Michael Christopher Low

Assistant Professor
Dept: History
Office:657 Ross
Phone:515-294-6518

My areas of specialization include the late Ottoman Empire, the Arabian Peninsula, the Islamic Indian Ocean, and their intersections with global histories of the environment, public health, and technology. I am 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, this 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 my book manuscript, I am 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.

My articles, reviews, and commentary have appeared (or are forthcoming) in the Arab Studies Journal; the Journal of British Studies; 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 Middle East Journal; the Ottoman History Podcast; and the Review of Middle East Studies.

My 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 2016, I was a Visiting Senior Fellow at Koç University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations in Istanbul.

In 2016, my 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 and the Comité International des Études Pré-Ottomanes et Ottomanes prize for the best article in Ottoman or Pre-Ottoman Studies by an early-career scholar.