Low named Senior Humanities Research Fellow


Michael Christopher Low, assistant professor in the Department of History, was named Senior Humanities Research Fellow for the Study of the Arab World at New York University Abu Dhabi for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Dr. 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.