Stockholm university

Isa BlumiAssociate professor, docent

About me

Isa Blumi is Docent/Associate Professor of Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies at Stockholm University within the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. He holds a PhD in History and Middle Eastern/Islamic Studies from New York University (NYU-2005) and a Master of  Political Science and Historical Studies (1995) from The New School for Social Research, New York.

Dr. Isa Blumi joined Stockholm University in late 2015 after spending the previous 12 years teaching and researching at universities located in Germany, Belgium, Turkey, the USA, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, and Albania/Kosovo. Over these years, Dr. Blumi has mentored students and directed MA and PhD projects. Several of these former students who finished their PhDs currently teach at Spelman College, UC-Davis, Princeton, Yeshiva, and the Universities of Utah and Amsterdam. Since joining Stockholm University, Dr. Blumi has mentored PhD students who have successfully defended their PhDs at the Universities of Geneva, UCLA, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Leuven, and Antwerp. Currently, Dr. Blumi is supervising the PhD projects of students attending the Departments of History at UC-Davis, Gender Studies at SOAS, along with MA students at Stockholm University's Middle Eastern Studies program. Former students at the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies under Isa Blumi's supervision have since moved into PhD programs in Social Anthropology at Stockholm University, Islamic Studies at Lund University, and Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.


Dr. Blumi teaches courses in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Courses include 

Middle East: Religions and Early History

Early Modern History of the Middle East, 1500-1920

Contemporary History of the Middle East, 1820-2020

Middle East Studies: Sources

Politics and Development of the Middle East

Perspectives of Middle Eastern Studies

An Introduction to the Middle East

Human Rights in the Middle East

As of August 1, 2024, Isa Blumi is Director of PhD Studies at the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies 

Here is a list of student supervision and their current positions:

MA Projects Supervised while at Stockholm University (defended):

• “Echoes of Dissent: Unravelling Anti-Government Discourse in Turkish Rap Music (2014-2019),” Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Stockholm University) MA Supervisor (Completed August 2023).

• “Women and Shii Reformism: Gender Discourses in the Shii Reformation Movement in Iran at the Beginning of the 20th Century,” Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Stockholm University) MA Supervisor (Completed August 2023). Student currently PhD Candidate, Lund University.

• "Navigating Past the Crucible and into the Blue: The Water Energy Nexus: The bold plan signed by Israel, Jordan and the UAE addressing climate, peace and trade. Can the promise of a better future really be wrested from the clutches of past conflict in the Middle East?." Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Stockholm University) MA Supervisor (Completed May 2023).

• “Jag bor i Libanon… jag vill begå självmord” och 19 andra suicidrelaterade nyhetsartiklar: En studie om suicidrepresentation i officiell suicidstatistik och I inhemsk massmedia i ett krisdrabbat Libanon 2008–2022” [”I live in Lebanon… I want to commit suicide” and 19 other suicide-related articles: A study of suicide representation in official suicide statistics and in domestic mass media in a crisis-ridden Lebanon 2008–2022], Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Stockholm University) MA Supervisor (Completed May 2023).

• “@fashionwithfaith, Fashion without prejudice: A case study on Sweden’s modest fashion influencer Imane Asry,” Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Stockholm University) MA Supervisor (Completed December 2022). Currently Employed in the French Ministry of Culture.

• “The Tourist Industry's Role in Shaping the Israeli Illegal Settlements in the West Bank,” Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (Stockholm University) MA Supervisor, (Completed June 2022).

• “NGOs and Armenian Diasporas: A Post Ottoman Story,” Middle East Studies Department, University of Georgia, USA, (defended November, 2019). Currently PhD Candidate, University of Georgia.

• “We Are Not Going Anywhere: An Ethnographic Field Study of Syrian Refugee (im)mobility,” Middle East Studies Department, Stockholm University, (Completed August 2018) Currently PhD candidate at Graduate Institute, Geneva.

• “Late Ottoman Perspectives on the South African War (1899-1902): The Work of Ismail Kemal Vlora,” Historical Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa, (defended May 2018). Member of faculty review committee, invited by supervisor, Dr. Shamil Jeppie.

• “A Peace Work: Swedish Involvement in the Mosul-Question, 1924-1925,” Middle East Studies Department, Stockholm University, completed (July 2018). Currently employed at SIDA.

• “Challenging Conventional Narratives: Syrian Refugees in Egypt,” Middle East Studies Department, Stockholm University, Completed (September 2017). Currently PhD candidate, Social Anthropology, Stockholm University.

• “NGO Work and Syrian Refugees: Lebanon’s Bekka Valley,” Middle East Studies Department, Stockholm University Completed (September 2017).

• “Saudi-Iranian Geopolitical Rivalry in Syria,” Political Science Department, Western Sydney University, Completed (October 2016). Currently director, Center for Syncretic Studies.

PhD Supervision and/or Committee Member (in progress):

• “The US in the Middle East during the Cold War: Ba‘athist and Pan-Arab Resistance Stories,” Department of History (University of California-Davis) PhD Co-Supervisor, in progress.

PhD Supervision and/or Committee Member (defended): 

• “Late Ottoman Bureaucratic Reforms: The Case of Libya,” Department of Middle Eastern Studies (University of California, Los Angeles-UCLA), member of PhD dissertation committee directed by James Gelvin, (Defended May 15, 2022). Currently Assistant Professor, Eastern Michigan University

• “Staging Violence, Singing Hope: Trauma, Memory, and Affect in Three Musical and Dance Performances by North Korean Migrants in South Korea,” Department of Asian, Middle East and Turkish Studies (Stockholm University) Examination Committee (defended December 11, 2021).

• “Structured Agencies of the Paramilitaries in the Turkish-Kurdish Conflict,” Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, (Copenhagen University) Co-Supervisor, (defended June 2021). Currently Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Defence Studies, King's College, London

• “Navigating Access, Aspiring Privilege. A Critical Anthropology of Maghreb-Muslim Mobilities in between the EU and UAE,” Department of Social Anthropology (Universities of Leuven and Amsterdam), secondary supervisor, directed by Annelies Moors, defended June 2021. Awarded post-doc fellowship NTU-Singapore, Visiting Faculty Georgetown University-Doha and Post-Doc fellow University of Ghent.

• “Social Movements in Kosova (1968-1997),” Department of History (University of Ghent, Belgium) secondary supervisor, defended 2019. Employed by University of Prishtina (Kosovo), Department of Anthropology.

• “The Presence of the Other in Iranian Novels and Films on the Subject of the Iran-Iraq War,” (Department of Arts, University of AlZahra, Teheran, Iran), external member of committee, defended, May 2018. Currently Post-doc fellow, University of Teheran.

• “Belgium’s Conflicted Relationship with the Ottoman Empire, 1850-1918,” (History Department, University of Antwerp, Belgium), co-supervisor, (Defended June 2017). Currently Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Amsterdam.

• “Kemalism and the Soviet Union: Ideological Transformations in Turkey and Problems of Interpretation, 1920-1970s,” Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion, University of Bergen, external member of committee, directed by Anne K. Bang, (Defended September 2017). Currently Associate Professor of Political Science, American University of Armenia.

• “South Asians in Kenya: Losing Independence, 1935-1968,” (defended, 2017). History Dept. GSU, Currently Associate Professor, History Department, Spelman College.

• “Trial by Fire: Ottoman Nationalism in Transition from Empire to Republic, 1908-1926,” Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, (Defended September 2016).

• “The Paradox of Virtue: Helsinki Human Rights Activism during the Cold War (1975-1995),” (History Department, University of Antwerp) Member of Defence Committee directed by Maarten van Ginderachter, defended April 2015. Post-doc Fellow, Ghent University.


Public Lectures, Keynotes, Workshops and Academic Engagements


• “Political Economy of a Barrel of Gun: Wars and Sanctions as Tools of Imperial Governance & Militarized Accumulation: The Case of Yemen,” Department of Middle East Studies, Georgetown University, March 25, 2024 (Washington DC).

• “Ottoman Migratory Knowledge: From Syria, Egypt to US, Unacknowledged Agents of Empire,” Department of History, University of Oslo, March 8 2024 (Oslo, Norway).

• “Beneath the Fold: European Calculations and the Quiet End of the Caliphate, 1908-1924,” Colloque - When the center cannot hold: Modern Statehood, Global Islam, and the End of the Ottoman Caliphate, Koç University, Swedish Research Institute, Université du Bosphore, March 4, 2024 (Istanbul)

• “Cultivating Defection: How Ottoman-Arabs Harvested Indigenous Muslim Knowledge in the Islamic World, and its 20th century Consequences,” Transottoman Retro-Perspectives: Eastern European-Near Eastern Shared History and its Global Implications, Leipzig University, 1 March 2024 (Leipzig, Germany).


• “Cultivating Defection: How Ottoman-Arabs Harvested Indigenous Muslim Knowledge in the Islamic World, and its 20th century Consequences,” Global Polycentricity in Migration Studies, School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, 4 December 2023 (Singapore).

• “Political Economy of Agricultural & Food Policies: Struggles for Land, Self-Sufficiency and Food Sovereignty. The Yemen Case,” Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, 29 November 2023 (Washington DC).

• “Settling Aftermath Regimes: Percolations of a post- Ottoman/Habsburg/Romanov World, 1800-1917,” Lecture Series, NOVA-FCSH, Instituto de História Contemporánea, 28 Sept. 2023 (Lisbon, Portugal).

• “Cultivating Defection: How European Imperial Agents Harvested Indigenous Muslim Allies in the Islamic World, and its 20th century Consequences” LUM-SGNCS Indigenous Pacific Workshop, 20 June 2023 (Singapore Technical University, Singapore).

“Micro-Biographies of an Imperialist: Entangling the Many Narratives of Najeeb Saleeby in the Philippines (1900-1935),” Workshop: Biography as Micro-History of the Middle East, 20 April 2023 (Groningen University, Netherlands).

“Measuring the Marginals in Conflicts and their Resolutions,” Master Seminar, Conflict and Conflict Resolution Methods and Sources (Department of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Groningen) 20 April 2023 (Groningen, Netherlands)

“Cultivating Fraud: How Imperial Agents Harvested Anti-Ottoman Knowledge and its Consequences on the Balkans,” Master Seminar, Travelogues and their Value as Micro-Histories of the Balkans and Central Europe (Department of Central and Eastern European History, University of Vienna) 17 April 2023 (Vienna, Austria).

“Defining Transition: How to Account for Europe’s Integration as a Concept,” Internal Meeting for Exploratory Project LISBONMOSCOW, Ludovika: University of Public Service, 20 March 2023 (Budapest, Hungary).

“Conflicts of interest in international law scholarship: Addressing an indifference to capitalist imperialism” at Symposium: Rewriting Histories of the Use of Force, School of Public International Law, Utrecht University, 19 January 2023 (Utrecht, The Netherlands).


• “The War in Yemen,” Invited Lecture, The Foreign Policy Association, University of Karlstad, 7 December 2022 (Karlstad, Sweden).

• “Cultivating Fraud: How Imperial Agents Harvested Anti-Ottoman Knowledge and its Consequences on the Islamic World,” Invited Lecture, Global Intellectual History Series Lectures, The Groningen University Research Institute for the Study of Culture, 24 November 2022 (Groningen, The Netherlands).

• “Ethnologies of Jihad in the Balkans: Albanian Mistaken Identities,” Invited Lecture, Department of Islam Studies, Radboud University, 17 November 2022 (Nijmegen, Netherlands).

• “A War on Yemen that Never Ends: A Genealogy of the World’s Forgotten Disaster,” Invited Lecture, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, University of Uppsala, 12 October 2022 (Uppsala, Sweden).

• “Cultivating Defection: How European Imperial Agents Harvested Anti-Ottoman Allies in the Arab World, and its Postwar Consequences” The First World War in the Middle East: Aftermath and Legacies, Flanders Fields Museum, 15 September 2022 (Ypres, Belgium).

• Keynote Address: “Fraudulent Imperialists: An Ottoman Foundation to Modern Capitalism,” Transnational ‘Missionaries’ of Liberalism/Capitalism, 1810s-1900s: Adventurers, Merchants, Bankers, Technicians, and Political Agitators, Campus de Cantoblanco, Madrid, 26 May 2022 (Madrid, Spain).

• “Turkish Studies Network-ACMES PhD Day” Discussant, University of Amsterdam, 13 April 2022 (The Netherlands).

• Discussant, "Migration Making the History of Architecture: The Balkans and the Middle East Sharing Material Worlds,” Professional Workshop Organized by the Yalla Project, Bizeit University and KUMA International, Sarajevo University, 10 April 2022 (Sarajevo/Nablus Palestine).

• “Stages of Global Migration: Ottoman Refugees and the World they Helped to Make, 1870-1970,” ACMES Annual Lecture, University of Amsterdam, 12 April 2022 (The Netherlands).

• “Modernity in the Balkans and Migration to the Middle East,” The Yalla Project, Kuma International, and the Universities of Leuven and Sarajevo: Migration Making the History of Architecture: The Balkans and the Middle East Sharing Material Words, 27 March 2022 (Sarajevo, Bosnia).

• “Militarizing the Seven Seas: Imperial Business Models,” Department of Political Studies and Public Administration, American University of Beirut, 17 March 2022 (Beirut, Lebanon).

• “Stages of Global Migration: Refugees and the Europe they Helped Make,” Edges of Europe Series, Faculty of Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies, Radboud University, 2 March 2022 (Nijmegen, The Netherlands).


• “Integrating World Revolution into the Story of (Post) Ottoman Contexts: Albania, Turkey, and Yemen, 1908-1924,” National Liberation, World Revolution: Anti-Colonial Networks and the Origins of Global Communism, 1914-24,” Institute of Contemporary History, NOVA University, 26 November 2021 (Lisbon, Portugal).

• “Awaiting their Turn: Ottoman Europe’s Çam/Çamë and the Delusions of Transitional Order, 1910-1923,” Narrating Exile in and Between Europe and the Ottoman Empire/Modern Europe, University of Amsterdam, 12 November 2021 (The Netherlands).

• “Dangerous Gifts: Imperialism, Security, and Civil Wars in the Levant, 1798-1864,” Invited Comments on released book by Dr. Ozan Ozavci, University of Utrecht, 9 Sept. 2021 (The Netherlands)

• “Lost in Transition: Obscuring the Arab Caliph and its Consequences after Lausanne,” Workshop: The Forgotten Peace?  The Lausanne Conference and the New Middle East, 1922-23 funded by University of Southampton and University of Utrecht, 30 June 2021 (Paris, France).

• “Albanian Christians: 20th Century Sagas of Transition,” for Series: Reconstructions of Southeast European Space, CSEES, University of Graz, 16 June 2021 (Graz, Austria).

• “The Betrayal of Europe’s Çam/Çamë (Her/Their Tragic Modern Story),” The Cham Albanians of Greece: 77 Years of Denial Hosted by Harvard College Albanian Students’ Association, Harvard University, 16 May 2021 (Cambridge, MA, USA).

• “Post-Imperial Equivocations: Turkey's Temperamental Mobilization of the Caliphate,” TSN Lecture Series, University of Utrecht, 13 May 2021 (Utrecht, Netherlands)

• “An Ottoman Story Until the End: Reading Fan Noli’s Post-Mediterranean Struggle in America, 1900-1922,” Balkan Circle, Department of Slavic Studies, University of Texas-Austin, 26 February 2021. (Austin, Texas, USA).

• “Assessing Kosovo’s Election Results: What to Expect Next?” at SETA, 25 Feb. 2021 (Ankara, Turkey).

• “Unsettling the Rewriting of History: An Exercise in Unreading History,” presented for seminary series “Unsettling Knowledge” within the Decolonization Group at Utrecht University, 4 February 2021 (Utrecht, The Netherlands).


• “Cultivating Knowledge, Sowing Destruction: North Atlantic Scholarship during the Cold War, the cases of the Balkans and South Arabia” presented to US Think Tanks and Foundations in World Politics: The Nexus of Knowledge and Power webinar, Department of International Studies, City University of London, 4 December 2020 (London, UK).

• “Pay to Play: Imperial Adventure Literature on Ottoman Albania and Arabia, 1800‐1933AIS Workshop: Travelogues of the Ottoman Empire in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, organized by Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena, 27 November 2020 (Jena, Germany).

• “Identifying the Proximate Diaspora Experience in the long 20th century American Industrial City” lecture hosted by Center for Study of Migration, University of Toronto at Mississauga, 29 October 2020 (Toronto, Canada).

• “Putting Yemen’s War in a Global Context: AnsarAllah’s Resistance to the Business of Empire,” lecture commissioned by MA Peace Action, University of Mass-Boston, 20 August 2020 (Boston, USA).

• “The Lens of Modernity: Rethinking Europe’s Engagement with Muslims in the Balkans,” invited lecture hosted by Center of Global Studies, Philosophy Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, 30 June 2020 (Prague, Czech Republic).

• “Istanbul: The East Mediterranean’s Conduit of Arab/Balkan Emigrational Exchange,” Arabicities of Istanbul: Setting the Research Agenda, 14 February 2020 (Istanbul, Turkey).


• “Albanians’ Slide” The Balkans at a Crossroads, SETA Roundtable, October 24, 2019 (Ankara, Turkey).

• “Defining Empire: The Commodification of Borderland Nature in Albania and Yemen “Global Environmental Borderlands in the Age of Empire” workshop organized by Stanford University and SMU, first meeting: October 12-13, 2019 (Taos, New Mexico, USA).

• Keynote Address: “Reading between the Lines: The Balkan Borderlands as History of the Modern World,” Borders in Southeast Europe, Akademie für Politische Bildung, September 30, 2019 (Tutzing, Bavaria, Germany).

• “Contextualizing Fan Noli: Dispersal, Diaspora, Nation and the Historic Roots of Modernity,” Global Biographies: A Writers’ Workshop, Centre for Modern European Studies, University of Copenhagen, August 29, 2019 (Copenhagen, Denmark).

 • “Ruptures in the Generational Transmission of Bridal Wear in Kosovo/Albania,” International ERC MusMar Workshop/The Multiple Materialities of Muslim Marriages, Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, June 14, 2019 (Amsterdam, The Netherlands).

• “An Environmental Account of Ottoman Borderlands: The Balkan and Arabian Frontiers,” Higher Seminar Series, Insitutionen för Asien-,Mellanöstern-och Turkietstudier, May 29, 2019 (Stockholm).

• “Transitional Boundaries: Balkan/Middle Eastern Post-State Refugees and a New Regime of Plunder,” Center for Arts and Humanities, American University of Beirut, May 15, 2019 (Beirut, Lebanon).

• “Imperial Hinterlands: The Commodification of Borderland Nature in the Adriatic and Red Seas, 1878-1920,” Arab Crossroads Studies Lecture Series, NYU-Abu Dhabi, April 17, 2019 (Abu Dhabi, UAE).

• “Rewriting History: A Guiding Warning to Students of International Studies” Seminar Lecture, American University of Sharjah Student “Model United Nations”, February 12, 2019 (Sharjah, UAE).


• “Infringements of History: Borders and the International Regime of Regulated Mobility: The Cases of Yemen and Albania,” Institut d’Histoire, University of Neuchâtel, December 12, 2018 (Neuchâtel, Switzerland).

• “Fan Noli: Albanian State-building, culture and networks in interwar Balkans,” The Last Ottoman Generation and Interwar Europe, CEMES/SAXO, Copenhagen University, December 6, 2018 (Copenhagen, Denmark).

• “Yemen: Uncovering the Forgotten War,” in Conversation with Maria-Louise Clausen, Malmö University, December 4, 2018 (Malmö, Sweden).

• “Destroying Yemen: What Violence in South Arabia Tells Us about the World,” Presented to Commonwealth Club, November 16, 2018 (San Francisco, Ca USA).

• “The Ottoman Refugee and Euro-American Colonial Terror: A Global Story,” Department of History and Global History Center, UC Santa Cruz, November 14, 2018 (Santa Cruz, Ca. USA).

• “Why Yemen’s Ruin: How to Study Capitalism’s Artifices of History,” presented at UC Davis, Department of Religious Studies and History Department “Notes from the Field” series, November 13, 2018 (Davis, Ca. USA).

• “Mobilizing Ottoman Multinationalism: A Global Story about the Modern World,” Presented at Seminar Viribus Unitis: Myths and Narratives of Habsburg and Ottoman Multinationalism, 1848-1918, November 3, 2018 (Copenhagen, Denmark).

• “Narrating Global Transition: Challenges to Analyzing the Collapse,” Presented to National Defense University, October 31, 2018 (Islamabad, Pakistan).

• “Reclaiming Purity: The Interminable Concern about Sexual Violence in Postwar Ottoman Lands,” Presented to Working Group: “Thinking Sex after the Great War,” October 18, 2018 (Brussels, Belgium).

• “Leaving Europe to Get In: Lessons from Balkan Muslim Journeys,” Presented at Seminar: Leaving Europe: Alternative Routes Out/Upward Mobility, Anthropology Department, Catholic University of Leuven, September 13, 2018 (Leuven, Belgium).

• “Krigen i Yemen,” Public Lecture at Arabian Nights Film Festival, Cinemateket, August 25, 2018 (Copenhagen, Denmark).

• “Unsettled History: Recovering the Ottoman Context in World War I Migration Patterns,” Presented at TEAW Symposium: To End All Wars? Geopolitical Aftermath and Commemorative Legacies of the First World War, CC Perron, Ypres, August 23, 2018 (Ypres, Belgium).

• “Violence, Memory and Cinema in the MEM Region: Soft Power and the Investment in Memory,” Presented to the Seminar Middle East Mediterranean Region: Narratives, Representations, Images organized by Prof. Riccardo Bocco at The Middle East Mediterranean Summer Summit, August 22, 2018 (Lugano, Switzerland).

• “Barely Home: Marriage Politics among Balkan Migrants since 1968,” Presented at Graduate Student Development Seminar on Marriage among Muslims in Europe, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, June 18, 2018 (Amsterdam, Netherlands).

• “Why Destroy Yemen?: Roots to the World’s Greatest Humanitarian Catastrophe,” Middle East Studies and History Departments, UCSD, June 5, 2018 (San Diego, USA).

• “Yemen’s Destruction: A Globalist Artifice” Centre for Near Eastern Studies, UCLA, June 4, 2018 (Los Angeles, USA).

• “Global Migration: Modernity and the Liberal Social Order,” History Department, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, May 9 (Brussels, Belgium)

• “Thinking about the Forgotten: Yemen and a World Catastrophe,” South Campus Lecture, Copenhagen University, April 20 (Denmark)

• “Yemen’s Ruination: Preempting Capitalism’s Artifices of History,” ANSO Seminar Series, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, April 10 (Geneva, Switzerland).

• “The Global Regime of Migration: Understanding the Logistics of Historical Refugees” Centre for Advanced Studies, January 30 (Munich, Germany).


• “Settling Globally: The Logistics of History and the Consequences of Refugees” Higher Seminar, Department of Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies, Stockholm University, December 6 (Stockholm, Sweden).

• “Adapting to Global Transformations: Finance Capitalism and Balkan Muslim Migrations to the Larger World, 1900-1919,” Faculty of Arts, Middle Eastern Lecture Series, Charles University, 21 November 2017 (Prague, Czech Republic).

• “War in the Larger Region and the Future of Arabia: Making Sense of the Chaos,” Orientální ústav, Institute Seminar Series, 21 November 2017 (Prague, Czech Republic).

• “Osmanları Küreselleştirmek: Yemen ve Emperyalist Mirası,” Department of History, Istanbul University, 18 November 2017 (Istanbul, Turkey).

• “Arabian Spillage: Chaos in Arabia and its Impact on the Larger Region,” PRIO Cyprus Centre and the Friedrick-Ebert-Stiftun Cyprus sponsored roundtable- “National, International and Human Security in the Eastern Mediterranean,” 16 November 2017 (Nicosia, Cyprus).

• “Global Migration: Modernity, and the Neoliberal Social Order,” Department of International Studies, American University of Sharjah, 12 November 2017 (Sharjah, United Arab Emirates).

• “Transitional Borderlands: Ottoman Migrants and the New World Order of Plunder,” Department of Byzantine and Balkan History at the Faculty of History, Sofia University, 30 October 2017 (Sofia, Bulgaria).

• “Transitional Regimes and the Staggered Rise of the Ethno-national/Sectarian Citizen in Arabia and the Balkans, 1900-1939,” Department of History, Oslo University, 30 August 2017 (Oslo, Norway).

• “Settling Globally: The Logistics of History and the Consequences of Refugees,” Department of Sociology, Corvinus University, 1 September 2017 (Budapest, Hungary).

• “Pluralism on Whose Terms? The Dangers of Post-Ottoman Regimes of Religious Tolerance in the Balkans and Turkey,” Recreating Pluralism: Socio-Religious Continuity in Post-Ottoman Societies, Inaugural Workshop Focused on Shrines: Places of Inter-Communal Connection, Swedish Research Institute, 21 June 2017 (Istanbul, Turkey).

• “Terms and Concepts in Historical Perspective for the MENA Region,” Lecture to Working Group on Regional (Dis)order in the Middle East: Historical Legacies and Current Shifts, hosted by Istituto Affari Internazionali, 11 April 2017 (Bologna, Italy).

• “War in Yemen: A Genealogy of a Human Catastrophe,” RE: Orient, Fokus Mellanöstern, Lund University, 14 February 2017 (Stockholm, Sweden).

• "Nothing New: Islamophobia by Default in Postwar Migration of Turkish and Balkan Muslims to Germany,” Yildiz Technical University, 13 January 2017 (Istanbul, Turkey).


• “A Genealogy of War and the Future of Arabia,” CMES Seminar, Lund University, 7 December 2016 (Lund, Sweden).

• “Ottoman Refugees: 1878-1939,” Invited Lecture, Department of History, Stockholm University, 23 November 2016, (Stockholm, Sweden).

• “Reorientating European Imperialism: How Ottomanism went Global,” Seminar in Ottoman & Turkish Studies, Departments of History and Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto, 16 November 2016 (Toronto, Canada).

• “The Fine Line between Genocide and Defeat: The Forgotten Roles of Smugglers in the Demographic Regime of World War I-Ottomans, the Arabian and Albanian Fronts,” Demographic Concepts, Population Policy, Genocide-The First World War as a Caesure?” Lepsiuhaus, Potsdam University 29 September 2016 (Potsdam, Germany).

• “’Don’t We Have Enough Problems?’ When Kosovo Exports its Crisis” Presented to The Many Roads in Modernity Series, Copenhagen University, 25 August 2016 (Copenhagen, Denmark).

• “Transitional Resistance: The Global Ottoman Refugee and Colonial Terror,” Resistance and Empire: New Approaches and Comparisons hosted by ICS-ULisboa Research Group ‘Empires, Colonialism, and Post-Colonial Studies’ 26 June 2016 (Lisboa, Portugal).

• Concluding Remarks for Balkan Research Symposium: Balkan Cities during Ottoman Rule and the Land Registry System, University of Tuzla, 5 June 2016 (Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina).

• “Chaotic Thresholds: The Socio-Economic Impact of Refugee Settlement in late Ottoman Balkan Cities,” Balkan Research Symposium: Balkan Cities during Ottoman Rule and the Land Registry System, University of Tuzla, 4 June 2016 (Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina).

• “Itinerate Spiritualties: Albanians' Role in Mediating the post-Cold War Transformations in the Islamic World” Department of Islamic Studies, Marburg University, 27 May 2016 (Marburg, Germany).

• “Ottoman Arab Province Municipalities” Invited lecture, sponsored by Minister of Municipalities and Interior, Turkey, 26 May 2016 (Ankara, Turkey).

• “Return to the Land: Identifying the Origins of the Modern Gulf from its Ottoman Hinterland,” New York University-Abu Dhabi, Department of International Studies, 7 May 2016 (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates).

• “Exploiter la transformation économique du monde: l’essor de la finance capitaliste et le rôle émergent des musulmans balkaniques dans le monde islamique élargi, 1900-1919,” Collège Belgique (Académie Royale de Belgique) and the University of Utah roundtable, 24 March 2016 (Brussels, Belgium).

• “What is Happening in Yemen?” Open Talk hosted by The Student Council at the Department of Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies, Swedish MENA Association and MENA Magazine, Stockholm University, 18 March 2016 (Stockholm, Sweden).

• “The Global Ottoman Refugee: Thinking Anew about who Shapes the Modern World,” Public Lecture, Institute of Turkish Studies, Stockholm University, 25 February 2016 (Stockholm, Sweden).


• “Le Moyen-Orient entre Islams et Christianismes” participant in Colloque International Yves Oltramare 2015, Des empire aux États-nations: religion et citoyenneté en Méditerranée orientale (19e-21e siècle), Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, 8 December 2015 (Geneva, Switzerland).

• “Muslims in a Global Struggle; Albanians and the Global Jihad,” guest lecture in Trials of the Ummah-Muslims in the Balkans Today Series, 3 December 2015, Centre for Southeast European Studies, University of Graz (Graz, Austria).

• “Zionism, Israel and the Modern Middle East: A History in Context” guest lecture, 24 November 2015, University of Antwerp (Antwerp, Belgium).

• “The Global Ottoman Refugee and Colonial Terror,” guest lecture, 18 November 2015, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Department of Religious Studies (Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA).

• “Harnessing the World’s Economic Transformation: The Rise of Finance Capitalism and the Role of Local Government in Regulating its Impact on Late Ottoman Cities,” Workshop Participant: Ottoman Municipalities and Governing the Late Ottoman City, 6 November 2015, Istanbul Şehir University (Istanbul, Turkey).

• “Yemen, War and the Future of Arabia,” Guest Public Lecture, Department of Anthropology and Sociology of Development, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, 9 October 2015 (Geneva, Switzerland).

• “Withholding Evidence: Turkey’s Investment into the Past” Higher Seminar Presentation, 18 June 2015, Stockholm University (Stockholm, Sweden).

• Invited Discussant: Urban Agency? Towards a New Urban History of Europe since 1500, 28 May 2015, University of Antwerp, (Antwerp, Belgium).

• “Seas of Transition: Post-Ottoman Transformations in the Red and Mediterranean Worlds, 1918-1930,” Invited Lecture, Bochum University 11 May 2015 (Bochum, Germany).

• “Lost in Translation: Polyglot Armies and the Dangers of Fighting an Insurgency in Ottoman Yemen,” Workshop: Enmity, Loyalty, Empire and Nation: Languages in the Great War, Centre for War Studies, Trinity College, 26 March 2015 (Dublin, Ireland).

• “The Role of Film Directors as Social Actors: Perspectives from History,” Workshop: Violence, Memory and Cinema, held between 12-13 February 2015 at Graduate Institute (Geneva, Switzerland).

• “Productive Violence: The Transitional Histories of Western Balkan Komitadji Resistance to the State: 1878-1930,” Round-table: The Age of the Komitadji, held between 22-24 January, 2015, at University of Basel (Switzerland).

• Keynote Address: “The Occupation Effect: The Consequences of Occupation Regimes in the Balkan Territories of both the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, 1916-1925,” for Conference: The Collapse of Ottoman and Austria-Hungarian Empires: Patterns and Legacies, Ludwig Boltzmann-Institute for Social Science History and the Institute for East European History at the University of Vienna, 16 January 2014 (Vienna, Austria).

• Keynote Lecture, “Recovering Human Agency from the Tyranny of the Arab Spring,” at International Middle East Studies Conference, hosted by American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, 9 December 2012 (Sharjah, United Arab Emirates).

CONFERENCES CO-ORGANIZED (Since joining Stockholm University)

• Chair and Organizer of “Movement and Gender in Late Ottoman Contexts,” Public Panel Debate with guests: Carole Woodall (University of Colorado) and Stacy Fahrenthold (UC Davis), December 9, 2019 (Copenhagen, Denmark).

• Co-organizer of International Workshop “The Last Ottoman Generation and Interwar Europe,” CEMES/SAXO, Copenhagen University, December 5 and 6, 2018 (Copenhagen, Denmark).

• Co-organizer of International Workshop “Representing Migration: The Legacy of Post-Imperial Migrations from World War I to the Cold War,” Ludwig Maximilians University, January 29 and 30 (Munich, Germany).

• Co-organizer of International Symposium “Islamophobia in Europe,” funded jointly by the Center for Balkan and Black Sea Studies (BALKAR) of Yıldız Technical University and IRCICA, January 13 and 14, 2017 (Istanbul, Turkey).

• Workshop Director: “The Future of Yemen’s Unity” Organized and Directed Workshop for Gulf Research Meeting, August 24-27, Cambridge University and Gulf Research Centre (Cambridge, United Kingdom).

• Workshop Director: A Modern World in Flux: Studying Migration, Refugees, and Settlement Regimes from the Middle East and Beyond, Third Annual MUBIT Doctoral Workshop in Late and Post-Ottoman Studies, 29-30 May 2015, Basel University (Basel, Switzerland).

• Workshop Co-Director: “Heritage and (social) media” International Expert Meeting, UNESCO Netherlands, 7 May 2015 (Leiden, Netherlands).

• Co-director/organizer of conference: The First World War and its Heritage held between November 6-8 at Çanakkale March 18 University, (Çanakkale, Turkey).

• Co-organizer of Conference entitled: “Lasting Socio-Political Impacts of the Balkan Wars,” 4-7 May 2011 (Salt Lake City, University of Utah).




Isa Blumi researches societies in the throes of social, economic, and political transformation. In the past, he compared how Austro-Hungarian, Russian, Italian, British, Dutch, Spanish, and French imperialist projects in the Islamic world intersected with, and were thus informed by, events within the Ottoman Empire. His latest work covers the late Ottoman period and successor regimes, arguing that events in the Balkans and Middle East are the engines of change in the larger world. In this respect, he explores in a comparative, integrated manner how (post-)Ottoman societies found in, for instance, Albania/Yugoslavia, Turkey, the Gulf, and Yemen fit into what is a global story of transition. This in turn informs the story of the Atlantic world, especially the emergence of modern European imperialism and the Americas. 

As he expands his work to include more of the 20th century, Blumi explores processes of change induced by Muslim refugees/migrants who settle throughout the world. These diasporas from the (post-)Ottoman world prove instrumental to the kinds of imperialist projects emerging by the 20th century. His recent publications reveal such complex interactions between Albanians, Armenians, Arabs, Turks, Greeks and, be they Dutch/French/Spanish/American administrations in the South China Sea, or the British and Italian colonial regimes in Eastern Africa.

One of his current research projects investigates how Muslims and Christians of the former Ottoman Empire navigated the processes by which the Caliphate is ultimately eliminated in 1924 under European (Dutch, British, French, and Italian) imperial pressure. Blumi is also exploring how unsettled peoples in the Horn of Africa, Arabia, and the Balkans shaped the policies of managing nature along borders separating competing imperial polities (Italian, English, and French) throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. A third project explores how subsequent generations of refugees assimilated into their new host environments in the Americas, especially the industrial cities of Detroit, Veracruz, Buenos Aires, and Boston prior to World War II.

Finally, reflecting an interest in the Cold War, Blumi is additionally working on understanding how Muslims from throughout the world contributed to the Cold War with special focus on the interactions between the Lusophone World (in the context of the anti-colonial wars in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Timor, and Cabo Verde) and communist parties in Portugal, Italy, Brazil, Turkey, Syria, Yemen, Albania, and Yugoslavia. This work extends to challenging scholarly narratives around the Persian Gulf with a new book project exploring new approaches to the understanding of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the larger world from the late Cold War to Present.

Exploring such interactions through this global perspective helps us question how we understand modern identity and social organization, themes Blumi focuses on in the courses he teaches. In addition to his historical research, Blumi also regularly writes and lectures on contemporary Balkan and Middle Eastern politics (especially Kosovo, Turkey, the Gulf and Yemen) and political Islam.

Reseach Collaboration (Since Joining Stockholm University)

Dr. Blumi is currently collaborating on a number of international, interdisiplinary research projects:

Collaborator, Turkish Studies Network Low Countries.

"The Lausanne Project" (Jointly organized by Departments of Modern History, University of Southampton and Utrecht University) Multi-year project funded by Ginko and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (see link provided).

“Decolonizing Hellas: Imperial Pasts, Contested Presents, Emancipated Futures, 1821-2021” (Jointly organized with Anthropology Department, American University of Beirut, The Decolonizing Initiative, Brown University, and the Social Anthropology Department, University of Thessaly) (see link provided).

"Many Roads in Modernity: The Transformation of South-East Europe and the Ottoman Heritage from 1870 to the Twenty-first Century," (Funded by the Carlsberg Foundation and hosted by the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen) (see link provided). 

“Global Environmental Borderlands in the Age of Empire,” Jointly Sponsored by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University and Stanford University.

Dr. Blumi has also been previously involved in the following completed research projects while a member of Stockholm University's Faculty:

Project Coordinator with Professor Dr. Christoph Neumann, “Representing Migration.” Conference organized from project was titled "Legacies of Post-Imperial Migrations from World War I to the Cold War," for the Center for Advanced Studies, LMU-Munich (Germany 2018) (see link provided). 

Project Coordinator with Professor Dr. Mehmet Hacısalihoğlu, “Islamophobia in Europe: Past and Present,” funded jointly by the Center for Balkan and Black Sea Studies (BALKAR) of Yıldız Technical University and IRCICA, (Turkey, 2017).

Recent Publications

Books and Monographs

Edited Contributions

  • Editor of Special Issue: Alternative Accounts for Yemen’s Ruination, Middle East Critique (forthcoming, 2024).
  • Editor of Special Issue: The Gulf: Between the Regional and Global, Middle East Critique (forthcoming 2024).
  • Co-editor (with Mehmet Hacısalihoğlu) Special Issue: Islamophobia in Europe, IRCICA Journal vol. 3 issue 6 (February 2018), 208 pages.
  • Editor and co-author (with Robert Muharremi), The United Nations Mission in Kosovo and the Privatization of Socially Owned Property: A Critical Outline of the Present Privatization Process in Kosovo (Prishtina: Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development, 2005). 2 Editions. ISBN 9951140130
  • Editor and co-author (with Robert Muharremi), Administration and Governance in Kosovo: Cluster of Competence and the Rehabilitation of War-Torn Societies (Prishtina: Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development, 2005) 2 Editions. ISBN 9951140092.

Journal Articles

  • “Settling Aftermath Regimes: Itinerate Cham Albanians in the Post-Ottoman World, 1822–1932”. Archiv Orientální 91 (3), (2024): 467-95.
  • “Conflicts of interest in international law scholarship: Addressing an indifference to capitalist imperialism” for Symposium: Rewriting Histories of the Use of Force, OpinioJuris (February 15, 2023).
  • "Iraqi Ties to Yemen's Demise: Complicating the 'Arab Cold War' in South Arabia," Journal of Contemporary Iraq and the Arab World 16:3 (December 2022), 235-254.
  • "Imperial Equivocations: Britain’s Temperamental Mobilization of the Caliphate, 1912-1924." Rivista italiana di storia internazionale 4, no. 1 (2021): 149-173.
  • “Speaking Above Yemenis: A Reading Beyond the Tyranny of Experts, Tribes, and Politics in Yemen, ” Global Intellectual History Vol. 6. Issue 6. (November, 2021), 990-1014.
  • “An Ottoman Story Until the End: Reading Fan Noli’s Post-Mediterranean Struggle in America, 1906-1922,” Journal of Balkans and Black Sea Studies Vol. 3 Issue 5 (December 2020): 121-144.
  • “Balkanlar Kültürel Elitinin Paradoksal Dağılışı: Bir Osmanlı Arnavut Hikayesi,” Kebikeç (Special Issue on Ottoman Newspapers) Vol. 50 (2020): 261-284.
  • “The Albanian Question Looms over the Balkans Again" Current History (Special Issue: Europe) Vol. 119 Issue 815 (2020), 95-100.
  • "War and Peace in Somalia: National Grievances, Local Conflict and Al-Shabaab," ed. by Michael Keating and Matt Waldman. Northeast African Studies 20, no. 1 (2020): 169-173.
  • “Albanian Slide: The Roots to NATO’s Pending Lost Balkan Enterprise.” Insight Turkey (Special Issue: The Balkans at a Crossroads) Spring Vol. 21. No. 2 (2019): 149-170.
  • “Introduction: Islamophobia in Europe,” IRCICA Journal, 6/1 (February 2018): 1-28. 
  • “Nothing New: Islamophobia by Default in Postwar Europe,” IRCICA Journal, 6/1 (February 2018): 29-65.

Chapters in Edited Volumes

  • “The Derailed Christian Mission: Neoliberal Globalization Claims another Victory in Post-Communist Albania,” in Frank Cibulka and Zachary T. Irwin (eds.) Liberals, Conservatives, and Mavericks On Christian Churches of Eastern Europe since 1980 (A Festschrift for Sabrina P. Ramet). (Vienna, Central University Press, June 2024).
  • “Itinerant Ottomans: Refugees and Migrants as the Engine of an Empire’s History,” in Alexis Wick (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to the Ottoman Empire (University of Cambridge Press, 2024).
  • “Imperial Edges and Those Who Live There: A Reconsideration of the Frontier in Ottoman History,” (co-authored with Güneş Işıksel), in Alexis Wick (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to the Ottoman Empire (University of Cambridge Press,, 2024).  
  • “al-Badr, Muḥammad”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, Edited by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Devin J. Stewart. (Leiden: Brill, 2023), 5-6.

  • “La misión liberal de Najeeb Saleeby: un sirio-estadounidense en la construcción del Imperio en el sur de Filipinas, 1900-1923,” in Darina Martykánová and Juan Pan-Montojo (eds.) Misioneros del Capitalismo. Aventureros, hombres de negocios y expertos transnacionales en el siglo XIX (Granada: Editorial Comares, 2023), 183-204.

  • “Preface: Aspects of Islamic Radicalization in the Balkans After the Fall of Communism.” In: Aspects of Islamic Radicalization in the Balkans After the Fall of Communism [ed] Mihai Dragnea; Joseph Fitsanakis; Darko Trifunović; John M. Nomikos; Vasko Stamevski and Adriana Cupcea, (Lausanne: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2023), vii-xiii.

  • “The Arab Gulf states and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),” in Tareq Y. Ismael and Jacqueline Ismael (eds.) Government and Politics of the Contemporary Middle East: Discontinuity and Turbulence 3rd edition (Routledge, November 2023), 873-1045.

  • “Exceptionally Normal (post)Ottomans: The Paradoxical Dispersal of the Balkans’ Cultural Elite,” in Laura Almagor. Gunvor Simonsen, and Haakon A. Ikonomou (eds.) Global Biographies: Lived History as Method (Manchester University Press, 2022), 124-142.
  • "Ottoman Albanians in an Era of Transition: An Engagement with a Fluid Modern World." Narrated Empires: Perceptions of Late Habsburg and Ottoman Multinationalism. (Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2021), 191-212.
  • “Yemen, Imperialism in,” in Ness I., Cope Z. (eds.) The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism (Cham-Palgrave-Macmillan, 2020), 2905-2915.
  • “Navigating the Challenge of Liberalism: The Albanian Orthodox Church’s Century,” in Sabrina P. Ramet (ed.) Orthodox Churches and Politics in Southeastern Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 197-222.
  • “Battles of Nostalgic Proportion: The Transformations of Islam-as-Historical-Force in Western Balkan Reconstitutions of the Past,” in Catharina Raudvere (ed.) Nostalgia, Loss & Creativity in South-East Europe: Political and Cultural Representations of the Past (Palgrave, 2018): 37-71.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Imperial Equivocations: Britain's Temperamental Mobilization of the Caliphate, 1912-1924

    2021. Isa Blumi. Rivista italiana di storia internazionale 4 (1), 149-173


    The British Empire adopted an array of contradictory policies towards Muslim subjects scattered throughout the world. As it managed its post-World War I goal of dominating the former Ottoman territories, London-based policies considered varying policies. Since the British Empire managed its affairs with different Muslim subjects through different administrations based in Cairo, Bombay, and occupied Istanbul after 1918, such policies clashed, reflecting the distinctive issues facing administrators of these unique regions. This article makes the observation that there proved to be a range of policies adopted by competing entities of «His Majesty’s Government» (HMG) toward the Caliphate, requiring a rethinking of British imperialism vis-à-vis the Muslim world. Seeking to use the Caliphate from 1912 to 1924 for different objectives, the following reads these policies within the larger context of an empire facing disparate and contradictory challenges from different Muslims demands. In the process, this chapter asks why local events regularly upset such schemes that sought to mobilize the Caliphate, questions answered by returning focus to a multiplicity of factors contributing to the modern world’s (dis)order

    Read more about Imperial Equivocations
  • Ottoman Albanians in an era of Transition: An Engagement with a Fluid Modern World

    2021. Isa Blumi. Narrated empires, 191-212


    During a critical period of transformation prior to World War I, a generation of Ottoman-Albanian activists whose engagements with ‘modernization’ not so much marked an end of the Ottoman Empire but a phase of its more complicated adaptation. Known in subsequent generations as heroes of Albanian nationalism, the Ottoman-Southern Albanian (Tosk) activists studied here demonstrate how a self-selective constituency challenged the Ottoman government to adapt to a changing world. In the end, the Frashëri family (Sami, Abdyl, and Naim Frashëri) mobilized the ecumenical possibilities embedded in the era’s iteration of ‘nationalism’ and expected the Ottoman state to do the same. In this respect, Ottoman subjects like the Frashëris instrumentalized the empire’s diverse cultural, political, and socio-economic heritage to support their political and economic aims to save the empire from the ethno-nationalism awaiting it from 1900 onwards.

    Read more about Ottoman Albanians in an era of Transition
  • Speaking above Yemenis: a reading beyond the tyranny of experts

    2021. Isa Blumi. Global Intellectual History 6 (6), 990-1014


    Although rarely making the headlines, concerned employees of international organizations privately admit that since March 2015, Yemen has been the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.1 Year by year the situation gets worse as a coalition of financially-strapped regional powers and their US and UK facilitators continue a siege of the entirety of the North of the country while fighting it out among themselves over control of the resource-rich South. The result of this multipolar war of attrition is that upwards of 18 million Yemenis face starvation and disease.

    Read more about Speaking above Yemenis: a reading beyond the tyranny of experts
  • Yemen, Imperialism in

    2021. Isa Blumi. The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, 2905-2915


    To better appreciate modern imperialism inYemen, the following charts how relations withEurasian powers like the Ottomans and Britainshifted from humble alliance making to outright(almost always failed) attempts at military conquest. As argued, it is crucial to reflect moreclosely on the manner Eurasian agents securedtheir initial foothold in the Western Indian Oceanworld by way of such alliances. By the time Ottoman surrogates like Muhammad Ali and crewslinked to venture capitalists in London establisheda presence in the Red Sea, the political orientations of a growing set of new political-spiritualmovements were on the rise. The subsequentadaptations by Ottoman and British officerswould directly impact how their respectiveempires evolved over the following nineteenthand twentieth centuries.

    Read more about Yemen, Imperialism in
  • An Ottoman Story Until the End: Reading Fan Noli’s Post-Mediterranean Struggle in America, 1906-1922

    2020. Isa Blumi. Journal of Balkans and Black Sea Studies 3 (5), 121-144


    As the lives of so many men and women in the late nineteenth century Ottoman Balkans collapsed, many began to invest in ways to circumvent the accompanying powers of the modern state. An equal number attempted to manage the changes by availing themselves to the evolving Ottoman state with the hope of fusing efforts of reform with the emerging political-cultural structures of the larger world that was explicitly geared to tear the multi-ethnic Ottoman Balkans apart. By exploring the manner in which some members of the Balkans’ cultural elite adapted as their worlds transformed, this article introduces new methods of interpreting and narrating transitional periods such as those impacting men like Fan S. Noli. His itinerary itself reveals just how complex life in the Balkans and Black Sea would be during the 1878-1922 period, but not one entirely subordinate to the ethno-nationalist agenda so often associated with him.

    Read more about An Ottoman Story Until the End
  • The Albanian Question Looms Over the Balkans Again

    2020. Isa Blumi. Current history (1941) 119 (815), 95-100


    Brussels and Washington had imposed a regime that subordinated the long-term goals of Albanians to the economic and political agendas of the Western powers.

    Read more about The Albanian Question Looms Over the Balkans Again
  • Albanian Slide: The Roots to NATO's Pending Lost Balkan Enterprise

    2019. Isa Blumi. Insight Turkey 21 (2), 149-170


    Since the end of the 1990s, Albanians in North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia have submitted to a regime of political and economic austerity in return for access to the European Union. The heavy costs, from economic decline, deadly pollution, and political corruption have translated into years of frustrations. These frustrations have exposed a political failure that extends from the region to the United States and Brussels. The resulting political turmoil will soon turn violent as the global economic downturn puts strains on Albanians sliding further away from their untrustworthy EU/U.S. allies. These afflicted relations may also highlight enduring tensions within the larger NATO alliance as American unilateralism continues to strain the divergent interests of key European partners.

    Read more about Albanian Slide
  • Navigating the Challenge of Liberalism: The Resurrection of the Orthodox Church in Post-Communist Albania

    2019. Isa Blumi. Orthodox Churches and Politics in Southeastern Europe Nationalism, 197-222


    Surviving the Balkans’ twentieth century was no simple task for Albanian Christians. Facing a regime of capitalism that absorbed the socialist Balkans in the 1990s, the efforts of Albanian Orthodox Christians to adapt seem inadequate. This chapter explores how one may read the struggles of the post-communist Albanian Autocephalous Orthodox Church that confronted the “universal” liberal enterprise in the context of the concurrent tensions within Albanian circles seeking the reaffirmation of ethno-nationalist concerns. In questioning how the rebuilding of the Church reflected an aggressive missionary approach led by Greek-born Archbishop Anastasios Yannoulatos, it will become clear how necessary it is to read this ongoing process of rebuilding on several institutional and ideological/spiritual planes.

    Read more about Navigating the Challenge of Liberalism
  • Destroying Yemen: What Chaos in Arabia Tells Us About the World

    2018. Isa Blumi.


    Since March 2015, a Saudi-led international coalition of forces—supported by Britain and the United States—has waged devastating war in Yemen. Largely ignored by the world’s media, the resulting humanitarian disaster and full-scale famine threatens millions. Destroying Yemen offers the first in-depth historical account of the transnational origins of this war, placing it in the illuminating context of Yemen’s relationship with major powers since the Cold War. Bringing new sources and a deep understanding to bear on Yemen’s profound, unwitting implication in international affairs, this explosive book ultimately tells an even larger story of today’s political economy of global capitalism, development, and the war on terror as disparate actors intersect in Arabia.

    Read more about Destroying Yemen
  • Battles of Nostalgic Proportion: The Transformations of Islam-as-Historical-Force in Western Balkan Reconstitutions of the Past

    2018. Isa Blumi. Nostalgia, Loss and Creativity in South-East Europe, 37-71

    Read more about Battles of Nostalgic Proportion
  • Battles of Nostalgic Proportion: The Transformations of Islam-as-Historical-Force in the Ideological Matrix of a Self-Affirming ‘West’

    2016. Isa Blumi. Althusser and Theology, 182-197

    Read more about Battles of Nostalgic Proportion
  • Reorientating European Imperialism: How Ottomanism Went Global

    2016. Isa Blumi. Die Welt des Islams 56 (3-4), 290-316


    Scholars have long studied Western imperialism through the prism of pre-World War I literature and journalism. Characterizing this literature as Orientalist has become programmatic and predictable. The sometimes rigid analysis of this literature often misses, however, the contested dynamics within. This is especially the case with analyses of Ottoman contributions to the rise of a Western colonialist ethos – orientalism, imperialism, and racism – reflecting the political, structural, and economic changes that directly impacted the world. Essentially, colonial pretensions – servicing the ambitions of European imperialism at the expense of peoples in the ‘Orient’ – were articulated at a time when patriotic Ottomans, among others, were pushing back against colonialism. This article explores the possibility that such a response, usefully framed as Ottomanism, contributed regularly to the way peoples interacted in the larger context of a contentious exchange between rival imperialist projects. What is different here is that some articulations of Ottomanism were proactive rather than reactive. In turn, some of the Orientalism that has become synonymous with studies about the relationship between Europe, the Americas, and the peoples “East of the Urals” may have been a response to these Ottomanist gestures.

    Read more about Reorientating European Imperialism
  • Special Issue: Islamophobia in Europe

    2015. .

    Book (ed)

    In an age of extreme atrocities and breaches of fundamental human rights and liberties across the globe, one of the most adversely affected social groups is constituted by the Muslims. From Myanmar to Palestine, from East and Southeast Asia to Central and Western Europe Muslims face various forms of violence, bigotry, hatred, stereotyping and discrimination today informed by anti-Muslim extremism. In this context, it is pertinent that ircica presents the Special Issue of ircica Journal on issues of Anti-Muslim Extremism and Islamophobia in Europe to the attention of scholarly community.

    Read more about Special Issue
  • Ottoman Refugees, 1878-1939: Migration in a Post-Imperial World

    2013. Isa Blumi.


    In the first half of the 20th century, throughout the Balkans and Middle East, a familiar story of destroyed communities forced to flee war or economic crisis unfolded. Often, these refugees of the Ottoman Empire - Christians, Muslims and Jews - found their way to new continents, forming an Ottoman diaspora that had a remarkable ability to reconstitute, and even expand, the ethnic, religious, and ideological diversity of their homelands.

    Ottoman Refugees, 1878-1939 offers a unique study of a transitional period in world history experienced through these refugees living in the Middle East, the Americas, South-East Asia, East Africa and Europe. Isa Blumi explores the tensions emerging between those trying to preserve a world almost entirely destroyed by both the nation-state and global capitalism and the agents of the so-called Modern era.READ AN EXTRACT 

    Read more about Ottoman Refugees, 1878-1939
  • War & Nationalism: The Balkan Wars (1912-1913) and Socio-Political Implications

    2013. .

    Book (ed)

    War and Nationalism presents thorough up-to-date scholarship on the often misunderstood and neglected Balkan Wars of 1912 to 1913, which contributed to the outbreak of World War I. The essays contain critical inquiries into the diverse and interconnected processes of social, economic, and political exchange that escalated into conflict. The wars represented a pivotal moment that had a long-lasting impact on the regional state system and fundamentally transformed the beleaguered Ottoman Empire in the process.

    This interdisciplinary volume stands as a critique of the standard discourse regarding the Balkan Wars and effectively questions many of the assumptions of prevailing modern nation-state histories, which have long privileged the ethno-religious dimensions present in the Balkans. The authors go to great lengths in demonstrating the fluidity of social, geographical, and cultural boundaries before 1912 and call into question the “nationalist watershed” notion that was artificially imposed by manipulative historiography and political machinations following the end of fighting in 1913.

    War and Nationalism will be of interest to scholars looking to enrich their own understanding of an overshadowed historical event and will serve as a valuable contribution to courses on Ottoman and European history.

    Read more about War & Nationalism
  • Foundations of Modernity: Human Agency and the Imperial State

    2012. Isa Blumi.


    Investigating how a number of modern empires transform over the long 19th century (1789-1914) as a consequence of their struggle for ascendancy in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, Foundations of Modernity: Human Agency and the Imperial State moves the study of the modern empire towards a comparative, trans-regional analysis of events along the Ottoman frontiers: Western Balkans, the Persian Gulf and Yemen. This inter-disciplinary approach of studying events at different ends of the Ottoman Empire challenges previous emphasis on Europe as the only source of change and highlights the progression of modern imperial states.

    The book introduces an entirely new analytical approach to the study of modern state power and the social consequences to the interaction between long-ignored "historical agents" like pirates, smugglers, refugees, and the rural poor. In this respect, the roots of the most fundamental institutions and bureaucratic practices associated with the modern state prove to be the by-products of certain kinds of productive exchange long categorized in negative terms in post-colonial and mainstream scholarship. Such a challenge to conventional methods of historical and social scientific analysis is reinforced by the novel use of the work of Louis Althusser, Talal Asad, William Connolly and Frederick Cooper, whose challenges to scholarly conventions will prove helpful in changing how we understand the origins of our modern world and thus talk about Modernity. This book offers a methodological and historiographic intervention meant to challenge conventional studies of the modern era.

    Read more about Foundations of Modernity
  • Reinstating the Ottomans: Alternative Balkan Modernities, 1800-1912

    2011. Isa Blumi.


    This book focuses on the western Balkans in the period 1820-1912, in particular on the peoples and social groups that the later national history would claim to have been Albanians, providing a revisionist exploration of national identity prior to the establishment of the nation-state.

    Read more about Reinstating the Ottomans
  • Chaos in Yemen: Societal Collapse and the New Authoritarianism

    2010. Isa Blumi.


    Chaos in Yemen challenges recent interpretations of Yemen’s complex social, political and economic transformations since unification in 1990. By offering a new perspective to the violence afflicting the larger region, it explains why the ‘Abdullah ‘Ali Salih regime has become the principal beneficiary of these conflicts.

    Adopting an inter-disciplinary approach, the author offers an alternative understanding of what is creating discord in the Red Sea region by integrating the region’s history to an interpretation of current events. In turn, by refusing to solely link Yemen to the "global struggle against Islamists," this work sheds new light on the issues policy-makers are facing in the larger Middle East. As such, this study offers an alternative perspective to Yemen’s complex domestic affairs that challenge the over-emphasis on the tribe and sectarianism.

    Offering an alternative set of approaches to studying societies facing new forms of state authoritarianism, this timely contribution will be of great relevance to students and scholars of the Middle East and the larger Islamic world, Conflict Resolution, Comparative Politics, and International Relations.

    Read more about Chaos in Yemen
  • Rethinking the Late Ottoman Empire: A Comparative Social and Political History of Albania and Yemen, 1878-1918

    2010. Isa Blumi.


    In this collection of essays, Isa Blumi seeks to reassess some common misconceptions about the history of the Ottoman Empire. Blumi, an expert on the Empire’s Albanians, takes up the question of communities on the periphery of Ottoman society, be they Albanian or Yemeni. However, Blumi still sees such people as being part of the greater Ottoman society and shows that studies of the provinces can provide valuable insights for historians. The essays of the book are tied together by Blumi’s reflections on being a history writer, but each individual essay touches on some unique and almost forgotten aspect of Ottoman history.

    Read more about Rethinking the Late Ottoman Empire
  • Exceptionally normal (post-)Ottomans: How failure shaped the futures of Balkan heroes

    2022. Isa Blumi. Global Biographies, 124-142


    Isa Blumi provides us with a sort of anti-biography of Fan S. Noli, a praised national hero in Albanian historiography. Blumi demonstrates that Noli was in fact the result of Tosk-Albanian elite networks, supportive of the Ottoman Empire. This is an insight that Blumi obtains by tracing Noli’s trajectory beyond Albania to Cairo, Alexandria and Boston in the United States. By dislocating Noli, and paying close attention to those around him, Blumi demonstrates that Noli was – as Blumi also puts it – exceptionally normal. He is better understood, so to speak, as a fairly normal member of networks whose representatives were by no means as sure of their support of and membership in future nations as historians would like them to have been.

    Read more about Exceptionally normal (post-)Ottomans
  • Çamërian Chimera?

    2022. Isa Blumi.


    It seemed as if Çamëria was yet another post-Ottoman community doomed to be “unmixed” via population exchanges. As Isa Blumi shows, however, Çamërians resisted, defending a community experts dismissed as chimerical.

    Read more about Çamërian Chimera?
  • Amerika'da Balkanlar'ın Kültürel Elitinin Paradoksal Dağılımı: Sona Kadar Bir Osmanlı Arnavut Hikayesi

    2020. Isa Blumi. Kebikeç 50, 261-284


    As the lives of so many men and women in the late nineteenth century Ottoman Balkans collapsed, many began to invest in ways to circumvent the accompanying powers of the modern state. An equal number attempted to manage the changes by availing themselves to the evolving Ottoman state with the hope of fusing efforts of reform with the emerging political-cultural structures of the larger world that was explicitly geared to tear the multiethnic Ottoman Balkans apart. By exploring the manner in which some members of the Balkans' cultural elite adapted as their worlds transformed, this article introduces new methods of interpreting and narrating transitional periods such as those impacting men like Fan S. Noli. His itinerary itself reveals just how complex life in the Balkans and Black Sea would be during the 1878-1922 period, but not one entirely subordinate to the ethno-nationalist agenda so often associated with him.

    Read more about Amerika'da Balkanlar'ın Kültürel Elitinin Paradoksal Dağılımı
  • Iraqi ties to Yemen’s demise: Complicating the ‘Arab Cold War’ in South Arabia

    2022. Isa Blumi. Journal of Contemporary Iraq & the Arab World 16 (3), 235-254


    The Cold War justifiably receives attention from scholars exploring interstate relations in the Middle East. While competition between the major nuclear powersinvariably contributed to how regional politics transpired in the twentieth century,there may be much that is missing from the narrative adapting such a focus onexternal factors. This article provides a detailed analysis of intraregional relationsthat are informed by domestic, intra-Arab concerns. With special focus on theevolving relations between Iraq and Yemen over the course of the 1920–90 period,it is possible to argue for a new approach to the study of the Middle East and itsrelationship to the larger world during the Cold War. Domestic concerns prove asmuch an animating force in global affairs as those based in British, American and/or Soviet Bloc circles usually foregrounded.

    Read more about Iraqi ties to Yemen’s demise
  • Obituary: Rifa‘at ‘Ali Abou-El-Haj: A Life on the Path of Knowledge: Rifa‘at ‘Ali Abou-El-Haj

    2022. Isa Blumi. Kadim 2 (3), 267-268


    Rifa‘at ‘Ali Abou-El-Haj (1933-2022), a scholar of the Early Modern Ottoman Empire, completed a Ph.D. in Princeton University’s Departments of Oriental Studies and History in 1963. A key member of a generation of scholars who challenged a Euro-American dominated academy and its study of the Middle East, Dr. Abou-El-Haj spent the majority of his teaching career at California State University, Long Beach. For over 50 year, Abou-El-Haj critically engaged scholars working on the early modern Ottoman state and society via publications such as The 1703 Rebellion and the Structure of Ottoman Politics (Leiden: Brill, 1984; translated into Turkish in 2011) and Formation of the Modern State: The Ottoman Empire, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries (Albany: SUNY University Press, (1991; in translated into Turkish in 2018).

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  • Brandt, Marieke (ed.): Tribes in Modern Yemen. An Anthology. Wien: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2021

    2022. Isa Blumi. Anthropos 117 (2), 544-545


    Drawing from the collective wisdom of scholars of rural Yemen, Vienna-based anthropologist Marieke Brandt’s newly released volume offers a robust argument for the continued relevance of framing Yemeni inter-communal relations in terms of the “tribe.” Explained as a “historically rooted, emic concept of social representation” (12), Brandt assures the reader that the tribe in Yemen is rooted in remotest antiquity and survives by taking on modified, modern forms today. In this orientation of scholarly expertise seeking to capture in Yemen what anthropologists elsewhere have excised from their framework of analysis, Brandt’s selected representative voices constitute a who’s who in Yemeni studies. Reading this volume thus may offer non-specialists a rich sampling of previous and ongoing ethnographic work. Here the advocacy for a buoyant representation of rural Yemeni societies in terms of their tribal associations deserves praise; it also, however, induces some frustration with the underlying tenor of some contributions as authors misplace the role of others’ scholarly engagement with the tribal theme. 

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  • The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

    2023. Isa Blumi. Government and Politics of the Contemporary Middle East, 545-652


    Ever since its creation in 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has been studied as a cohesive political, economic, and military unit whose member states operated in unison. As demonstrated in this chapter, such a narrative of cohesion and cooperation proves misleading. Despite considerable strategic importance given to the region’s oil and gas wealth, the GCC’s unstable political and economic conditions remain a paradox rarely registered in the scholarship. Indeed, this chapter argues that the origins of instability in the larger Middle East region directly informs the very precarious nature of the GCC, with domestic rivalries between key elements of each member states’ political and merchant classes regularly upsetting relations between members. As such, this chapter explains how the contentious politics and struggle for economic advantages makes for the entirety of the Gulf a complex setting in which foreign influences, initially European and then the United States of America, significantly impact the evolution of each member state. As elsewhere, key local, regional, and global factors contribute to a necessarily modified, more realistic understanding of the Politics and Government among GCC countries.

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  • Preface: Aspects of Islamic Radicalization in the Balkans After the Fall of Communism

    2023. Isa Blumi. Aspects of Islamic Radicalization in the Balkans After the Fall of Communism, vii-xiii


    Islam in Europe has become a micro industry for scholars and pundits alike. Confronted by the idealized “enemy within” an audience is guaranteed for the well-positioned expertise on offer in scholarly and journalistic forums. Alas, as recognized in the current volume generously supported by the Balkan History Association, navigating the inaccuracies catering to these audiences often pits meaningful insights and attempts at corrective clarity against institutional support in Europe. This tension between scholarly ethics and a specific demand is only intensified when applied to the Balkans, where a considerably large indigenous Muslim population still lives.Fixated on identifying a growing schism between what ostensibly constitutes, in their understanding of it at least, “tradition” and new iterations of religious faith, scholars of Islam in the Balkans have been especially keen on registering transitions in the larger world to account for what shapes Muslims’ unique place in the larger story of Southeast Europe. In a gesture toward the contemporary handwringing over Islam being a faith of reactionary radicals, many have referenced politically motivated versions of the political action regularly unleashed in regions European Muslims call home. Alas, the primary source of this rising of a so-called political Muslim is not as reactionary as has been often assumed. What manifests proves to be often a complex interplay of the ontological and contingent, with individual and distinctive group responses to varied local conditions upsetting any attempt at writing a sweeping general account of Muslim experiences in Europe.

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  • Muslims and the Making of Modern Europe by Emily Greble

    2023. Isa Blumi. Journal of Church and State 65 (3)


    The Balkans’ diverse cultural heritage remains ensnared in formulaic representations that keep it outside normative “European” experiences. Emily Greble’s new book seeks to move beyond clumsy binaries by inspecting the 1878–1948 period that led to the contested forms of the stateknown as Yugoslavia. In suggesting that some Muslims contributed to the major political movements that shaped this modern state-building process, Greble adds to a rethinking of secularism and citizenship while inviting new questions about how we write such post-imperial histories.

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  • La misión liberal de Najeeb Saleeby: un sirio-estadounidense en la construcción del Imperio en el sur de Filipinas, 1900-1923

    2023. Isa Blumi. Misioneros del Capitalismo, 183-204


    One of the more enduring tropes of Euro-American expansionism is the racial uniformity of its promoters, its beneficiaries, and its victims. Aside from the self-indulgent claims of racial superiority and the corresponding missionary spirit of many European-origin imperial conquerors, recent scholarship reveals a much more diverse cadre of imperialist benefactors. Now cutting across the “white man’s” self-imposed divide that circulated by way of popular culture and scholarship, a new complexity to the power dynamics at play includes reassessing the profile of the frontiersmen, cowboys, settlers, pioneers, miners, and then state employees who brought modern capitalism’s empire to the far corners of the world.

    Properly telling the story of capitalist imperialism’s ascendancy still requires the register of deviance, deceit, greed, and criminal duplicity, but one that emanates from multiple layers of the society 19th century global capitalism created. Regularly acknowledged in the recent scholarship on colonialism, the conquests of other people’s lands did not come without the human components whose skills extended beyond simple murder, financial mendacity, and European origins. Thanks to a recent surge in rethinking the sociology of this nasty enterprise, the panoply of human agents contributing to the expansion of empire included men and women of very different origins, be it geographic, class, race, or religion. Indeed, the very fact such a diversity of humanity came to serve the brutal role of dislodging other people from their homelands demands new ways of writing modern history.

    In the following we explore possible ways of discovering and then making sense of those whose non-European, and thus non-White, backgrounds did not stop them from becoming an agent who used empire to secure greater social mobility. One particularly conspicuous beneficiary of European imperialism was the migrant sent to the colonial theatre to service capitalism’s comprehensive subjugation of others’ natural resources. From humble origins in the Middle East, East Asia, or throughout the Mediterranean were migrants so often celebrated in the media at the time for their overwhelming impact on the process of “expanding civilization” (Blumi 2013). The regular stories in newspapers and the expanding library of novels depicting this settlement of migrants regularly sold the myth of capitalism and “progress.” This discourse infiltrated the world, selling the promise of rewards of a “new life” for those willing to “work.” In this context, otherwise marginal people, often themselves victims of the same expansive capitalist system, became heroes of liberal-era capitalism by the often-coerced use of their “free” labor.

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  • Bir Kadim Arap Metropolü San’â’

    2023. Isa Blumi. Derin Tarih 24, 128-133


    Today the largest and most populous city in Southern Arabia, Sana’a has been continuously inhabited for at least 2,500 years. Situated in a fertile basin over two thousand meters above sea level, the city remained economically and politically important over millennia because it sits on a major communication axis linking the mountains and rich fertile valleys of larger Yemen with the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean. Considered the ancestral heartland of the Arabs, the recognized Islamic heritage of the city allowed it in 1984 to become a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its 14-meter-tall walls surrounding the inner core of the city, a maze of over 6000 still largely intact multi-story tower houses makes Sana’a unique in the world. Its famous skyline consists of family homes that are at least five, if not eight or nine stories high. Along with these homes, the diverse Muslim population was serviced by more than 100 mosques (and associated evkaf properties) and 14 communal baths (hammams), all built before the 11th century.

    Reflective of its continued importance to the larger region, the city has seen regular additions to its main administrative and religious studies infrastructure. For instance, the main gates outsiders use to enter Sana’a, the northern Bab al-Shaub and south-facing Bab Al-Yaman, date to the first Ottoman occupation in the 16th century. The highlight of the Islamic city, however, is the Great Mosque (originally built in 633), a short walk from the Bab Al Yaman. A magnificent amalgamation of architectural styles tracing back to the period of the prophet Muhammad, the Grand Mosque’s centrality to the development of Islam as a global religion is confirmed by archeological findings on its grounds and surviving scriptures found in its walls. This includes a famous, so-called Sana’a’ palimpsest, that scholars determine to be one of the oldest Quranic manuscripts. It conjoins non-Islamic fragments with early renditions of verses pre-dating the Holy Qur’an’s codification during the Uthman caliphate. The Great Mosque remained the largest in the city until the construction of the Al Saleh Mosque by the President of a unified Yemen in 2008, Ali Abdallah Saleh.

    The survival and regular investment in refurbishing the Great Mosque points to the city’s key political and cultural role in the larger region. Along with the resulting unique urban characteristics is a corresponding migration of scholars and craftsmen over the centuries. The resulting communities drawn to the city over the ages reflects in the architectural patrimony that eventual gave each neighborhood its special connection to the diverse religious groups calling them home. This diversity of Muslim constituencies goes back to when the Prophet Muhammad sent his first delegation, led by his nephew ʿAli. The significance of ‘Ali’s delegation highlights the region’s importance to the early Muslim umma in Mecca, including the fact that Abraha, a Christian Yemeni king during the lifetime of Muhammad’s grandfather attempted to invade Mecca. More, Yemen’s Sassanian governor became an early convert to Islam, a choice many in Sana’a made after Ali’s delegation brought the Prophet’s message.

    The growth of conversions within the first decades translated into a renewed political importance of the city as key families patronized the greatest scholars of the time. The resulting migrations of Muslims seeking an Islamic education there, including ʿAbd al-Razzāḳ b. Hammām b. Nāfī, (b.744-d. 827), apparently of Persian origin, correspond with the Sana’a’s incorporation into the imperial ambitions of most of the great Arab Muslim medieval states. During these occupations by empires originating in Egypt or Syria, a critical role of Sana’a’s Muslim scholars played in shaping the larger Islamic world included their outward migration, spreading various Sufi and early Shi’a traditions to the larger Indian Ocean. Already during the reign of the Umayyad Caliph al-Muʿawiyya, for instance, Yemen would be divided into two regions with the north centered around Sanaʿa. Within this administrative frame, the city’s political and economic elite, the primary patrons of Ismaili, Zaydi and Shafi’ scholarly traditions, thrived. This continued during the transition to the Abbasid caliphate and by the mid-9th century, a local dynasty of the Yufirids (847-997) took control of the neighboring highlands, helping incubate Sana’a even further from the larger doctrinal tensions experienced in the rest of the Arab Muslim world.

    At the beginning of the 10th century, the leader Yahya ibn al-Husayn established a Zaydi imamate in the northern highlands of Yemen that resulted in centuries of co-habitation between Zaydi scholars-cum-political leaders and outside powers. With the incorporation of Sana’a by the Fatimids (1047-1099), the sultans of Hamdan (1099-1173), the Ayyubids (1173-1230) and then the Rasulids (1230-1381) all accommodated the thriving Muslim diversity that remained in the city. Indeed, during the occupation of Fatimid Egypt large numbers of Ismailis settled in Yemen contributing to a sharp codification of distinctive Shi’a traditions that lasted until the middle of the 15th century, an era when Sana’a was directly administered by Zaydi imams. By the time of the first Ottoman occupation in the mid-16th century, Sana’a established itself as the primary vehicle for the Shiʿa Zaydi legalism (entirely detached from the emerging Twelver Imamiyyah Shiism that was the Safavid Empire’s official religion), one that cohabitated with Shafiʿi Sunnis to produce a dynamic society impervious to the sectarianism afflicting Yemen today.  

    Still a thriving metropolis by the 16th century, larger Yemen’s importance to the global economy made securing political accommodation from Sana’a’s cultural and political elites essential for representatives of the Dutch, Portuguese, Mamluk and then Ottoman states. This helped once the Ottomans withdrew in 1630 due the rebellion of the Zaydi Al-Mansur al-Qasim for Sana'a to become the seat of an independent Imamate that ushered in a long period of prosperity for the city’s inhabitants. This is best reflected in the quality and quantity of buildings from that time. Indeed, most of the architecture still standing in the city dates from this period, suggesting a deeply rooted society with family networks assuring Sana’a’s diverse Islamic heritage continued well into the twentieth century. Among the most famous scholars to emerge from this period was al-Shawkani (1759–1834).

    Unfortunately, much of the city’s historic core has been overwhelmed by modernization beginning in the 1970s, a period after the decade-long war that began with the overthrow of the last Zaydi Imam from this era. Following a pattern of urban and demographic sprawl seen elsewhere in the world, the city’s population grew from about 55,000 in 1970 (more or less the same number of inhabitants during the second period of Ottoman administration that lasted from 1872 to 1918) to 1.7 million by 2004. Accounting for this sprawl was the influx of uprooted peasants from the countryside impacted by frequent violence in South Arabia. The resulting demographic expansion of the city well beyond its historic limits has change the religious function of the city.

    The city’s limited natural resources—especially water and space for movement—shapes the sectarianism recognized since the 1980s. Despite the earlier noted tradition of ecumenical co-existence, the first wave of Yemenis moving to Saudi Arabia in search for work converted to their Saudi host’s Hanbali values. Their acquired intolerance thanks to the issuance of fatwas by Saudi-backed communal leaders like Muqbil bin Hadi al-Wadi'i led to open conflict in Yemen after Riyadh deported over a million Yemenis in 1991 because of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. With Yemen’s explosion of Saudi-backed “jihadism” mediated by the expansion of Muslim Brotherhood affiliated scholars like Abdul Majid al-Zindani, Sana’a became a city internally divided by competing networks of mutually hostile Muslim communities.

    Crucially, the expansion of influence of some so-called Salafist groups by the late 1990s would serve the Yemeni government in a series of attempts to subdue political rivals both within and beyond the city. Known as the civil wars between the government of Ali Abdallah Saleh and former leaders of South Yemen in 1994 and the Sa’adah Wars that lasted throughout the 2000s, the state increasingly pitted inhabitants of the city against each other along sectarian lines. This impacted who lived in the city.

    Because of growing sectarianism backed by the Yemeni state, old Sana’a families abandoned their houses in the historic center, leading to a shift of most of the shopping, educational, entertainment, banking, and government services beyond the old city walls. Lower income Yemenis moved into the old city, making conditions deteriorate further. Over the course of these devastating internal conflicts, the Saleh government experimented with dividing the administrative power of the city to so-called Local Councils in 2002. According to the Saleh government, these councils would offer a stabilizing mechanism that could supplant the authority of the government over now massive neighborhoods emerging since the waves of migration to the city. Negotiated at a time of duress, Saleh’s experimentation with allowing political parties formally displaying Islamic social and cultural agendas to thrive helped the national government contain the growing presence of refugees from the Zaydi regions north of Sana’a. The government’s offer to transfer some administrative and financial functions over to friendly Salafist political parties thus proved a tactic aimed protect the regime from opposition. Unfortunately, the allocation of resources and tax revenue to political parties allied with the state denied many inhabitants basic services.

    While in theory the changes Saleh’s government would enable the local population to elect their own representatives, it became clear these representatives would also need to secure the approval their foreign government patrons. As such, the decentralization heralded as a model for Yemen’s future strengthened the rivalries between Qatari, Saudi, and Emirati supported religious parties and left Zaydi and secular parties out. The lack of a clear definition of hierarchical administrative prerogatives along with irregular attempts by Yemeni religious leaders to contribute a sectarian tenor to Yemen’s political debates led to a clash of interests and a sharpening of the doctrinal differences Saleh’s government sought. Despite the explicit attempts at pitting “Sunni” parties against Saleh’s Zaydi rivals, some prominent judges like Mohammed bin Ismail al-Amrani, himself followed by millions, issued a fatwa commanding his Sunni audience “not to consider the Shiites astray of Islam.”

    To no avail. By 2010, the regime pitting rival Muslim traditions led to months of street protests that mirrored the larger “Arab Spring.” In time, once allied parties, including ones led by the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Abdullah ibn al-Ahmar, turned on Saleh’s government. The resulting violence led the United States in 2012 to impose an “interim” government led by a weak Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, a member of Saleh’s political General People’s Congress party. Undergirding this interim government was the role of the Qatari-backed Yemeni Congregation for Reform, or Islah, party and its charismatic representative, Tawakkal Karman. She would share the Nobel Prize in 2011 in recognition of her efforts against the Saleh regime and role in supporting the Hadi government. Despite this support, the Islamist alliance around the Islah leadership faced opposition from various Saudi-backed “Jihadists” while the large number of Zaydis who settled in Sana’a organized a broader coalition known as Ansarallah (Partisans of God). The subsequent inability of the Hadi/Islah interim government to accommodate elements of the population who also opposed the Saleh regime ultimately resulted in first low-scale violence targeting leading Zaydi personalities and then the removal of the interim government from its offices in Sana’a in late 2014 by Ansarallah and its most prominent Zaydi leaders, known as the “Houthis.” Hadi’s offence was introducing IMF and US supported economic and political “reforms” that legally required Yemen’s parliament to approve. In essence, Ansarallah and their broad coalition of supporters decreed that no further modifications of Yemen’s economic relations to the larger world could happen before a new parliament was elected. The resulting war initiated by a coalition organized by the Obama administration to expel Ansarallah from Sana’a had the initial support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. Failing a quick victory, however, the result of the war has been hundreds of thousands of casualties and the isolation of Sana’a’s Ansarallah administration and its inhabitants from the rest of the world.

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  • Settling aftermath regimes: Iitinerate cham albanians in the post-ottoman world, 1822–1932

    2024. Isa Blumi. Archiv Orientálni. Supplementa 9 (3), 467-495


    During the “Age of Revolution,” disruptions that initiated transitional processes in many European states had their origins in peripheral zones, often themselves in a perpetual state of destabilization due to colonial administrative policies. From the Haitian Revolution to the destabilization caused by the American revolutions, European states collapsed and reconfigured to become the modern states associated with the era. This symbiotic relationship between the historical center and the periphery increasingly acknowledged, needs its equivlent. The same dynamics are at play in the following article, one that monitors the collective action of a particular group of Albanian Orthodox Christians who establish themselves in diasporas in Egypt and North America. Their ultimate contribution to the transformations impacting the larger Ottoman Empire and its Balkan/Eastern Mediterranean territories, recorded as the era of ethno-nationalism and liberation proves to invite a set of collective state building enterprises and Great Power adjustments witnessed elsewhere in Europe. And as events in Haiti and the larger Americas induced significant change in the empire’s metropole, so too did the charted actions of heretofore ignored Albanian Ottomans inform the evolution of diplomacy and international law as applied in Post-Ottoman contexts after the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913.

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  • al-Badr, Muḥammad

    2023. Isa Blumi. Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, 5-6


    Muḥammad al-Badr b. Aḥmad Ḥamīd al-Dīn (15 February 1926–6 August 1996) was the last Zaydī Imām of the Mutawakkilī dynasty, a family that decended from the prophet Muḥammad and ruled North Yemen from 1918. Today either revered or despised for his part as amīr al-muʾminīn (commander of the faithful) in a counter-revolutionary campaign in the 1960s, he played a critical role in Yemen’s post-World War II era. 

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