I am a specialist in Middle Eastern history with a focus on early modern Ottoman and Safavid Empires. The questions surrounding the Sunni-Shi‘ite conflict during the early modern period and its enmeshment with issues of political, religious, and fiscal legitimacy in inter-confessional and inter-imperial contact zones is at the core of my research interests. By examining the religiosities of early modern Ottoman Anatolia/Iraq and Safavid Iran, my research provides an accurate picture for a deeper understanding of both the religious transformation of the Ottoman and Safavid polities in the early modern era and the current geo-political and demographic make-up in the region today.
My current book project, tentatively titled Sect and Sectarianism in the Early Modern Middle East: Ottoman Sunnism, Safavid Shiism, and the Qizilbash, explores the Sunni-Shiite divergence in the early modern period, not merely as a religiously derived, but as a meticulously carried out geo-political and fiscal battle that formed the base of the sectarian conflict in the region. More specifically, being one of the few scholars to utilize both Ottoman and Safavid primary sources within the framework of identity formation, state of belonging, propaganda, and conversion, I examine the formation of Sunni and Shiite identities -both at the individual and state level- from an often neglected perspective, through the lens of the Qizilbash (literally meaning “red heads” in Turkish) who constituted the largest Muslim minority group in the Ottoman Empire and were the principal catalyst for conflict between the Ottoman and Safavid empires, particularly in the border regions of Anatolia and Iraq.
I am also deeply committed to teaching. My goals in the classroom are threefold: to foster the exchange of historical knowledge; to challenge students to think critically about the past and their relationship to it; and to teach transferable skills focusing on comprehensive writing, public speaking, and group dynamics. My courses include a greater focus on medieval, early modern, and modern Middle Eastern societies, culture, religions, and history, topics that are closely related to my research, as well as global history and other interdisciplinary approaches. I always aim to broaden students’ conception of Middle Eastern/Islamic history to include geographically disparate locations, from Spain to Central Asia, and to explore such diverse topics as the nature of Islamic societies and ideologies, individual and collective identities, gender dynamics, religion, interactions between Muslim and non- Muslim groups, architecture, literature, and science.