Daniel Beben, PhD

Assistant Professor

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I received my PhD in History and Central Eurasian Studies from Indiana University in 2015. I am a specialist in the history of the eastern Islamic world, including Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and India. My research is broadly concerned with the dissemination and articulation of religious symbols and communal identities across political and cultural boundaries in Eurasia after the Mongol conquests. I am currently engaged in two major research projects that explore these themes in the context of the Ismaili Shiʿi communities of Central Asia. The first project is a monograph examining the processes of religious conversion, textual production, and cultural memory practices among the Ismaili communities of Central Asia and Afghanistan. Drawing upon previously unstudied manuscript materials, oral histories, shrine records and genealogies, this project take a long-term view of the evolution of conceptions of communal and religious identity among the Ismailis from the Mongol invasions down to the early Soviet period.

The second project is one for which I and several colleagues have recently been awarded a three-year Collaborative Research Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, titled “Ismailism in Badakhshan: A Genealogical History.” This project entails a study of original, privately held Badakhshani Ismaili genealogical histories from Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China dating from the 15th-20th centuries, in addition to letters and financial documents associated with them. The project goal is to render a defined corpus of these Persian-language texts legible as historical sources by digitalizing them; identifying their features; defining the local genres of genealogy, letter writing and document production as historical practices; and analyzing them as a source for local knowledge of the Ismaili tradition of Badakhshan. The results will be presented in a co-authored printed book and in the creation of an open access digital repository at Princeton University Library. This will be the first corpus of Ismaili documents from Badakhshan available online in transcription and English translation. The project will have intellectual significance for the historical study of Ismaili Shiʿism, the history of Central Eurasia, and the study of cultures of documentation in the Islamic world.

My research has been supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Science Research Council, Fulbright, American Councils, and the Institute of Ismaili Studies, among others. I have won several awards for my research and teaching, including the Foundation for Iranian Studies Award for Best Dissertation for 2015 and the Overall Excellence in Teaching Award from Nazarbayev University for 2016. In addition to my research and teaching, I also currently serve as Secretary and formerly as Treasurer for the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies and on the editorial board for the newly-established International Journal of Islam in Asia(published by Brill). I previously taught Central Eurasian history at Indiana University and began teaching at Nazarbayev University in August 2015.

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