Michael Christopher Low

Assistant Professor
Dept: History
Office:657 Ross

Michael Christopher Low specializes in Late Ottoman, Modern Middle Eastern, and Environmental History. He received his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 2015 and is currently working on a book manuscript, The Mechanics of Mecca: The Ottoman Hijaz and the Indian Ocean Hajj. Drawing on Ottoman and British archival sources as well as published materials in Arabic and modern Turkish, Professor Low’s project analyzes how the Hijaz and the steamship-era pilgrimage to Mecca simultaneously became objects of Ottoman modernization, global public health, international law, and inter-imperial competition during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In addition to his book manuscript, Professor Low is also working on several other projects in environmental and technological history, including Ottoman petroleum exploration, Ottoman electric infrastructure, and the transnational history of desalination technology and expertise in the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the wider Middle East.

His articles, reviews, and commentary have appeared (or are forthcoming) in the Arab Studies Journal; Comparative Studies in Society and History; Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East; the International Journal of Middle East Studies; Jadaliyya; the Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association; the Ottoman History Podcast; and the Review of Middle East Studies.

Professor Low’s language training and research have been supported by the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, the Institute of Turkish Studies, Columbia University’s Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life, and the David L. Boren National Security Education Program. In the summer of 2016, he was a Visiting Senior Fellow at Koç University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations in Istanbul.

In 2016, his article, “Ottoman Infrastructures of the Saudi Hydro-State: The Technopolitics of Pilgrimage and Potable Water in the Hijaz,” received the American Society for Environmental History’s Alice Hamilton article prize.

Selected Publications:
“‘The Infidel Piloting the True Believer’: Thomas Cook and the Business of the Colonial Hajj,” in Umar Ryad, ed., The Hajj and Europe in the Age of Empire (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2016), 47-80.

Co-edited with Lale Can, “The Subjects of Ottoman International Law,” special issue in the Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association, forthcoming November 2016.

“Unfurling the Flag of Extraterritoriality: Autonomy, Foreign Muslims, and the Capitulations in the Ottoman Hijaz,” Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association, forthcoming November 2016.
“Ottoman Infrastructures of the Saudi Hydro-State: The Technopolitics of Pilgrimage and Potable Water in the Hijaz,” in Comparative Studies in Society and History 57, no. 4 (2015).

Guest editor and introduction, “Roundtable: The Indian Ocean and Other Middle Easts,” special section in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 34, no. 3 (2014).

“Mecca: Pilgrimage and the Making of the Islamic World, 400-1500,” in Aran MacKinnon and Elaine MacKinnon, eds., Places of Encounter: Time, Place and Connectivity in World History (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012), vol. 1, 127-144.

“Global Public Health and the Ghosts of Pilgrimages Past,” Jadaliyya, 22 October 2012.

“Empire and the Hajj: Pilgrims, Plagues, and Pan-Islam under British Surveillance, 1865-1908,” in the International Journal of Middle East Studies 40, no. 2 (2008): 269-290.

Research and Teaching Interests:
Modern Middle Eastern History
Late Ottoman History
The Arabian Peninsula
The Islamic World
Environmental History
Technopolitics