Prof. Miriam Shefer Mossensohn

  • Middle Eastern and African History
חוג להיסטוריה של המזרח התיכון ואפריקה סגל אקדמי בכיר
Prof. Miriam Shefer Mossensohn
Phone: 03-6409625
Another phone: 03-6407060
Fax: 03-6406934
Office: Gilman-humanities, 380

Something about myself...

I am an Associate Professor at the Department of Middle Eastern & African History at Tel Aviv University, and since December 2019 I am the Head of the Zvi Yazetz School of Historical Studies.

 

My research is at the juncture of 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. Grants from the Israel Science Foundation and the German-Israeli Foundation facilitate these research projects. 

 

My current research explores how medicine was managed, organized, and supervised in the Ottoman Empire of the early modern period. I ask what was considered proper medical care, and examine who was involved in creating and maintaining a medical standard. I trace the evolution of bureaucratic patterns (alongside the rise of the state machinary), and how these do not replace but integrate into the perceptions and practices of those who are not experts, ie the patients and their families, who continue to be important factor in shaping medical professional concensus. 

 

In my various administrative positions, I aim at contributing to an enriching and spportive framework for faculty and students to make the most of their intellectual challenges and social experiences at TAU. As the Head of the School, I wish to advance historical research at TAU and in Israel as a whole, and to promote the teaching of history in Israeli academia. I embrace our role as public historians to contribute to a more complex, humane and humanistic understanding of our realities.

 

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, Turkish music, and lots and lots of books.

The Academic Story

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 by 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 (degree conferred in 2001), I carried out research in Turkey (Ankara and Istanbul). I was funded by the Rothschild Foundation, the Rotechstreich Scholarship, and the Turkish Education Ministry. 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.
 
Since 2001 I fulfilled numeorus academic and administrative positions. I was Head of of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History, in charge also of our M.A. International Program in Middle Eastern Studies (MAMES) and the Executive Track for MA in Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues. My current position is the Head of the Yavetz School of Historical Studies, and I am the co-editor (with Gali Algazi and Guy Meiron) of the academic journal Zmanim.    

Research Students

I would be happy to supervise master and doctoral research students on topics related to my research: early Ottoman history; health, medicine, well-being and environment in Islamic contexts. If you are interested in developing projects within these frameworks, you are most welcome to contact me.

 

My doctoral students to date are: * Dr. Tsameret Levi-Dafni graduated in 2016 with a PhD on material culture, social networks and political elites in 18th century Diyarbakir (south-east Anatolia). Tsameret is the Director of the Forum for Contemporary Turkish Studies at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Dr. Irena Fliter received her degree in 2017, with a dissertation on Ottoman diplomacy in Central Europe and cultural ties between Ottomans and German-speaking Europeans around 1800. Today Irena is a DFG post-doc fellow at Göttingen University. * In the beginning of 2019 a Ph.D. degree was confered to Dr. Ido Ben-Ami based on his doctoral dissertation on animals and human emotions in the Ottoman urban society in the early modern period. His dissertation won the Best Doctoral Dissertation for 2019 by the Middle East & Islamic Studies Association of Israel (MEISAI).

 

I am currently supervising an M.A. research project, conducted by Mrs. Olfat Masalha (the Department of Environmental Studies, TAU) on the environmental literacy of Israeli Arab school students. I am also on the doctoral committee accompanying Mrs. Anabella Esperanza (the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, HUJ) who writes about the religious and medical practices of Jewish Ladino speaking women in the late Ottoman and early Turkish Republican periods.

Publications

As a scholar of Ottoman science and medicine, I have published Ottoman Medicine: Healing and Medical Institutions 1500-1700 (State University of New York Press, 2009). The Turkish edition was published by Kitap in Istanbul in 2014. In another book I explain how Ottomans "did" science: Science among the Ottomans: The Cultural Creation and Exchange of Knowledge (the University of Texas Press, 2015). I am pleased that this book too was translated into Turkish (Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2018), and am especially gratified there is an Arabic edition, published in Beirut and Algiers

 

Alongside these academic publishing projects, I also address the general Israeli audience. Islam: A Brief Introduction (Tel Aviv University, The Publishing House and Mapa Publishing House, 2006) sketches the 1400-plus years of Islamic religious history for Hebrew readers. Another book in Hebrew, Knowledge, Science and Technology in the Ottoman Empire was written for the Open University course "The Ottoman Empire: Selected Issues" (2015). In the spring of 2013, a series of lectures on medicine, health and death in Muslim societies was boradcasted on "Broadcast University" of the Israeli Army Radio (Galei Tzahal). 

 

In recent years I have started to be active academically in digital media. I recently completed the development of "Arab-Islamic History: From Tribes to Empire," a MOOC (a Massive Open Online Course) on the history of the Middle East, 7th - 15th centuries. I teamed with TAU Online – Learning Innovation Center to create these contents for the edX platform (Harvard and MIT). The process of development was a fascinating process of integrating content and innovative teaching forms. Teaching a course to thousands of people worldwide (we are almost 14,000 people...) is an exciting experience; The interaction with hundreds of learners from all over the Muslim world in especially enriching and contributes to my classes at TAU. 

Tel Aviv University, P.O. Box 39040, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel
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