History of Infectious Disease in the Islamicate World

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Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • February 1, 2022

    Corpse Traffic, Plague, and Cholera in the Late Nineteenth Century Ottoman Iraq
    (Zeinab Azerbadegan) 
    Since the fourth International Sanitary Conference in Istanbul 1866, regulating the traffic of dead bodies to Ottoman Iraq became an international preoccupation in the emerging global public health regime. Corpse traffic was a common and long-standing Shi’i practice, where the faithful transported the bodies of their dead to be buried inside or near the shrines in Ottoman Iraq. This presentation examines the global and local attempts at regulating corpse traffic, focusing on the debates among medical experts to show how medical knowledge production was informed by Orientalist and colonial discourses at the time. Demonstrating the impact of regulating corpse traffic on state-society and inter-imperial relations in Ottoman Iraq, this presentation highlights how the dead body was ascribed different national, class, and religious identities reflecting local and global political, social, and economic concerns in the region.

  • December 7, 2021

    When the Asylum Catches Cholera: Istanbul, 1893, Burçak Özlüdil
    The life of the institutionalized Ottoman mental patients was interrupted in a dramatic way twice between the 1870s and the 1890s due to outbreaks of contagious diseases. While the first—mysterious and contained—disease resulted in a major patient transfer and abandoning of the state insane asylum (Süleymaniye), the second one, the cholera outbreak of 1893, was dealt with differently. This presentation will look at the intersection of madness and contagious disease as it relates to concerns of public health in the Ottoman capital. I will primarily focus on the planned and actual responses of the Ottoman and asylum administration by analyzing the spatial dimensions of the outbreak and the responses inside and outside the asylum.

  • November 2, 2021

    The Life and Times of Hayatizade Mustafa Feyzi (d. 1692): Anxieties of Religious Conversion and Medical Translation (Duygu Yildirim) 
    This paper explores how and why certain medical translations became successful during the times of religious conflict in the early modern era. By focusing on the understudied relation between religious conversion and medical discourse, this paper scrutinizes the Ottoman imperial physician, Hayatizade Mustafa’s (d. 1692) medical work entitled, Curative Treatise for Difficult Diseases. As a Jewish convert to Islam, Hayatizade’s translations provided him a space in which he used the discourses of “utility” and “progress” to refute classical Islamic medical tradition. Hayatizade’s engagement with melancholy reveals the ways in which medical discourse became a polarized setting where religious identities were negotiated during the time of religious conflict in the Ottoman Empire.

  • October 5, 2021

    In this session, Nukhet Varlik and Ece Turnator will introduce the Black Death Digital Archive, a new resource of interest to the members of the HIDIW working group. "The Black Death Digital Archive (BDDA) is a multidisciplinary portal for researching the Second Plague Pandemic, i.e., outbreaks of plague that started with the mid-fourteenth-century Black Death and their recurrences across Afro-Eurasia the 13th century to the 19th" 

  • September 7, 2021

    "What’s in a Name?: Selfhood in Physicians’ Reports covering Ottoman Iraq" 
    Hande Yalnızoğlu 
    This presentation will focus on the reports of William H. Colvill, physician at the British Embassy in Baghdad, on the plague outbreak in Ottoman Iraq, close to the town of Karbala, in 1867. Searching for the native voice in his texts in order to uncover the intricacies of translating and establishing medical knowledge on plague, it ends up seeking to answer a very simple question: why did Colvill record the cases he was told about with their full names?   



  • June 1, 2021

    In this session, our presenter Mustakim Arıcı will discuss his recent publication, “Silent Sources of the History of Epidemics in the Islamic World: Literature of Ṭā’ūn/Plague Treatises.”

  • May 4, 2021

    Cholera and Plague in Early Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Baghdad and Basra (Isacar Bolaños)
    Isacar Bolaños will discuss some of the main primary sources (especially local histories of Baghdad and Basra along with some archival documents) for the study of cholera and plague in Ottoman Baghdad and Basra during the nineteenth century. 

  • April 6, 2021

    Justin Stearns
    Justin Stearns will share his research on the plague treatises of Idrīs al-Bidlīsī and al-Baylūni on the basis of his publication “Public Health, the State, and Religious Scholarship Sovereignty in Idrīs al-Bidlīsī’s Arguments for Fleeing the Plague”. 

  • March 2, 2021

    Nahyan Fancy and Matthew Melvin-Koushki

    Nahyan Fancy’s presentation will go over a selection of the primary sources
    for two forthcoming pieces (one co-authored with Monica Green) that provide
    evidence for plague in the mid-thirteenth century in the Levant and Egypt.

    Matthew Melvin-Koushki’s presentation will discuss his recent publication
    “Taşkoprīzāde on the (Occult) Science of Plague Prevention and Cure”.

  • February 2, 2021

    Reading List 

    • A. Arbaji, S. Kharabsheh, S. Al-Azab, M. Al-Kayed, Z. S. Amr, M. Abu Baker, and M. C. Chu, “A 12-case Outbreak of Pharyngeal Plague Following the Consumption of Camel Meat, in North–Eastern Jordan,” Annals of Tropical Medicine & Parasitology 99, no. 8 (2005), 789–793.
    • Michael Dols, The Black Death in the Middle East (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977).
    • Monica H. Green, “Plague (Yersinia pestis),” Encyclopedia of the History of Science, general ed. Christopher J. Phillips (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University Libraries Publishing Service), forthcoming.
    • Monica H. Green, “The Four Black Deaths,” American Historical Review 125, no. 5 (December 2020), 1600-1631.
    • Nükhet Varlık, “The Plague that Never Left: Restoring the Second Pandemic to Ottoman and Turkish History in the Time of COVID-19,” New Perspectives on Turkey 63 (2020), 176-89.


    Here are Monica Green's slides from the meeting.

Group Conveners

  • Tunahan.Durmaz's picture

    Tunahan Durmaz

    Tunahan Durmaz is a first-year Ph.D. researcher in the Department of History and Civilization at the European University Institute, Florence. His research mainly focuses on Ottoman and European histories (15th to 18th centuries) with a special interest in social and cultural aspects of communicable diseases. Durmaz comes from a diverse background of humanities encompassing not only history but also history of art andarchitecture. He earned his BA (with honors) in History and Architecture (minor) in Middle East Technical University in June 2016, and his master’s degree in Sabancı University with a thesis titled “Family, Companions, and Death: Seyyid Hasan Nûrî Efendi’s Microcosm (1661-1665).”


  • HIDIW's picture

    Nukhet Varlik

    Nükhet Varlık is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University–Newark. She is a historian of the Ottoman Empire interested in disease, medicine, and public health. She is the author of Plague and Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean World: The Ottoman Experience, 1347–1600 (2015) and editor of Plague and Contagion in the Islamic Mediterranean (2017). Her new book project, “Empire, Ecology, and Plague: Rethinking the Second Pandemic (ca.1340s-ca.1940s),” examines the six-hundred-year Ottoman plague experiencein a global ecological context. In conjunction with this research, she is involved in developing the Black Death Digital Archive and contributing to multidisciplinary research projects that incorporate perspectives from palaeogenetics (ancient DNA research in particular), bioarchaeology, disease ecology, and climate science into historical inquiry.


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