About

About Me

I am an intellectual and social historian of the Middle East.  I bring my findings to bear on our understanding of the dynamics of knowledge production and development of epistemological, historiographical, and socio-political activity in the region.

 

I received my BA in History and German Literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2006.  In 2009 I received my MA from the University of Chicago in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC).  In 2015 I received my PhD from NELC at the University of Chicago.  I have taught undergraduate and graduate students at UNC Chapel Hill, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University.  I currently am a research professor at El Colegio de México, in Mexico City.

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I have spent an extensive period in Jordan, Egypt, and Syria, studying Arabic and familiarizing myself with the scholarly and print culture of the Middle East.  

I have received a number of fellowships.  In 2012-13 I was granted a fellowship from the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE); during that time I carried out manuscript research on the contextual role of early Mamluk Egypt for the development of paradigmatic forms of Sufi mysticism and literature.  I received the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship for 2014-15 and the CPFFD Postdoctoral Fellowship at UNC Chapel HIll for 2015-17 which I held in the Department of Religious Studies.  I was ILSP fellow at the Harvard Law School for 2017-18 and in January 2018 I was a Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton as part of the Carnegie Foundation-funded Shii Studies Research Program.  

My  comprehensive engagement with early Islamic thought is attested to by my publishing pursuits.  In 2014, Brill published al-Māturīdī and the Development of Sunnī Theology in Samarqand, my translation of Ulrich Rudolph's seminal 1997 study on the eponym of Islam's largest school of theology.  In 2017, Shīʿī Studies Review published my article entitled "Classical Naṣṣ Doctrines in Imāmī Shīʿism," in which I advanced a new framework for understanding the historical development of a cornerstone Shīʿite doctrine. My article "Ibn Taymiyya as Avicennan? Fourteenth-Century Cosmological Controversies in Damascus," published in 2018 by The Muslim World, recounts a missing chapter in the scholarly reception of Islam's most controversial theologian.  I have written a number of book reviews and have acted as peer-reviewer for Islamic Law and Society.

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I am currently writing my first monograph, tentatively titled Necessary Proof: The Great Epistemic Shift in Classical Islam.  This book is an intellectual and social history that analyzes processes underlying the broader development of Islamic thought from the 8th to the 13th century.  It demonstrates how the contested nature of political, legal, and doctrinal authorities in the chief metropoles of Iraq initiated an "epistemic shift" which fundamentally transformed Muslim scholarly practices.  This was manifest most concretely in the rejection of "traditional authority" (taqlīd) and the concomitant formulation of the "obligation of investigation" (wujūb al-naẓar), a unique cultural product of the early Islamicate intellectual milieu.  

 

This challenge to prevailing societal norms formed the subject of numerous theological treatises, polemics, and personal correspondences spanning Central Asia to Iberia, and was responsible for reconstituting scholarly authority and subsequently codified practices of knowledge for posterity.  With direct implications for the periodization of Islamic thought, the legitimizing ideologies of the Abbasid, Fatimid, and Almohad caliphates, as well as the discursive underpinnings of philosophical Sufism and ideological Salafism, this study aims to make a bold but necessary intervention for our understanding of early Islamic civilization.