Welcome

This page hosts my class blog and other materials relevant to my work at Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia. This semester the class blog is run by students in HIS 376: History of Islam.

I am an Assistant Professor of History at Ferrum College, where some of my courses include surveys of World History, Russian History, and Islamic History. My research focuses on the rise of nationalism in historiography in the early modern period. I keep another website [link] and blog with my wife Teresa where we write about more general topics (academic and religious).

Three things happened between 2005 and 2007 that put my life on its current trajectory.

First in May of 2005 in Andijan, Uzbekistan, the Uzbek government killed an unknown number of protesters and the US government responded by drawing down its foreign embassy staff and withdrawing the Peace Corps Volunteers from the country.

Second, the Peace Corps re-assigned me to serve in neighboring Kazakhstan, to live and teach two years in Sayram, an ancient Silk Road city relatively unchanged by the twentieth century aside from electrification and paved streets.

Third, I met my wife Teresa, another Peace Corps Volunteer. After our service ended, we found ourselves at Indiana University Bloomington. I still cannot believe my luck, unless you prefer to see the hand of the Almighty in such coincidences and turns of fortune.

My Research

At Indiana University I learned why history has such an ability to infuriate almost unique among the fields of study. The reason is that we know intrinsically that history matters, that our pasts are important, that without memory of events, we have no sense of self, no identity, no ability to comprehend the present. I studied the creation of popular, state-sanctioned histories so often divorced from reality but the key to the creation of identities.

For example, in my dissertation, I showed how in modern Kazakhstan films and popular novels glamorized both historical and fictional events from the 1700s. One result was Nomad: The Warrior.

Current Work

Currently, I am rewriting my dissertation into a book manuscript more broadly about the interplay of nationalism and history writing. Another avenue of research is the dialogue between young intellectuals in what-is-now Kazakhstan between 1900 and 1920; although these gentlemen are now labeled as “nationalists” today, many of them actively avoided the term and had strong opinions about the evils of the ideology they supposedly espoused. I also have begun a survey history of the connections of Muscovy–and later the Russian Empire–and the Islamic “Gunpowder Empires” from the era of Tamerlane to the innumerable Russo-Turkish wars of the Romanov Dynasty.