Nir Shafir

I am a historian of the early modern Middle East, in particular, the Ottoman Empire. My research spans numerous topics, but usually incorporates three overlapping themes: the history of religion; the history of communication, and the history of science and technology. I often approach these topics through the lens of material culture and global history. I am currently completing my first monograph on how cheap and short manuscript pamphlets—a new method of communication—forged and fractured religious communities in the seventeenth-century Ottoman Empire. 

I received my Ph.D. from the Department of History at UCLA in 2016. At UCSD, I teach graduate and undergraduate classes on the history of the early modern and medieval Middle East, the history of science, global history, and approaches to Islam. I am an occasional contributor and editorial board member of the Ottoman History Podcast and served as its editor in 2018.

(see my page for my most recent publications).

“Nābulusī Explores the Ruins of Baalbek: Antiquarianism in the Seventeenth-Century Ottoman Empire”, Renaissance Quarterly, 75:1 (Spring 2022)

“The Almighty Akçe: the Economics of Scholarship and Science in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire”, review essay of Science without Leisure: Practical Naturalism in Istanbul, 1660-1732 by Harun Küçük, Osmanlı Araştırmaları/Journal of Ottoman Studies, 58, (Fall 2021)

“Phanariot Tongues: The Mavrocordatos Family and the Power of the Turkish Language in the Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Empire”, Oriente Moderno, 101:2 (Fall 2021)

Vernacular Legalism in the Ottoman Empire: Confession, Law, and Popular Politics in the Debate over the ‘Religion of Abraham (millet-i Ibrāhīm)’”, in Islamic Law and Society, 28 (2021), 32-75

In an Ottoman Holy Land: the Hajj and the Road from Damascus, 1500-1800”, History of Religions 60:1 (August 2020), 1-36

How to Read Heresy in the Ottoman Empire” in Historicizing Sunni Islam in the Ottoman Empire, c. 1450-c. 1750, Tijana Krstic and Derin Terzioğlu, eds. Leiden: Brill, 2020: 196-231

Reading Modernity in (and out of) the Ottoman Empire,” in Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association, 7:1 (Spring 2020), 64-66

Moral Revolutions: The Politics of Piety in the Ottoman Empire Reimagined,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 61(3): 595-623

The Art of Forgetfulness: ʿAbd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī on Memory and Morality” in Lejla Demiri and Samuela Pagani (eds.), Early Modern Trends in Islamic Theology: ʿAbd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī and his Network of Scholarship, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019: 263-276

Forging Islamic Science,” Aeon (September 2018). Discussed in Le Monde, Morgenbladet, and Science Friction. Syndicated in American Scientist.

Digital Frontiers of Ottoman Studies,” (with Chris Gratien and Michael Polczynski), Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association, 1:1-2, pp. 37-51

The international congress as scientific and diplomatic technology: global intellectual exchange in the International Prison Congress, 1860–90”, Journal of Global History, 9:1 (2014), pp. 72-93