geographies and travel narratives at precisely the same time that humanist scholars in Europe were compiling the first great published collections of Western discovery literature.

Connell, Michael Paul. “The Nimatullahi Sayyids of Taft: A Study of the Evolution of a Late Medieval Iranian Sufi Tariqah.” History and MES, 2004. Publisher's VersionAbstract

During the late medieval period, the Ni`matullāhī tarīqah, founded by Shāh Ni`matullāh Walī (d.834/1431), became one of the most widespread Sufi orders in Iran. The present study traces that order's evolution during its formative years, from the late 8th/14th century to the end of the Safawīd period, when Shāh Ni`matullāh's descendents relinquished their role as hereditary leaders of the order. In particular, it focuses on the process of the tarīqah's institutionalization, and how it evolved from a small circle of disciples into a specialized and hierarchically organized entity with its own distinct practices, beliefs, and institutions. It suggests that this was a gradual and ongoing process, and that the tarīqah underwent significant changes in the centuries following Shāh Ni`matullāh's death, in terms of doctrine, organization, and even sectarian affiliation.

Section One discusses the various biographies of Shāh Ni`matullāh and how those sources reflect the attempts of that shaykh's successors to institutionalize his charisma. In particular, it demonstrates how the later shaykhs of the tarīqah were able to mold and redefine the order's past, adapting it to their own ends. Section Two explores various factors that are indicative of the tarīqah's development during the 9th/15th century. These include the crystallization of a distinct initiatic chain, based on the principle of hereditary succession, around Shāh Ni`matullāh's descendents in the region of Yazd; the expansion of the tarīqah's network of followers and their integration into the Ni`matullāhī biographical tradition; the development of distinctive Ni`matullāhī beliefs and practices, and the manner in which those beliefs were articulated over time by the leadership of the order. Section Three examines the dynamics of the Ni`matullāhī relationship with the Safawīds, accounting for their comparative success at a time when organized Sufism as a whole was decline in Iran. In particular, it focuses on the intense politicization of the leadership of the order during the 10th/16th century and on their gradual adoption of Ithnā-`Asharī Shiism, the state religion of the Safawīds.

Erdemir, Aykan. “Incorporating Alevis: The Transformation of Governance and Faith-Based Collective Action in Turkey.” Anthropology and MES, 2004. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation is about the ongoing transformation of the Turkish state's incorporative policies vis-à-vis the Alevis and the subsequent faith-based collective action of the Alevis through their nonprofit organizations. The data were collected during eighteen months of ethnographic field research between 1998 and 2001 in Istanbul's Alevi organizations. I identify Alevi associations and foundations that have, for the most part, emerged within the last fifteen years, as the locus of both the state's incorporative policies and the subsequent collective action of the Alevis. Since Alevi accommodation of and resistance to official policies take shape in these organizations, I present them as key sites to observe the imperfect implementation and the unintended consequences of the state's incorporative policies. By focusing on the interaction taking place in, around, and through these organizations, I assess the limits and the successes of the emerging discourse and regime of governance in Turkey. Overall, I show that the manifested regime and discourse of incorporation are the end result of the complex interaction between official policies, their formulations, expressions, and imperfect implementation on the one side, and the Alevi organizations' strategies of reacting against, contesting, negotiating, accommodating, and cooperating with the official policies on the other. In an attempt to explore the overall transformation of governance I focus on highly intimate and localized values such as prejudices, stereotypes, and beliefs concerning heresy, sexual perversion, impurity, and bestiality. Since the implementation of incorporative policies depends on the practices, discourses, and attitudes of state functionaries who are predominantly Sunni, the outcome of the Alevis' interaction with the agents and agencies of the state is often guided and shaped by sectarian values. To throw light on the dynamics of such unpredictable encounters, I show different instances in which the Alevis and Sunnis creatively rework their beliefs, values, cosmologies, and faiths to accommodate, facilitate, or impede incorporation. I conclude that as a result of the interaction not only the Turkish state's service provision in, and the control and regulation of the field of religion are challenged, but also the Alevi belief and practice, and consequently, the Alevi subjectivities are irrevocably altered.

Lee, Yonggyu. “Seeking Loyalty: the Inner Asian Tradition of Personal Guards and Its Influence in Persia and China.” History and MES, 2004. Publisher's VersionAbstract

How did the rulers try to generate their own loyal retainers in pre-modern Asia? As an attempt to answer the question, the dissertation first focus on the Inner Asian institution of personal guards, who were personally attached and fostered by the ruler, with a special emphasis on the special emotional bond between ruler and personal servitors; and, second, the influence of this Inner Asian institution on the empire-building processes in East and West Asia. For the rulers of a tribally based society, it was a paramount concern to secure a loyal force which was detached from any tribal affiliations or local interest. I demonstrate that many successful examples of steppe rulers created personal guards from servile and foreign elements. I also analyze a special mechanism, called a tie of fosterage, which the steppe empires established to generate loyalty from the personal adherents.

In addition, the dissertation aims, in an effort to overcome the regionally structured format of Turco-Mongol history, to locate the significance of the Inner Asian politico-military institution of personal guards and of its evolution in sedentary societies, such as Persia and China, in the larger context of Eurasian history. For this purpose, I examine the Inner Asian tradition of personal guards in widely scattered regions from the Middle East to East Asia and throughout an extended length of period from the sixth to the fourteenth century. I juxtapose and compare the Inner Asian tradition of personal guards with other institutions based on Central Asian guards in the Tang, the Yuan, the Abbasid, and the Buyid dynasties and seek correlations and similarities among those systems.

Despite the divergence stemming from the different local contexts, my analysis shows that there was a strong influence from the Inner Asian tradition of personal guards on the imperial systems of the neighboring sedentary societies. With the study of the institution of personal guards, I attempt to show the interconnected nature of the imperial systems in Inner Asia, Persia, and China. At the same time, by demonstrating the steppe influence, my analysis suggests a corrective viewpoint to the current unbalanced images of nomad-sedentary cultural interactions.

Sisman, Cengiz. “A Jewish Messiah in the Ottoman Court: Sabbatai Sevi and the Emergence of a Judeo-Islamic Community (1666-1720).” History and MES, 2004. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation is about a person and a community in perpetual transition. It seeks to present a new historical perspective of a highly influential Jewish messianic Sabbatian movement that surfaced in the Ottoman Empire in 1665. The movement emerged within the matrix of early modern Ottoman and European social and religious developments and after the conversion of the “messiah” to Islam in 1666, it was transformed into a Judeo-Islamic messianic sect, better known in later periods as the sect of the Dönmes. The dissertation aims to interpret this experience within the Ottoman material and cultural world and to write a monograph on the movement and its sects, that takes specific Ottoman institutions, practices, personalities and networks into account.

This work attempts to bring together methodological approaches of social and intellectual history and religious studies. The first chapter is an account of the transformation of Sabbatai Sevi into Aziz Mehmed Efendi from 1665 to 1666. The second chapter narrates Aziz Mehmed Efendi's transformation into Sabbatai Mehmed Sevi. The third chapter deals with the formative period of the Ottoman Sabbatian community until 1720, when the third and final split occurred and the community was divided into the Yakubis , Karakaş' and Kapancis. In the fourth chapter, I deal with the formation of Sabbatian identity by looking at the dialectic between the communities' self-perception and the larger society's perception of the communities.

Stilt, Kristen Ann. “The Muhtasib, Law, and Society in Early Mamluk Cairo and Fustat (648-802/1250-1400).” History and MES, 2004. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation brings the scholarship of “legal realism” to the field of Islamic law by studying the application of law by the muhtasib in early Mamluk Cairo and Fustat (648–802/1250–1400). The muhtasib, best described as an inspector of the markets and public spaces in general, was a legal official charged with “commanding right and forbidding wrong” and who would patrol the streets of the marketplaces and enforce “laws” whenever he encountered a violation.

Drawing upon the lessons of the legal realists, this dissertation takes at its starting point that Islamic laws were not applied in a formalistic fashion. As is the case in legal systems generally, there is an intellectual step between the “law on the books” and the “law in action,'” with much room for discretion, consciously or not, on the part of the implementer of the law—whether judge, muhtasib, or other—in this step. Beginning with these premises, this dissertation asks questions such as: How was the relevant law determined by the muhtasib in any given case? What were the factors influencing the muhtasib when applying law and making decisions? What was the relationship between the legal text and the context of daily life? And, most generally, how did the legal system function in that period?

The goal of this dissertation is to examine as many of the muhtasib's actions in early Mamluk Cairo and Fustat as can be gleaned from the historical sources, and come to general conclusions about the determination and application of law and the factors and conditions that accompanied these processes. The dissertation covers six substantive areas of the Mamluk-era muhtasib's actions and decision-making—(1) morality, health, safety, and public order; (2) religious endowments (waqf) and property; (3) weights and measures; (4) prices, currency, and taxation; (5) Muslim religious practice; and (6) Jews and Christians.

This dissertation shows that the muhtasib was a hybrid official, at the same time part of the traditional legal system but also responsible for carrying out the policy orders of the Sultan. As such, the position of the muhtasib contained the possibility of both supporting the legitimacy of a divine system while also bending to meet the particular needs of the day. This dissertation will hopefully advance our understanding of the Mamluk legal system, and in particular the position of muhtasib within it, as well as suggest new methods to study Islamic legal systems generally.

Nationalism and Interpretations of the Past in Qajar Iran.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2004.
A Critical Analysis of the Revolutionary Ideology of 'Ali Shari'ati.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2004.