Prof. Miriam Shefer

  • Middle Eastern and African History
חוג להיסטוריה של המזרח התיכון ואפריקה סגל אקדמי בכיר
Prof. Miriam Shefer
Phone: 03-6409450
Fax: 03-6406934
Office: Gilman-humanities, 429


I am an Ottomanist who combines three fields of historical research: the early modern Ottoman Empire; Islamic medicine, health and illness; and Muslim environmental history. My final goal is to unravel social and cultural realities in the Turkish and Arabic speaking worlds. In my administrative hat, I am the Chair of the Department of Middle Eastern & African History at TAU. I try to solve problems within the academic and administrative requirements of the department, and help the students make the most out of their study as intellectual and social experiences. I am also a very proud mother of two princesses, Ella and Daphna. I share with them and with my husband my love of kebap meat and Turkish music.


I started my B.A. studies in the early 1990s in the Disciplinary Program for Outstanding Students at TAU as an Arabist. My main interest laid with contemporary realities in the Middle East. However, after I finished a mandatory course in Ottoman history I was enamored with the sultans (yes, I was thrilled with court intrigues). I then added the relevant languages, Turkish and Osmanlı (Ottoman Turkish). The “conversion” was final with no returning back: I ended the B.A. as a convinced Ottomanist. Studying in Boğaziçi Üniversitesi in Istanbul in 1995 sealed also the culinary aspect: I became addicted to Turkish cuisine.
For my Ph.D. dissertation on Ottoman hospitals in the early modern period (2001) I carried out research in Turkey (Ankara and Istanbul). I was also affiliated with the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine in London. After research fellowships at the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies in Cambridge and the Princeton University Library I joined the Middle Eastern & African History Department at TAU as an Alon Fellow.    
For 15 years I focussed on medicine and health in the Ottoman world. I have finished a book project, forthcoming in Fall 2015 with Texas University Press is on Ottoman science and technology as social and cultural products. I've already started a new long project on the myriad links and junctions between environment and well-being in the Ottoman context (I maintain the early modern Middle East was far “greener” than we appreciate today). Following this research agenda, I co-founded (with Dr. David Schorr, Law, TAU, and Yaron Balslev, Ph.D. candidate at the Porter School of Environmental Studies, TAU) the Israeli Forum for Environmental History.   

Research Students

I welcome enquiries from potential graduate students and would be happy to supervise doctoral work in aspects of health and wellbeing, medicine and the environment, in the Muslim world. Dr. Tzameret Levi-Dafni finished in 2016 her dissertation on material culture, elites and households in 18th century Diyarbakır. Current doctoral projects supervised include human emotions and domestic animals in the Ottoman urban centers of the early modern period (Mr. Ido Ben-Ami), Ottoman-Prussian daily contacts during the late eighteenth century (Ms. Irena Fliter), and domestic white slavery in Ottoman Istanbul of the early modern period (Ms. Jennifer Poliakov).


So far I have worked on madness, military medicine, hospitals, court medicine, medical modernization and urban public health in the pre-modern Middle East. I've published three books: Islam: A Short Introduction (in Hebrew; Tel Aviv, 2006) addressed the interested lay audience; Ottoman Medicine (State University of New York Press, 2009) dealt with early modern concepts of health and illness. In January 2014 a Turkish translation was published by Kitap Publishing House in Istanbul. A textbook on Ottoman science, technology and society was pubsliehd in 2015 by the Open University. It is an outcome of Science among the Ottomans: The Cultural Creation and Exchange of Knowledge, published by the University of Texas Press.During April-June 2013, a series of radio lectures on Islamic medicine, ethics, and health was broadcasted throughout Israel on the Army Radio (Galatz) program, "University on the Air." 
Tel Aviv University, P.O. Box 39040, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel
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