Participant Bios

Abbas Amanat is Professor of History and International Studies at Yale. Among his publications are Resurrection and Renewal: the Making of the Babi Movement in Iran; Pivot of the Universe: Nasir al-Din Shah and the Iranian Monarchy and Apocalyptic Islam and Iranian Shi’ism. Most recently he coedited Is There a Middle East?: The Evolution of a Geopolitical Concept and Iran Facing Others: Identity Boundaries in a Historical Perspective. His In Search of Modern Iran: Authority, Memory and Nationhood, 1501-2009 will be published in 2015 by the Yale University Press.

Saïd Amir Arjomand (Ph.D, University of Chicago, 1980) has been at Stony Brook since 1978, and is currently the Editor of the Journal of Persianate Studies. Arjomand is the author of The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam: Religion, Political Organization and Societal Change in Shi’ite Iran from the Beginning to l890, the University of Chicago Press, l984; The Turban for the Crown. The Islamic revolution in Iran, Oxford University Press, 1988; and After Khomeini, Iran under his Successors, Oxford University Press, 2009. His article, “Constitutions and the Struggle for Political Order: A Study in the Modernization of Political Traditions,” European Journal of Sociology/Archives européennes de sociologie,, 33.4 (1992), won the Section’s Award for the Best Essay in Comparative and Historical Sociology in 1993. This was followed by “The Law, Agency and Policy in Medieval Islamic Society: Development of the Institutions of Learning from the Tenth to the Fifteenth Century,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 41.2 (1999). He had recently edited two books on comparative constitutionalism: Constitutionalism and Political Reconstruction, Brill, 2007, and Constitutional Politics in the Middle East, Hart Publishing, 2008. Professor Arjomand was the Crane Inaugural Fellow in Law and Public Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, and a Carnegie Scholar (2006-2008). Arjomand is concurrently Director of the Stony Brook Institute for Global Studies, guiding its project on the integration of social theory and regional studies. The studies so far edited by him and published in the Institute Pangaea II: Global/Local Studies SUNY Press Series are The Rule of Law, Islam, and Constitutional Politics in Egypt and Iran (edited with Nathan J. Brown, 2013), Social Theory and Regional Studies in the Global Age (2014), and The Arab Revolution of 2011:A Comparative Perspective (forthcoming). He also helped organized the Thematic Plenaries at the World Congress of Sociology in Gothenburg, Sweden, in July 2010, and is the co-editor (with Elisa Reis) of a volume of their selected papers, Worlds of Difference (Sage, 2013).

Assef Ashraf is a PhD candidate in the History Department at Yale, where he studies the eighteenth and nineteenth century Muslim world, the Persianate zone, and Iran. His dissertation research focuses on state formation in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Iran. More broadly, he is interested in the history of comparative empires, travel literature, and the political economy of gift-exchange. He serves as an Assistant Managing Editor and field editor for Iran and Persian Studies at Dissertation Reviews, which features friendly, non-critical overviews of recently defended and unpublished dissertations, as well as articles on archives and libraries around the world.

Joanna de Groot has interests in three main areas. Her initial research into the social history of Iran in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has led to work on various aspects of social, political and cultural change in Iran in that period, and their relation to developments elsewhere in the Middle East, in Europe and in North America. This has involved the comparative study of issues such as modernisation, popular political movements, and the interactions of material and cultural change, drawing on European and American experiences to illumine those in the Middle East, and equally importantly vice versa. It has also stimulated her work on histories of race, empire, ethnicity and nationalism, and in particular on the role of global and colonial relationships in the formation of communities, classes and nations in India, Europe and the Middle East.

Arthur Dudney is the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Early-Modern Indian Cultures of Knowledge at Oxford University. His research considers philological discourse (literary criticism and associated disciplines) in Persian during the Mughal Period. He is especially interested in the eighteenth-century Indian philologist Ḳhān-i Ārzū (d. 1756), who not only produced some of the most nuanced criticism in pre-modern Persian but also was crucial in building the theoretical underpinnings for the adoption of the Urdu vernacular as a literary language in Delhi. Dudney received his PhD from Columbia University’s Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS) and Institute for Comparative Literature (ICLS) in 2013. His earlier study of the Western Classics (AB Princeton 2005) has convinced him of the value of comparative early-modern intellectual history. 

Richard Eaton is Professor of History at the University of Arizona. His research interests focus on the social and cultural history of pre-modern India (1000-1800), and especially on the range of historical interactions between Iran and India, and on Islam in South Asia. He has published monographs on the social roles of Sufis (Muslim mystics) in the Indian sultanate of Bijapur (1300-1700), on the growth of Islam in Bengal (1204-1760), and on the social history of the Deccan from 1300 to 1761. Most recently, he has co-authored a monograph entitled Power, Memory, Architecture: Contested Sites on India’s Deccan Plateau, 1300-16. He is also active in the growing subfield of world history, as well as comparative history. 

Rebecca Gould is Assistant Professor of Literature at Yale-NUS College (Singapore), specializing in the literatures of the Persianate and Islamic world in a comparative context. Her first monograph, entitled The Literatures of Anticolonial Insurgency: Vernacular Modernities in the Caucasus, is forthcoming from Yale University Press. She is currently revising her dissertation on the classical Persian prison poem (habisyyat) for publication. These two book projects delineate poetry’s ways of engaging with, resisting, and channeling the state’s power from the medieval period to modernity, and across multiple Islamic geographies. Her translation of the ghazals of the Indo-Persian poet Hasan Sizji, After Tomorrow the Days Disappear, is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press. Additional articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Comparative Studies in Society and History (on ijtihad), Modern Philology (on Ibn Rushd’s poetics), The Translator (on Qur’anic inimitability and translation theory), The Journal of Islamic Studies (on the Pankisi Gorge), Social Text (on contemporary Palestine), and Comparative Literature Studies (on Russian and Chechen literature). 

Gould has received grants, awards, and fellowships from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Future Philology project at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, the American Historical Association, the American Philosophical Society, the Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies, the Medieval Academy of America, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Van Leer Institute for Advanced Studies (Jerusalem), and the American Literary Translators Association. 

Frank Griffel is Professor of Islamic Studies and Chair of the Council on Middle East Studies at Yale University. His research and teaching is on the intellectual history of Islam, its philosophy and theology (both classical and modern), and the way Islamic thinkers react to Western modernity. Much of his published work covers the contribution that al-Ghazali (d. 1111) made to the development of Islamic theology and the history of philosophy, be it written in Arabic, Latin, or Hebrew. Al-Ghazali marks one of the turning points of Islamic thought, when the role of major intellectual movements such as the Arabic tradition of Aristotelianism (falsafa) and Islamic mysticism (Sufism) were reassessed. Frank Griffel recently published Al-Ghazali’s Philosophical Theology (2009), where he studies his life and the way al-Ghazali made philosophical metaphysics and cosmology compatible with Muslim theology. Currently Frank Griffel conducts a research project on the 12th and 13th centuries in Islamic thought, supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, that aims at explaining how the two discourses of falsafa and kalam in Islam grew together.

Valerie Hansen teaches Chinese and world history at Yale, where she is professor of history. Her research draws on nontraditional sources to capture the experiences of ordinary people. In particular she is interested in how sources buried in the ground, whether intentionally or unintentionally, supplement the detailed official record of China’s past.

In the past decade, she has spent three years in China: 2005-06 in Shanghai on a Fulbright grant; and 2008-09 and 2011-12, teaching at Yale’s joint undergraduate program with Peking University.

Her books include The Silk Road: A New History (Oxford, 2012), The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600 (Norton, 2000), Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China (Yale, 1995), Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1279 (Princeton, 1990), and Voyages in World History (co-authored with Kenneth R. Curtis).

Hasan Karatas was born and raised in Turkey before coming to California for graduate studies in 2001. During his studies he taught Ottoman Turkish, history of Modern Turkey, and religion and politics in the early modern Middle East at New York and Sabanci Universities. After completing his doctoral degree in Near Eastern Studies in the University of California at Berkeley in 2011, he joined the History Department at University of St. Thomas, St. Paul. His research areas include the social history of Islamic Mysticism and urban history in the early modern world, and urban historiography in Turkey during the interwar period. Currently Dr. Karatas is working to expand his dissertation on  Ottoman Sufi orders and urban networks for a publication. Concurrently he is completing research on the development of urban history writing in the early twentieth century Middle East, preparing an article about the endowment deed and architecture of a Sufi convent in Anatolia for the proceedings of a workshop he recently attended. 

Arash Khazeni earned a Ph.D. in history from Yale University and teaches Middle Eastern history at Pomona College.  His publications include Sky Blue Stone: The Turquoise Trade in World History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), Tribes and Empire on the Margins of Nineteenth-Century Iran (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010), and “Across the Black Sands and the Red: Travel Writing, Nature, and the Reclamation of the Eurasian Steppe, circa 1850,” International Journal of Middle East Studies (2010).  He is currently working on a history of Indo-Persian encounters in Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Burma in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Mana Kia is Assistant Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University. Previously she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, after receiving her Ph.D. from Harvard University in History and Middle Eastern Studies (2011). Her work generally engages with the comparative and connective social and cultural histories of West, Central and South Asia (17th-19th centuries). She is currently finishing a book entitled, Sensibilities of Belonging: Transregional Persianate Communities before Nationalism, and has begun a project on the early modern ethics of love and loyalty in various forms of companionship between Iran and India. Her recent and forthcoming publications are on topics such as Indo-Persian cultural history, Persian travel writing, and women and gender in modern Iranian history.

Tanya Lawrence is currently a PhD student at the History Department at Yale University. Her work focuses on the Iranian community of Istanbul in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Before coming to Yale, Tanya completed her undergraduate studies at Jesus College, Oxford in 2009 and then obtained an M.A. in History from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul.

Nathan Light completed his PhD in the fields of folklore and anthropology at Indiana University in 1998. His dissertation involved field and archival research on Central Asian Turkic literature and performing arts in medieval and modern periods. He published this work in the monograph appeared as Intimate Heritage: Creating Uyghur Muqam Song in Xinjiang (Lit Verlag, 2008) and several articles. Related publications include studies of indigenous historiography in “An 8th Century Turkic Narrative” (Turkic Languages, 2006), “Genealogy, History, Nation” (Nationalities Papers, 2011), and “Muslim Histories of China” (in Frontiers and Boundaries: Encounters on China’s Margins, Harrassowitz, 2012).  From 2007–2012 he was a senior researcher at the Max Planck institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany working on the projects Kinship & Marriage in Kyrgyzstan and Economy & Ritual in Kyrgyzstan, followed by a year with the project Genealogy & History at the Center for Interdisciplinary Area Studies (ZIRS) at Martin Luther University. His contributions based on this work will appear in four forthcoming volumes. He is currently a visiting researcher in the Department of Linguistics and Philology at Uppsala University in Sweden. He has taught at both University of Toledo and Miami University in Ohio, as well as American University–Central Asia in Bishkek.

Hirotake Maeda is an associate professor of Tokyo Metropolitan University. He gave lectures at various institutions and universities in Japan and abroad including the conferences at the University of Michigan (2008) and Stanford University (2011). His main research interest is an activities of Caucasian military elites in Iranian dynasties. He is also interested in the history of frontier exchanges and regional studies on the Caucasus. Using mainly Persian and Georgian sources he clarified the origins of military “slaves” of Safavid imperial household and discussed their roles in the Iranian political society. His main publications are: “On the Ethno-Social Background of the Four Gholām Families from Georgia in Safavid Iran”, Studia Iranica Tome 32, 2003, pp.243-278; “Slave Elites Who Returned Home: Georgian Vālī-king Rostom and the Safavid Household Empire,” Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko, 69 (2011), pp. 97-127; “Exploitation of the Frontier: The Caucasus Policy of Shah ‘Abbas I,” Willem Floor and Edmund Herzig (eds.), Iran and the World in the Safavid Age, London: I. B. Tauris, 2012, pp. 471-489. Currently he is working on his English monograph and the supposed title: The Permeable North: Making of Safavid Household Empire and Imperial Servants from the Caucasus. He also has been working on the history of Enikolopian family for a decade and hope to dedicate monograph on this cross-bordering family called “the Language Box”.

James A. Millward is Professor of Intersocietal History at the Walsh School of Foreign Service and Department of History, Georgetown University. He teaches a variety of classes on Chinese, Central Asian and world history at undergraduate and graduate levels. His research interests focus on China and Central Eurasia including Mongolia, Tibet and especially Xinjiang, as well as the silk road more generally. He has written extensively on the Qing empire, Xinjiang, the silk road, and is currently studying cross-cultural musical exchanges and working on a history of lutes across Eurasia and a book on the globalization of the guitar. He has served on the China and Inner Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), as well as on the Executive Board of the Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS). He was president of CESS in 2010. 

Pedram Partovi is Assistant Professor of History at American University in Washington, DC.  His research interests focus on the ways in which pre-modern courtly and devotional practices have been re-worked through the mass media to inform modern ideas of the nation in Iran and the wider Persianate world.  Pedram earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 2010, writing his dissertation on the Pahlavi-era popular commercial cinema as a vehicle for “civil religion” in Iran.  He is currently revising the dissertation for publication.

James Pickett is a PhD candidate in the History Department at Princeton University, where he specializes in the social history of empire and Islamic authority. His dissertation explores transregional networks of Turko-Persian exchange among elite families of religious scholars and their military patrons in eighteenth and nineteenth century Bukhara. Related articles also trace the cultural memory of this era as a subsequent influence on Soviet propaganda in Iran and language ideology in Central Eurasia. His next project will exploit chancellory archives to compare Bukhara’s transformation into a Russian protectorate with the political economy of Muslim princely states in British India; to contextualize the structure of information, power and inequality under competing models of imperial governance; and to delineate continuities across the Persianate world.

Shahrokh Raei holds the position of assistant professor at the Institute of Iranian studies at the University of Göttingen, Germany.

He took up his first course of studies in Isfahan and Tabriz and finished his MA at Tabriz University on ‘Iranian Ancient Culture and Old Languages’. He continued his studies in the field of Iranian studies in Germany and finished his PhD in 2007 at the Georg-August-University of Göttingen. Afterwards he was appointed research fellow at the same institute and has been working there, as assistant professor, since 2009.

Dr. Raei’s main research interests lie in the area of ‘Iranian Dervish Groups and Sufi Orders’ with special focus on the tradition of wandering dervishes, Qalandariyeh and Khaksariyeh. Currently, he is working on a research project under the title “The Khaksar Order between Ahl-e Haqq and Schii Sufi Order,” funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

In addition to his research projects, he has taught different topics including “Iranian Dervish Orders,” “Iranian Folk Traditions,” and “Popular Sufism” at the Institute of Iranian Studies in Göttingen. Since February 2012, he has also been editor for “Iranistik,” a German language journal for Iranian Studies.

Recently, Dr. Raei organized an international symposium on: “Islamic Alternatives; Non-Mainstream Religion in Persianate Societies” in Göttingen. At this symposium, heterodox movements in Iran, Central Asia, Turkey, Pakistan, Baluchistan, and Kurdistan were presented and discussed.

Vikas Rathee is a PhD candidate in History at The University of Arizona. He is writing a dissertation titled Narratives of a War of Succession (1658) for the Mughal Throne, c.1670 - c.1710.

Kishwar Rizvi is Associate Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at Yale University. She has written on representations of religious and imperial authority in Safavid Iran, as well as on issues of gender, nationalism and religious identity in modern Iran and Pakistan. She is the author of The Safavid Dynastic Shrine: History, religion and architecture in early modern Iran (London: British Institute for Persian Studies, I. B. Tauris, 2011) and editor of Modernism and the Middle East: Architecture and politics in the twentieth century (University of Washington Press, 2008). Her new book is The Transnational Mosque: Historical memory and the contemporary Middle East (University of North Carolina Press 2015), for which she was selected as a Carnegie Foundation Scholar.

Ron Sela is Associate Professor of Central Eurasian and International Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. A historian of Central Asia, he studies cultural and political self-representation in narrative and documentary manuscript sources from the 16th-19th centuries, mainly in Persian, Chaghatay Turkic, Arabic, and Russian. Dr. Sela is author of The Legendary Biographies of Tamerlane: Islam and Heroic Apocrypha in Central Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2011), Ritual and Authority in Central Asia (Bloomington, 2003), and co-editor (with Scott C. Levi) of Islamic Central Asia: An Anthology of Historical Sources (Indiana University Press, 2010). Dr. Sela’s current book manuscript – a study that began in 2012 at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton – explores the historical transformations of Turkic identities in Asia.

Daniel Sheffield holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University, where he specialized in Iranian and Persian Studies. His dissertation charted the evolution of discursive practices by which Zoroastrians in Iran and India came to define their communal identity through constructions of the life of Zarathustra, the central figure of their religion. He is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Cosmopolitan Zarathustras: Religion, Translation, and Prophethood in Iran and South Asia, which tells the story of the Zoroastrian communities of Iran and South Asia by tracing how the embrace of a cosmopolitan theological vocabulary and the reception of the canon of Classical Persian literature affects these communities, promoting the production of new forms of meaning-making and literary production at the expense of scholastic traditions inherited from Late Antiquity. He is also preparing a critical edition and translation of an unpublished Zoroastrian Middle Persian text The Book of Religious Judgments (Wizirgerd ī Dēnīg) for publication. Daniel’s recent and forthcoming articles appear in The Bulletin of the Asia InstituteOn the Wonders of Land and Sea: Persianate Travel Writing (ed. Sharma and Micallef), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism (ed. Stausberg and Vevaina), There’s No Tapping Around Philology: A Festschrift Celebrating Wheeler M. Thackston Jr.’s 70th Birthday (ed. Korangy and Sheffield). In January 2013, he co-organized an international conference on Zoroastrian and Parsi Studies in Navsari, Gujarat (India), entitled Celebrating a Treasure: 140 Years at the First Dastoor Meherjirana Library. He is currently pursuing research on a second book project, tentatively entitled On Translation and Toleration: The Free-Thinkers of Safavid Iran and Mughal India

Heidi A. Walcher is a historian of modern Iran. She was at the School of Oriental and African Studies and currently teaches at the Institute of Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Munich. She has worked extensively on the political and social history of 19th century Isfahan. Her research further focused on patterns of change and transformations through Imperialism and ‘modernity,’ the Constitutional Revolution, the Jews of Isfahan, the Church Missionary Society, African slave trade during the Qajar period, various figures of the Qajar family as well as aspects of urban, diplomatic and global history. Her publications include: In the Shadow of the King: Zill al-Sultan and Isfahan under the Qajars, I.B. Tauris: London, NY, 2008; “Between Paradise and Political Capital: The Semeiotics of Safavid Isfahan,” in: Transformations of Middle Eastern Natural Environments (1998);  “Face of the Seven Spheres: Urban Morphology and Architecture of Isfahan in the 19th Century;” in: Iranian Studies (part 1 2000; part 2 2001); “Isfahan—Qajar period” in: Encyclopaedia Iranica (2006/07); and “Aqa Najafi” in: Encyclopedia of Islam.

Farzin Vejdani received his BA from McGill University (2001) and his PhD from Yale University (2009). He is currently an assistant professor of history at the University of Arizona. He is the co-editor of Iran Facing Others: Identity Boundaries in a Historical Perspective (2012). His book-length manuscript on Iranian nationalist historiography, Making History in Iran: Education, Nationalism, and Print Culture, will be published by Stanford University Press in 2014. In addition to being the author of two book chapters, he has published articles in the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, the Journal of Religious History, and the Journal of Persianate Studies. His research interests cover Iranian nationalist historiography, folklore and nationalism, transnational Persian print networks, connected histories of the Ottoman Empire and Iran, and everyday urban crime in late Qajar Iran. At the University of Arizona, he teaches courses on the history of everyday life, Muslim societies, medieval and modern Iran, and the modern Middle East. He is currently serving as a board member of the International Society for Iranian Studies (2012-2014) and the Advisory Board of the Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran (2011-present). 

Denis V. Volkov is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester, UK. His dissertation  ‘Oriental studies and foreign policy in late Imperial Russia and the early USSR: Russian/Soviet ‘Iranology’ and Russo-Iranian relations (1900-1941),’ explores the power/knowledge nexus in relation to Russia’s Persian studies during the late Imperial and the early Soviet periods. He studies the involvement of Russian ‘civilian’ (academic) and ‘practical’ (military officers, diplomats, and Orthodox missionary) orientalist scholarship in Russian foreign policy towards Persia/Iran. From 2006 to 2010 he worked in Tehran as the head of the Russian state-owned company ‘TechnoPromExport’, and from 1995 to 2004 he worked in the same company in Tehran as an interpreter and commercial expert. He majored in ‘Oriental studies’ (History of Iran, MA) at Moscow State University (Institute of Asian and African Countries) and ‘International Economy’ at the All-Russia Academy of Foreign Trade affiliated with the Ministry for Economic Development. His most recent publications are the article-winner of I.B.Tauris Prize “Persian Studies and the Military in Late Imperial Russia: State Power in the Service of Knowledge?” published in ‘Iranian Studies’ and the articles published at BBC Persian: “The Golestan Treaty and 200 years of expedient co-existence” (عهدنامه گلستان و دویست سال همزیستی مصلحتی) and “The Persia of Nowadays, or How Russia forever lost Ukraine” (پرشیای روزگار ما، یا چگونه روسیه اوکراین را برای همیشه از دست داد). He has been a frequent expert guest at the BBC Persian TV, including the programs such as ‘Pargar’ and ‘Sixty Minutes’. He was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Medal of the University of Manchester in 2014.

Waleed Ziad is pursuing a PhD in History at Yale University, studying the historical and philosophical foundations of Muslim revivalism and the varying revivalist responses to internal political fragmentation and colonialism in the early modern Persianate world.  His primary focus is on the development Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi Sufi networks between South and Central Asia after Nadir Shah. Ziad is also currently writing a monograph on the Kashmir Smast, an early medieval pilgrimage site centered around a cave temple in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which existed as a monetarily independent polity from the 4th-11th centuries. He received his undergraduate degree from Yale in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Economics, focusing on international development and the history of religious movements in South Asia. Ziad has studied Arabic, Urdu, Persian and Dari, French, and Romanian.