Former Chair, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
Former Director, Middle East Program
Distinguished Professor, History
Adjunct Distinguished Professor, Religious Studies
Adjunct Distinguished Professor, Ancient Studies
Adjunct Distinguished Professor, India Studies
Adjunct Distinguished Professor, Medieval Studies
Advisory Board Chair, Center for the Languages of the Central Asia Region (Title VI Center)
Advisory Board Chair, Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center (Title VI Center)
Advisory Board Member, Center for the Study of the Middle East (Title VI Center)
Co-Founder, Cybersecurity and Global Policy Program
PhD, Harvard University, 1991
BA, Columbia University, 1985
Research Interests and Professional Activities
My research broadly covers the development of societies, especially sectarian communities, in Central Asia, the Near East, and South Asia studied through interdisciplinary approaches involving history, religious studies, international affairs, politics, anthropology, archeology, language, literature, and numismatics. I focus specifically on Iranian and Persian Studies, Indian subcontinental studies, Zoroastrianism, Islam, and Manichaeism. I have conducted fieldwork in Iran, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka among other countries. I served as a U.S. Presidentially-nominated and U.S. Congressionally-confirmed Member of the National Council on the Humanities which oversees the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, DC. I have served on fellowship evaluation and selection committees for the American Councils for International Education, Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute of Harvard University, Canada Council for the Arts, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Center for Arabic Study Abroad of Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University, IREX, and Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I have functioned as a nominator for the MacArthur Fellows Program, been consulted by UNESCO, UNHCR, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of State, and the National Geographic Society. My analyses appear in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, World Politics Review, Real Clear World, CNN, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, National Review, NPR, Radio Liberty, Huffington Post, and ABC News among other policy journals and news media.
Selected Awards, Fellowships, and Honorary Memberships
- Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar (2018-2019).
- U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Scholar (2013).
- United States of America National Council on the Humanities (2008–2019), nominated by the President of the U.S. and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
- American Philosophical Society Sabbatical Fellowship (2006–2007).
- American Academy of Religion Individual Research Grant (2005–2006).
- Cosmos Club, Washington, DC (elected Member 2003–).
- Encyclopedia Iranica, Consulting Editor (2001-).
- Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford (2001–2002).
- Explorers Club, New York City (elected Fellow 2000–).
- Government of India Research Fellowship Lecturer, Bombay, India (1998).
- John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1996–1997).
- American Academy of Religion Individual Research Grant (1995–1996).
- Outstanding Junior Faculty Award, Indiana University (1995–1996).
- Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London (elected Fellow 1994–).
- National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and Member of the School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (1993–1994).
- Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship and Visiting Assistant Professorship, Department of History, Stanford University (1991–1993).
- Foundation for Iranian Studies Best Dissertation Award (1991–1992).
- Junior Fellow, Society of Fellows, Harvard University (1988–1991).
- American Council of Learned Societies and Social Science Research Council Travel Grant (1989).
- North American Zoroastrian Congress Scholar Excellence Award (1988).
- American Numismatic Society Fellowship (1987).
Current Doctoral Students
- Jennifer Dubeansky
- Julian Kreidl
- Emily Stranger
Courses Recently Taught
- Prophets, Poets, and Kings: Iranian Civilization
- State and Faith in Iranian Societies: Sources, Scholarship, Research
- Introduction to the Ancient Near East
- Gender, Religion, and History: Images of Women in Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Zoroastrian Cultures
- Advanced Persian: Classical Persian
- Middle Iranian Languages: Pahlavi, Parthian, Manichean
- Old Iranian Languages: Avestan, Old Persian
Selected Publication Highlights on Contemporary Topics
“China and Russia Have Iran’s Back,” Foreign Affairs (2020).
“As US Withdraws, Iran’s Influence Swells,” Yale Global (2019).
“Iranians Try Yet Again to Change Their Government,” World Affairs Journal (2018).
“Trump’s Real Challenge in Middle East: Don’t Follow Russia and Iran,” World Politics Review (2017).
“Unstable, Unruly, and Reprobate: The Middle East Today,” World Affairs Journal (2016).
“Time for a Comprehensive Strategy against Islamic Terrorism in 2016,” Small Wars Journal (2015).
“How To Turn Off The ISIS Tap,” Yale Global (2014).
“Antisemitism's Permutations in the Islamic Republic of Iran” in Resurgent Antisemitism: Global Perspectives, ed. A. Rosenfeld (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013).
“Non-Muslim Religious Minorities in Contemporary Iran,” Iran and the Caucasus 16, 3 (2013).
“Beware the Tyranny of the Mob: The Growing Insecurity of Religious and Ethnic Minorities,” Foreign Policy (2012).
“Justifiable Force and Holy War in Zoroastrianism” in Fighting Words: Religion, Violence, and the Interpretation of Sacred Texts, ed. J. Renard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).
“Oil and Gas in Islam’s Faultline,” in A World Connected: Globalization in the 21st Century, ed. N. Chanda and S. Froestschel (New Haven: Yale University Center for Globalization, 2011).
“‘Crippling’ Sanctions Will Still Be Ineffective: Target the Culprits in Iran,” Foreign Policy (2009).
Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 2007), Associate Editor.
“Despite Shahs and Mollas: Minority Sociopolitics in Premodern and Modern Iran,” Journal of Asian History 40, 2 (2006).
“Ancient Iranian Ideas in a Modern Context: Aspects of Royal Legitimacy under Muhammad Riza Shah Pahlavi,” in Views from the Edge: Essays in Honor of Richard W. Bulliet, ed. N. Yavari, L. G. Potter, and J-M. R. Oppenheim (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).
Selected Publication Highlights on Historical Topics
“Ancient Iranian Stamp Seals in the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum,” with Jennifer Dubeansky, in Dinars and Dirhams: Festschrift in Honor of Michael Bates, ed. T. Daryaee and J. Lerner (New York: American Numismatic Society and Irvine: UC Jordan Center for Persian Studies, 2020), pp. 39–59.
“Friendship in Pre-Islamic Iranian Writings,” in Friendship in Islamic Ethics and World Politics, ed. J. Mahallati (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2019), pp. 145–152, 306–307.
“Persian Literature of the Parsis in India,” in The History of Persian Literature, vol. 9, pt. 2, ed. J. Perry (New York: Persian Heritage Foundation and I. B. Taurus, 2018), pp. 140–172.
“Yazd: ‘A Good and Noble City’ and an ‘Abode of Worship’,” in Cities of Medieval Iran, ed. D. Durand-Guedy, R. Mottahedeh, and J. Paul, Eurasian Studies 16 (2018), pp. 217–252.
“The Zoroastrian Creation Myth: Clues to Its Antiquity,” in Holy Wealth: Accounting for This World and the Next in Religious Belief and Practice: Festschrift for John R. Hinnells, Iranica, vol. 24, ed. A. Hintze and A. Williams (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 2017), pp. 11–20.
“Friendship in the Pahlavi Books,” in The Zoroastrian Flame: Exploring Religion, History, and Tradition, eds. A. Williams, S. Stewart, and A. Hintze (London: I.B. Taurus, 2016).
“Zoroastrianism's Religious Sites and Physical Structures,” in Wiley Blackwell Companion to the Study of Zoroastrianism, eds. M. Stausberg and Y.S.-D. Vevaina (Oxford: John Wiley, 2015).
“Sailors, Soldiers, Priests, and Merchants: Reappraising Iran's Early Connections to Ceylon,” Iranica Antiqua 48 (2013).
“Iranian Apocalypticism and Eschatology: Grappling with Change,” Journal of the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute 70 (2010).
“The Enigmatic Origins of the Tokharians," in Atash-e Dorun—The Fire Within: Jamshid Soroush Soroushian Memorial Volumes, vol. 2, ed. C. G. Cereti and F. J. Vajifdar (Bloomington: 1st Books Library, 2003).
Evil, Good, and Gender: Facets of the Feminine in Zoroastrian Religious History (New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 2002).
Setiz va Sazesh: Zartoshtiyan-e maqlub va mosalmanan-e qaleb dar jame-ye Iran-e nakhostin-i sadeha-ye Islami (Tehran: Qoqnus Publications, 2002).
“Dualism of the Feminine in Manichaeism: The Mother of Life and the Demoness of Concupiscence,” Third International Congress Proceedings of the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute (Bombay: K. R. Cama Oriental Institute, 2001).
Conflict and Cooperation: Zoroastrian Subalterns and Muslim Elites in Medieval Iranian Society (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).
“Doctrinal Variation within Zoroastrianism: The Notion of Dualism,” Second International Congress Proceedings of the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute (Bombay: K. R. Cama Oriental Institute, 1996).
“An Emissary from Akbar to ‘Abbas I: Inscriptions, Texts, and the Career of Amir Muhammad Ma‘sum al-Bhakkari,” with M. Usman Hasan, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, third series, 1, 1 (1991).
Purity and Pollution in Zoroastrianism: Triumph over Evil (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989).
"A Sasanian Monarch, His Queen, Crown Prince, and Deities: The Coinage of Wahram II," American Journal of Numismatics, second series, 1 (1989).
"Loan and Sales Contracts in Ancient and Early Medieval Iran," Indo-Iranian Journal 31 (1988).