Adjunct Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Adjunct Associate Professor, History
Adjunct Associate Professor, Jewish Studies Program
Adjunct Associate Professor, International Studies
PhD, Indiana University, 2004
History and historiography of Central Asia; Authority and self-representation in Muslim literary traditions; Translation; Ethnicity; Islam and Judaism.
I study the history and historiography of Muslim peoples and communities, primarily in Central Asia, but also in adjacent regions (in Russia, India, China, and parts of the Middle East), since the Mongol conquest to the present. I focus on self-representation in diverse sources, aiming to understand the boundaries that defined groups and peoples as they described and justified claims to authority; the performance of rituals and customs; the allocation and transmission of labels and classifications (religious, ethnic); the espousal of rhetorical strategies; the production of genealogies (biological, spiritual); the shaping of myths of origin; the celebration (or censure) of sources of inspiration, and the commemoration of shared traumatic events.
My doctoral students – I have served on over twenty doctoral dissertation committees, many of them as chair – have been working on diverse topics in political, social, intellectual, cultural, literary, administrative and religious history. In their work, most of my students pay special attention to historiography and philology. Their chronological focus ranges from the 7th century to the present, but more often spans the 16th to the 19th centuries.
Recent PhDs (chaired committees, since 2020)
- Aybike Tezel (2023): State and Society in Early Mediaeval Inner Asia.
- Kurban Niyaz (2021): The Hidāyatnāma as the Shadow of the Āfāqiyya Path in East Turkistan (1653-1694).
- Brian Cwiek (2021): Sowing the Seeds of Change: State-Building and Cotton Agriculture in Twentieth Century Xinjiang.
- Hosung Shim (2021): The State Formation of the Zunghar Principality: A Political History of the Last Centralized State of the Eurasian Steppe.
- Kwang Tae Lee (2020): The Myth of the Butcher Amir: Tribal Politics and Early Modernization in Nineteenth-Century Central Asia.
Current Doctoral Students
- Mike Krautkraemer
- Matt Hulstine
- Ben Storsved
- Danila Kabotyanski
Courses taught recently
- Central Asia under Russian Rule
- Ethnic History of Central Asia
- Introduction to Turkic and Iranian Civilization
- Jesus, Alexander, and Other Muslim Heroes
- Jews of the Muslim East
- Research Seminar in Central Eursian History
- Sources for the Study of Central Asian History
- Travelers and Explorers in Central Asia
Sela, Ron, Paolo Sartori, and Devin DeWeese (eds.), MuslimReligious Authority in Central Eurasia (Brill, 2022).
Sela, Ron. The Legendary Biographies of Tamerlane: Islam and Heroic Apocrypha in Central Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2011).
Sela, Ron and Scott C. Levi. Islamic Central Asia: An Anthology of Historical Sources (Indiana University Press, 2010) [The Anthology features my original translations of sources in Arabic, Persian, Turkic, Russian, and Old French.]
Sela, Ron. Ritual and Authority in Central Asia: The Khan's Inauguration Ceremony. Papers on Inner Asia no. 37 (Bloomington: RIFIAS, 2003).
Sela, Ron. “The ‘Sultans of the Turks:’ Central Asia’s Vernacular Moment, 1500-1550,” in From the Khan’s Oven: Studies on the History of Central Asian Religions in Honor of Devin DeWeese, edited by Eren Tasar, Alen J. Frank and Jeff Eden (Brill, 2021).
Sela, Ron. “Tamerlane’s (Fictitious) Pilgrimage to the Tombs of the Prophets.” In Studying the Near and Middle East at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, 1936-2018, edited by Sabine Schmidtke (Gorgias Press, 2018).
Sela, Ron. “Central Asian Muslims on Tibetan Buddhism, 16th-18th Centuries,” in Trails of the Tibetan Tradition, ed. Roberto Vitali (Amnye Machen Institute, 2014).
Sela, Ron. “Prescribing the Boundaries of Knowledge: Seventeenth-Century Russian Diplomatic Missions to Central Asia,” in Writing Travel in Central Asian History, ed. Nile Green (Indiana University Press, 2013).
Sela, Ron. “Rashid al-Din’s Historiographical Legacy in the Muslim World,” in Rashid al-Din. Agent and Mediator of Cultural Exchanges in Ilkhanid Iran, ed. A. Akasoy, et al. (London: The Warburg Institute, 2013).
Sela, Ron. “The Heavenly Stone' (Kök Tash) of Samarqand: A Rebels’ Narrative Transformed,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 17/1 (2007).
Sela, Ron. “Invoking the Russian Conquest of Khiva and the Massacre of the Yomut Turkmens: The Choices of a Central Asian Historian,” Asiatische Studien / Etudes Asiatiques LX:2 (2006).
Current Research Projects
- Turks and Iranians in the Asian sphere
- Turkic patronage
- Central Asian – Hindustani connections
- Dynastic origin myths
- Manghit tombs