Tara Stephan is a PhD candidate in the MEIS and history joint program, working on the premodern Middle East. Her dissertation, “In the World of Men: Women’s Access to Urban Space in the Mamlūk Sultanate (1250-1517),” analyzes the intersection of class and gender in different genres of writing in the medieval Islamic world.
Through the study of Arabic language chronicles, biographical dictionaries, and other treatises, her research rethinks ideas of public and private space and the perceived role of women in medieval Cairo. Her dissertation reveals competing notions of the acceptability of women’s presence at popular festivals and holidays, mourning rituals, and in intellectual life. The different genres of writing under study allow her to discuss women from a variety of classes, adding to scholarship on Islamic women and gender.
In addition to her dissertation, she has also conducted research on a variety of topics including Jewish captivity during the Crusades and medieval literature on Ancient Egypt. The latter research led to an article, entitled “Writing the Past: Ancient Egypt Through the Lens of Medieval Islamic Thought,” in the edited volume Arabic Humanities, Islamic Thought.
She has developed and taught an introductory course on Islam and has been the teaching assistant for courses such as medieval Islamic societies and Muslim Spain. Her research and teaching interests include: women and gender, the Middle Ages, social history, intellectual history, the Mediterranean, and Islamic literature.