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Ron Sela

GB 343, (812) 856-7017

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., Indiana University, 2004

Region of Interest

  • Central Asia
  • South Asia
  • Middle East

Research Topics

  • History & historiography of Central Asia
  • Ethnic & religious identities: Central and South Asia, the Middle East
  • Self-representation in Muslim literary traditions
  • Turks and Iranians in the Asian sphere

Research Summary

I study cultural and political self-representation in the Muslim world in a variety of sources – many of them in manuscript form (hand-written) – and in diverse languages (including Persian, Turkic, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, French, and others) with the aim of better understanding the boundaries that define various groups and peoples and their relationship to authority and claims of legitimacy. I explore rhetorical strategies and representations, perceptions and manipulations of individual and collective histories. My studies and international experience have focused on the regions of Central and South Asia, as well as the Middle East, and my research has led me to numerous parts of the world, including Central, East, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and most of Europe.

In the context of International Studies, I am primarily interested in the historical, cultural, and linguistic roots – or the perceptions of such roots – that stimulate and shape contemporary issues. I have written about depictions of traumatic “national” events, about alleged sources of inspiration for diverse political acts, about objects of power, ceremony and ritual, labels, genealogies, myths of origin, as well as ethnic and racial markers. I am currently working on a new book manuscript – a study that began in 2012 while I was a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton – where I explore the historical transformations of Turkic and Iranian identities in Asia. I discussed my work at distinguished international forums in China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Turkey, the UK, and Uzbekistan.

Representative Publications

  • Sela, Ron. “Prescribing the Boundaries of Knowledge: Seventeenth-Century Russian Diplomatic Missions to Central Asia.” In: Writing Travel in Central Asian History, ed. Nile Green (Indiana University Press, 2013).
  • Sela, Ron. “Rashid al-Din’s Historiographical Legacy in the Muslim World.” In: Rashid al-Din. Agent and Mediator of Cultural Exchanges in Ilkhanid Iran, ed. A. Akasoy et al. (London: The Warburg Institute, 2013).
  • Sela, Ron. The Legendary Biographies of Tamerlane: Islam and Heroic Apocrypha in Central Asia. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Sela, Ron and Scott C. Levi. Islamic Central Asia: An Anthology of Historical Sources. Indiana University Press, 2010.
  • Sela, Ron. “The ‘Heavenly Stone’ (Kök Tash) of Samarqand: A Rebels’ Narrative Transformed.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 17/1 (2007).

External Links

Research Blog