Ali Anooshahr (History)

Ali Anooshahr received his BA from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998. He spent the next two years in “teachers’ boot camp” as a substitute teacher in the Houston Independent School District. He was subsequently admitted to UCLA’s History Department where he obtained his MA (2002) and PhD (2005) in Islamic History. He was a CLIR-Mellon post-doctoral fellow in 2005-6 and Ahmanson-Getty Fellow in 2006-7. He used that time to convert his dissertation into a book manuscript, teach courses at the Cal State system, and catalog Persian, Ottoman, and Arabic manuscripts at UCLA Library’s Special Collections. After a year of teaching at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, he moved to Davis in 2008 as a scholar of “comparative Islamic Empires”. In his book and articles, Anooshahr focuses particularly on the transmissions of texts and individuals along networks that connected India, Iran, Central Asia, and the Ottoman Empire.His current research include Indo-Persian hisotriography as well as revising early Safavid history.


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Corrie Decker (History)

Corrie Decker specializes in the history of gender, childhood, sexuality, and development in East Africa. Her book, Mobilizing Zanzibari Women: The Struggle for Respectability and Self-Reliance in Colonial East Africa, is a history of girls’ education and women’s professionalization in colonial Zanzibar. In addition to co-authoring a book on the history of development in Africa, Decker’s current research investigates historical ethnographies discussing childhood sexuality in early twentieth-century eastern Africa. Her research interests are twentieth-century social and cultural history of East Africa, history of childhood and youth, education, gender and sexuality, colonialism, Islam, development.



Talinn Grigor (Art History)

Talinn Grigor’s research concentrates on the cross-pollination of visual culture and global politics and historiography, focused on Iran and India. She received her Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005. Her books include Building Iran: Modernism, Architecture, and National Heritage under the Pahlavi Monarchs (2009); Contemporary Iranian Art: From the Street to the Studio (2014); and Persian Kingship and Architecture: Strategies of Power in Iran from the Achaemenids to the Pahlavis, with Sussan Babaie (2015). Her articles have appeared in the Art BulletinGetty Journal, Third TextFuture Anterior, and Iranian Studies among others. Past grants consist of CASVA’s Ittleson fellow at the National Gallery of Art, postdoctoral fellow at the Getty Research Institute, Social Science Research Council fellow, Mellon fellow at Cornell University, Aga Khan student at MIT, and awards form Opler, Whiting, Norman, Roshan and Soudavar foundations. Her current book project considers the global impact of Europe’s art historiography vis-à-vis practices of eclecticism and kitsch.


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Rachel Jean-Baptiste (History)

Professor Rachel Jean-Baptiste is an historian of colonial and post-colonial French-speaking Central and West Africa.  Her research interests include the history of sexuality and gender and women’s history, marriage and family law, urban history, race, and citizenship.  Her current book project analyzes changes in racial thought, belonging, and citizenship in colonial Senegal, Gabon and Congo (Brazzaville).



Jeffrey Kahn (Anthropology)

Professor Kahn is a sociocultural anthropologist and legal scholar with an interest in issues of migration, mobility, border policing, sovereignty, law, and ritual economies. His research on these topics has focused on Haiti, the Guantánamo Naval Base, the United States, and the Republic of Bénin. He is currently working on two related book projects. The first, Islands of Sovereignty: Haitian Migration and the Borders of Empire, is an examination of how boat migration from Haiti to the United States during the last three decades of the twentieth century led to the development of new forms of legal activism, border governance, and oceanic policing that would remake the spatiality of the American nation-state. The second book looks to the practices of mobility, the material infrastructures, and the land and sea-based economies that Haitians have fashioned in a Caribbean increasingly saturated by American projects of containment and securitization. Previous research has examined state-sponsored witch-hunting campaigns and the circulation of witch-finding deities in the Republic of Bénin. Professor Kahn’s work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright program, and the American Society for Legal History. He is the recipient of the University of Chicago’s 2013 Lichtstern Dissertation Prize for the year’s best dissertation in anthropology. Prior to joining the Anthropology Department at UC Davis, Professor Kahn was an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, an Associate Research Scholar in Law and Robina Foundation International Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School, and a law clerk to the Hon. Judith W. Rogers of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.



Flagg Miller (Religious Studies)

Flagg Miller is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California at Davis.  Trained as a linguistic anthropologist, Dr. Miller’s research focuses on cultures of modern Muslim reform in the Middle East and especially Yemen.  His latest book is entitled The Audacious Ascetic: What the Bin Laden Tapes Reveal about Al-Qa`ida (Oxford University Press / Hurst, October 2015;  Drawing primarily on an archive of over 1500 audiocassettes formerly deposited in Bin Laden’s house in Kandahar, Afghanistan, the book explores how Islamic cultural, legal, theological and linguistic vocabularies shaped militants’ understandings of al-Qa`ida.  Contesting the idea that al-Qa`ida’s primary enemy was, in fact, America and the West, the book argues that Western intelligence and terrorism experts collaborated with global media networks in managing Bin Ladin’s growing reputation in ways that were exploited by Osama and those who supported his militant vision.  His first book, The Moral Resonance of Arab Media: Audiocassette Poetry and Culture in Yemen (2007), examined how Yemenis have used traditional poetry and new media technologies to envision a productive relationship between tribalism and progressive Muslim reform.  Along with publications in a variety of professional journals including the American Ethnologist, the International Journal of Middle East Studies, the Journal of Language and Communication, and the Journal of Women’s History, Dr. Miller has written the preface to Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak (University of Iowa Press, 2007), a collection of translated poems written by detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

Amy Motlagh (Comparative Literature)

Amy Motlagh is an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Middle East and South Asian Studies, and the Bita Daryabari Presidential Chair in Persian Language and Literature.  She spent the first decade of her academic career at the American University in Cairo during a particularly turbulent period in Egypt’s history.  Her first monograph Burying the Beloved: Realism and Reform in Modern Iran (Stanford University Press) was focused on the development of the novel and civil law in Iran, and specifically on the return of the figure of the classical beloved in modern literature. Her other published work is focused on the contemporary proliferation of Iranian diasporic cultural production and the role it plays in processes of assimilation and (dis)identification.  Motlagh’s two current book projects are focused, respectively, on the modern history of translation between Iran and the West, and on the role of film and media in contemporary Iranian debates over justice and rights.


Sudipta Sen (History)

Professor Sen is a historian of late Medieval and Modern India, and the British Empire.




Jocelyn Sharlet (Comparative Literature)

Jocelyn Sharlet is an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature. Her research focuses mainly on classical Arabic and Persian literature, and she has also done research on Ottoman Turkish and modern Arabic and Persian literature. Her first book investigates the medieval Arabic and Persian patronage of poetry as a flexible form of social order. It argues that patronage contributed to the development of a new kind of professional identity that in many ways transcended more limited forms of identity based on ethnicity, religious affiliation, and socioeconomic status. Her current research investigates leisure and pleasure pastimes as an approach to politics and the development of new forms of Arabic literature in the 9th-11th centuries. She teaches mainly in the Comparative Literature Department, regularly teaches in the Arabic Program (housed in Classics), and occasionally teaches in the Middle East/South Asian Studies Program.



Henry Spiller (Music)

Henry Spiller is an ethnomusicologist whose research focuses on Sundanese music and dance from West Java, Indonesia. He is interested particularly in investigating how individuals deploy music and dance in their personal lives to articulate ethnic, gender, and national identities. He has studied Sundanese music and dance for more than 30 years, and he has conducted fieldwork in Bandung, West Java, on many occasions.

ABC-CLIO published his first book, Gamelan: The Traditional Sounds of Indonesia, in 2004. It was named and Outstanding Academic Title by CHOICE. In 2008 Routledge released a second edition under the title Focus: Gamelan Music of Indonesia. His monograph, Erotic Triangles: Sundanese Dance and Masculinity in West Java, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2010, focuses on constructions of masculinity in Sundanese men’s improvisational dance in West Java, Indonesia. It received Honorable Mention for the 2011 Alan Merriam Prize, the Society for Ethnomusicology’s most prestigious book award.

His latest book, titled Javaphilia: American Love Affairs with Javanese Music and Dance (University of Hawai’i Press, 2015) chronicles the careers and motivations of twentieth-century North Americans who were attracted to Javanese music and dance to develop a better understanding of American orientalisms and the subtleties of identity formations. His current research investigates how the physical qualities of a landscape and the resources it provides shape musical styles and aesthetics. He will focus on Sundanese bamboo musical instruments as a case study.

Spiller’s articles and book chapters appear in publications such as The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Asian Music, Worlds of Music, Asian Theatre Journal, and Journal of the Society for American Music. He has presented papers at regional and national meetings of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), the Association for Theatre Arts (ATA), the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM), and the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD).


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Baki Tezcan (History)

Tezcan is a graduate of Istanbul Lisesi. He got his B.S. in International Relations from Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey (1994), and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University (1996, 2001). You can find out more about him in Jon Li’s “What’s Going On?” on Davis Community TV.

Tezcan joined the History Department in 2002 (for the first thirteen years of his career at UC Davis, he was a faculty member in Religious Studies as well). He was one of the founders of the Middle East/South Asia Studies Program (ME/SA), which he directed from 2012 to 2015. In addition to History and Religious Studies, he also taught for ME/SA and Medieval and Early Modern Studies programs, and led the “Last Empire of Islam” Summer Abroad Program in Istanbul in 2007, 2009, and 2011 (for photographs from these summers, see the Facebook group “Baki’s Bottle,” named after the water bottle Tezcan held up while leading his students in tourist crowds). His advising work in multiple academic units brought him the UC Davis Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award in 2005.

His research interests are pre-modern Middle Eastern history, focusing on such topics as Ottoman political history in the 16th-18th centuries; pre-modern ethnic and racial identities in the Islamic world; Ottoman perceptions of others; Ottoman and modern Turkish historiography; fiscal and monetary history; Islamic law, and the intellectual tradition of Islam with a special emphasis on the relationship between politics, on the one hand, and philosophy and science, on the other.