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Michael Christopher Low specializes in Late Ottoman, Modern Middle Eastern, Indian Ocean, and Environmental History. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2015. He is currently finishing a book manuscript, Imperial Mecca: The Ottoman Hijaz and the Indian Ocean Hajj (under contract with Columbia University Press). Drawing on Ottoman and British archival sources as well as published materials in Arabic and Turkish, Imperial Mecca 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. Low is also co-editor (with Lâle Can, Kent Schull, and Robert Zens) of The Subjects of Ottoman International Law, forthcoming from Indiana University Press in 2019.
Professor Low’s articles have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Comparative Studies in Society and History; Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East; Environment and History; the Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association; and the International Journal of Middle East Studies.
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 and the Comité International des Études Pré-ottomanes et Ottomanes prize for the best article by an early-career scholar in pre-Ottoman or Ottoman studies.
Professor Low’s research and language training have been supported by the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Columbia University’s Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life, Iowa State University’s Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities, and the David L. Boren National Security Education Program. In 2016, he was a Visiting Senior Fellow at Koç University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED) in Istanbul.
Low also serves as the Coordinator for Iowa State University’s Indian Ocean World partnership and PhD fellowship. From 2018 through 2025, Iowa State University will join McGill University’s Indian Ocean World Centre and an international team of more than twenty universities and centers across the globe. Our partnership project, “Appraising Risk, Past and Present: Interrogating Historical Data to Enhance Understanding of Environmental Crises in the Indian Ocean World,” has been awarded a 2.5 million-dollar (Canadian) grant by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Historians, anthropologists, and social and environmental scientists will examine the social, economic, and political impacts of natural disasters and environmental risk across the world most populous and unstable macro-region, stretching from East Africa, Arabia, and the Persian Gulf to India, Southeast Asia, and China. By examining past and present patterns of natural hazards from epidemic disease, monsoon failure, and drought to tsunamis, volcanic activity, and global climate change, this grant seeks to better understand how the societies of the Indian Ocean world have adapted to natural disasters and environmental risk across time.
Imperial Mecca: The Ottoman Hijaz and the Indian Ocean Hajj, under contract with Columbia University Press, Columbia Studies in International and Global History series.
Co-edited with Lale Can, Kent F. Schull, and Robert Zens, The Subjects of Ottoman International Law, forthcoming from Indiana University Press, 2019.
Articles and Chapters
“Desert Dreams of Drinking the Sea, Consumed by the Cold: Transnational Flows of Desalination and Energy from the Pacific to the Persian Gulf,” forthcoming from Environment and History.
Co-authored with Lale Can, “The Subjects of Ottoman International Law,” Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association 3, no. 2 (2016): 223-234.
“Unfurling the Flag of Extraterritoriality: Autonomy, Foreign Muslims, and the Capitulations in the Ottoman Hijaz,” Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association 3, no. 2 (2016): 299-323.
“The Infidel Piloting the True Believer: Thomas Cook and the Business of the Colonial Hajj,” in Umar Ryad, ed., Europe and the Hajj in the Age of Empires (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 47-80.
“Ottoman Infrastructures of the Saudi Hydro-State: The Technopolitics of Pilgrimage and Potable Water in the Hijaz,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 57, no. 4 (October 2015): 942-974.
“The Indian Ocean and Other Middle Easts,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 34, no. 3 (2014): 549-555.
“Empire and the Hajj: Pilgrims, Plagues, and Pan-Islam under British Surveillance, 1865-1908,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 40, no. 2 (2008): 269-290.
HIST 255: Introduction to World History, 1500-Present
HIST 331: Islamic World to 1800
HIST 362: Global Environmental History
HIST 435: The Modern Middle East
HIST 554C: Reading Seminar in Environmental History (Global)