Middle Eastern History

The study of Middle Eastern history at Illinois draws on departmental faculty with particular expertise in Arab, Iranian, and Ottoman history in the modern and early modern periods, in the areas of social and legal history, demographic and family history, religion, nationalism, and agrarian history, religious thought and Islamism, and nationalism and revolution (see faculty list below).

m1Illinois’ history department is in the top ten among public institutions. Its Library is the third largest university library in the United States and a leader in digital services. The Library became a PL480/ Library of Congress repository for Arabic materials in 1965, and materials in Persian, Turkish, and Hebrew are housed in the Middle East and North African collection. The Africana library is an important additional resource, with its holdings related to Islamic and Arabophone Africa.

Outside the Department of History the interdisciplinary Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies promotes programming, research and teaching about, and public awareness of, the societies and cultures of South Asia and the Middle East. It supports activities that promote understanding of the Middle East in the community and add to the intellectual life of the university. Middle Eastern studies is enhanced by the activities of several other area, ethnic, and cultural studies centers and programs. These are the Center for African Studies, which includes North Africa in its purview; the Russian, East European and Eurasian Center, which covers the former Ottoman lands of Southeastern Europe as well as the Caucasus and Central Asia; and the Center for Global Studies. Additional resources are the Program in Jewish Culture and Society, the Asian American Studies Program, and the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities.m2

Four Middle Eastern languages are taught at Illinois: Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish. Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships are available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents for the academic year as well as for summer programs. Incoming as well as continuing students are required to apply through the History department. FLAS fellowships are offered by the following area studies units:

Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Foreign Language Enhancement Program (FLEP) scholarships are available to help students take advantage of language offerings not available at their home university, but available at another CIC (Big Ten schools plus U of Chicago) member university. Scholarships are intended to cover living expenses at another CIC host institution during the summer session.

History faculty specializing in the Middle East & North Africa and proximate regions

  • Kenneth M. Cuno Egypt and the Levant, 18th-20th c.; demographic and family history, Islamic law in society, rural history, nationalism, Arab-Israeli conflict.
  • Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi Iran; transnational and global histories; contemporary histories of the Middle East, Islam and modernity, revolution, social theory, social movements, and politics and power.
  • Mauro Nobili West African History; Muslim Societies in Africa; Arabic Manuscripts.
  • Maria Todorova Eastern Europe and Ottoman Empire; demographic and family history, Balkan historiography, nationalism.
  • Keith Hitchins Romania and Yugoslavia, the Kurds, and Central Asia; the Ottoman Empire in Europe, comparative nationalism
  • James Brennan Urbanization, political thought, and media in East Africa, history of decolonization, Indian Ocean.
  • Tariq Omar Ali Histories of agrarian life and capitalism in South Asia, commodities in the British Empire, and histories of economic ideas.

Related Faculty

  • Asef Bayat (Department of Sociology). Social movements and non-movements, religion-politics-everyday life, Islam and the modern world, urban space and politics, and international development.
  • Donna Buchanan (Musicology and Anthropology). Music of the Balkans, Russia, Armenia, and Georgia
  • Eric Calderwood (Program in Comparative and World Literature). North African Literature and Film in Arabic, French, and Spanish; Al-Andalus (Medieval Muslim Iberia); Arabic Language and Literature; Historiography; Colonial and Post-Colonial Studies.
  • Michael Dann (Department of Religion). Islamic intellectual history; genesis and development of the Sunni-Shi`i divide and their subsequent interactions; Sunni and Shi`i hadith criticism.
  • Virginia Dominguez (Department of Anthropology). Transnationalism, multiple identities, and hybridity; Cuba, Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Lebanon, Israel, and Hungary.
  • Hadi S. Esfahani (Department of Economics). Comparative development economics; Egypt, Iran, Philippines, Turkey.
  • Rachel Harris (Program in Comparative and World Literatures). Suicide in Israeli Literature, Contemporary Literary Journals in Tel Aviv and their use in Manifestos, and Modern Hebrew Poetry. 
  • Wail Hassan (Program in Comparative and World Literatures). Arabic literature, critical theory, transnational studies, gender and sexuality, translation
  • Linda Herrera (Department of Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership). Comparative/international education, international development studies, and youth studies in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Valerie Hoffman (Department of Religion). Islam; Sufism; women in Islam and Muslim societies; and contemporary Islamic movements
  • Maryam Kashani (Department of Asian American Studies). Racial/ethnic/religious diasporas and transnational political movements; gender and sexuality; Islam and Muslim communities.
  • Sayed Kashua (Program in Jewish Culture and Society). Hebrew; writing.
  • John Karam (Department of Spanish & Portuguese). Area and Ethnic Studies, Race, Nationalism, Transnationalism; Latin America and the Middle East.
  • Avital Livney (Department of Political Science). Politics of religion and ethnicity, electoral dynamics in developing democracies, and variations in interpersonal trust, across space and time. Regional interest is the Muslim World, particularly the Middle East, with extensive field research in Turkey.
  • Ghassan Moussawi (Department of Sociology). Gender; Sexualities; Race and Ethnicity; Global and Transnational Sociology; Social Movements; Queer Theory; Postcolonial Theory; Feminist Theory and Methods; Qualitative and Interpretive Methods; Lebanon. 
  • Laila Hussein Moustafa (Library). Middle East and North African collection.
  • David O'Brien (opens in a new window) (Program in Art History). French Orientalist painting, the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt, modernist art in the Islamic world.
  • Panayiota Pyla (School of Architecture). History and theory of modern architecture and urbanism in the postcolonial Middle East; intersections of modern architecture with the history and politics of development and environmentalism.
  • Junaid Rana (Asian American Studies Program). South Asian Americans, diaspora, Pakistan, labor history, Muslims and migration, racial formation, and social movements.
  • D. Fairchild Ruggles (Department of Landscape Architecture). Visual culture and the built environment of the Islamic world; landscape history; women's patronage.
  • Mahir Saul (Department of Anthropology). West Africa; Muslims in Europe and America.
  • Lila Adib Sharif (Department of Asian American Studies). Palestine, foods, empire, race, violence, gender.