Prof. Miriam Shefer Mossensohn

  • Middle Eastern and African History
חוג להיסטוריה של המזרח התיכון ואפריקה סגל אקדמי בכיר
Prof. Miriam Shefer Mossensohn
Phone: 03-6407060
Fax: 03-6406934
Office: Gilman-humanities, 427


I am an Associate Professor at the Department of Middle Eastern & African History at Tel Aviv University. 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.


In my various administrative duties, I try to solve problems within the academic and administrative requirements and allow my colleagues and students make the most out of their expereince at TAU. 


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.


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 at 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.
Since 2001 I fulfilled numeorus academic and administrative duties. My last position was Chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History, in charge also of the International Program - MA in Middle Eastern Studies (MAMES) and the Executive Track for MA in Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues. My current academic-administrative duties include co-editor (with Gali Algazi and Guy Meiron) of the journal Zmanim, and co-facilitator of the inter-university Baer Forum under the auspice of the TAU School of History and the Middle East and Islamic Studies Association of Israel.    

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 currently the Manager 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 summer of 2018 Mr. Ido Ben-Ami presented his doctoral dissertation on animals and human emotions in the Ottoman urban society in the early modern period.


I have recently completed the development of "Arab-Islamic History: From Tribes to Empire," an online course (a Massive Open Online Course) on the history of the Middle East, 7th - 15th centuries. I teamed with TAU Online – Learning Innovation Center, and the course is now on the edX platform (Harvard and MIT). The process of development was a fascinating cracking of the integration of innovative content and teaching forms. Teaching a course to thousands of people worldwide was an exciting experience, especially the interaction I had with hundreds of Muslim learners from the Morocco to Egypt, Iran, and Indonesia.


I have published three books so far. Islam: A Brief Introduction (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, The Publishing House and Mapa Publishing House, 2006) is intended for the general public. In 2009, I published Ottoman Medicine: Healing and Medical Institutions 1500-1700 (State University of New York Press). The Turkish edition was published in 2014 by Kitap in Istanbul. Another book in Hebrew, Knowledge, Science and Technology in the Ottoman Empire was written in 2015 for the course "The Ottoman Empire: Selected Issues" of the Open University. This book is the product of research on how Ottomans thought of- and "did" science and technology. The full study was published by University of Texas Press in 2015 as Science among the Ottomans: The Cultural Creation and Exchange of Knowledge. A Turkish edition will be published shortly by Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları. 


In the spring of 2013, a series of lectures was broadcast on sick health and death in Muslim societies within the framework of the "Broadcast University" in Galatz.


In the last two years I have been involved in two projects. One project focuses on intersections that link the natural environment to a sense of human well-being in the Ottoman world. In the context of environmental history, I co-founded the Israeli Forum on the History of the Environment, together with Dr. David Schorr (Law, Tel Aviv University) and Dr. Yaron Baleslav (postdoctoral fellow at Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi Institute). The second research project follows the involvement of Osman officials in scientific and technological work. It shows the change from patterns of elite personal patronage of scholarship as was customary in the Middle Ages to a more bureaucratic framework that is not based on personal connections.

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