Teaching

My research and my teaching inform one another. Some of my best ideas have come from classroom discussions with students, and I often enjoy testing ideas and arguments from my ongoing research agenda on students. I have taught the following courses as the primary instructor:

Freie Universität Berlin

Global History of Development. States have long sought to increase their wealth, and scholars have long reflected on international political economy and the wealth of nations. However, it was arguably only very recently that states have sought to raise the standards of living in lands beyond their borders, and more recent still that issues such as infectious disease, gender inequality, and fertility were managed as “global” issues with resources to match. Indeed, the rise of organizations like the WHO, UNICEF, and the UNDP means that not only state actors but also international organizations and NGOs are engaged in the promotion of “development.” In this course, we will look at the history of global development, addressing the question of how and why ideas and practices of “development” have gained so much traction since the mid-20th century. What do historians bring to the study of development that economists, anthropologists, and political scientists do not? How have socialist schemes for development differed from their capitalist cousins? And of what use might histories of development be today in light of precipitous wealth inequality between states, climate change, and the global refugee crisis? This course will engage these questions while providing students an overview of the recent literature on the global history of development.

The Global Cold War. Decolonization and the contest for power between the United States of America and the Soviet Union were two of the major processes of the middle and late twenteith century, but the relationship between the two are still hotly contested by historians. Even though the Cold War between Washington and Moscow is now the object of study by historians, the impact of the Cold War on settings from Chile to Afghanistan to the Congo was profound, making an understanding of the intersection of the Cold War and decolonization crucial to understanding politics in the twenty-first century. In this seminar, we will read selections from the latest scholarship in the field to understand how geopolitics affected the trajectory of the post-colonial world. We will also discuss how historians understand the connection between “the global” and “the local” in writing history, and what kinds of sources and narrative strategies they use to connect processes in Washington and Moscow with events around the world.

Rise and Fall of Russian Global Power. Since at least the nineteenth century, Russia—whether in the form of the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union—has been a major player on the world stage. It was a leading member of the Congress of Vienna and a founding member of the United Nations. Reinvented as the Soviet Union, Russia under Bolshevik rule claimed leadership of the international socialist movement and maintained ties with left-wing movements in Europe and the Third World. Even in its diminished post-1991 incarnation, Russia remains the largest country in the world and possesses the capability to play spoiler in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia all at once. It remains a major developed economy and major player in world energy markets, and its nuclear arsenal makes it perennially relevant to international security. Understanding the history of Russia’s engagement is, therefore, essential to understanding the history of international order more broadly. This course examines the policies, strategies, and ideas that enabled the Russian Empire and, later, the Soviet Union to become great powers, as well as the post-1991 quest to secure recognition as a superpower in a multipolar world. Over the course of the semester, we will examine the grand strategy and key relationships of both the Russian Empire and the USSR from the Congress of Vienna to the Soviet collapse. Our final sessions will examine two recent case studies—Ukraine and Syria—where Russian power has forcefully shaped the world once again. This course does not assume any knowledge of the Russian language.

Russia and the Middle East. From its wars with the Ottoman and Safavid Empires to its recent military intervention into the Syrian War, Russia has been a major player in the Middle East. Beyond these military engagements, however, the Russian Empire took a special interest in the protection of Orthodox and Armenian minorities; the USSR supported national liberation movements from the PLO to Kurdish groups; and today, the Russian Federation has a larger Muslim population than any country in Europe. What impact have these encounters had on Russia as we know it, as well as Middle Eastern societies? This course will engage this question from the late Russian Empire to today, with some topics including Russian Orientalism, the rise of political Islam, and Moscow’s post-1991 foreign policy. While a knowledge of the Russian language or relevant regional languages is welcome, this course does not presume any such competencies.

The Russian Worlds of Islam. Today’s Russian Federation has a larger Muslim population than any country in Europe or the United States, and in spite of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia still directly rules over Muslim-majority regions like Chechnya, Dagestan, and Tatarstan. However, the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union remain rather peripheral to historical discussions of Islam and empires, as well as to discussions of multiculturalism or secularism. This seminar explores the Russian worlds of Islam, beginning in the context of the Orthodox Romanov autocracy and ending shortly after the collapse of the officially atheist Marxist-Leninist Soviet Union. Focusing on developments inside Russia’s borders, we will compare Russia’s encounters with Islam to those of other polities. We will also work closely with newly available and translated editions of Russian and Soviet archival documents, honing our interpretative skills as historians. Students will thus emerge from the course with concrete skills that they can apply to the study of states’ and empires’ relations with Islam and religion more broadly. They will also be prepared to view Russia as a generative setting for theories about Islam in the modern world.

Harvard University

Eurasia in the Twentieth Century. This course examines the twentieth-century history of the territories formerly at the core of “the Great Game”–Soviet Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Iran between roughly 1917 and 1992. Both the Soviet experiment in socialism, nationalist state-building projects, and the context of Anglo-American dominance shaped the politics and history of the region in significant ways, but often the entangled histories of the countries of the region are treated in isolation from one another. Students will examine the place of the region in a comparative context, exploring the extent to which practices of rule migrated across national and, later, Cold War borders. Major themes discussed in the course will include the nation-building and modernization; the impact of the Left and Islamist movements on the politics of the region; the revolutionary wave of 1978-1979 in Afghanistan and Iran and its aftermath; and the impact of the collapse of the Soviet project and the emergence of the five post-Soviet Central Asian republics. During a typical week in course, we will discuss a mix of secondary literature from the historiographies of the countries that constitute our field of interest and a primary source relating to the themes covered that week. Throughout, in addition to introducing you to the debates in the historiography, our goal will be to ask whether our picture of the region changes when we zoom out from the traditional scale of area studies analysis (the nation-state or the region as defined within its Cold War lens) and adopt a trans-regional view with an eye towards exchange across a space linked by Russian as well as Turkic and Persian languages, Islam, and–for much of the period we cover–Soviet socialism.

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