Hayrettin Yücesoy

Hayrettin Yücesoy

​Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, History (Affiliate), and International and Area Studies
PhD, University of Chicago
research interests:
  • Medieval Middle East

contact info:

mailing address:

  • WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
    CB 1121
    ONE BROOKINGS DR.
    ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
image of book cover

Hayrettin Yücesoy is a historian of premodern Middle East. His particular research interest has been in political practice and thought, political messianism, language and politics, and the historiography of these themes across premodern literature.

In his research and publications, Yücesoy explores the intersection of discourse and political practice as well as the polyphonic and dialogic fabric of texts. In his research, he seeks nonconforming and resistive voices to keep both modern and premodern “master narratives” in check and explore the possibilities of bottom-up history. Looking beyond the blanket categories of “culture” and “religion” as a basis of historical interpretation, he considers the capacity of language to express and more importantly generate life-worlds, social positions, connections, and power-relations as his main research direction. Recently, he focuses his research on discourses of “good governance,” rather than political-theology, as an entry-point to trace a genealogy for non-theological discursive practices of politics in the Middle East.

Over the course of his career, he has published in English, Arabic, and Turkish. His recent monograph, Messianic Beliefs and Imperial Politics in Medieval Islam: The Abbasid Caliphate in the Early Ninth Century, is an attempt to understand the intersectionality of discourse and practice in the specific case of an early ninth century Abbasid caliph’s political conduct. In his earlier monograph, The Development of Sunni Political Thought: The Formative Period (published in Arabic), he examines the formation of Sunni political discourse in the socio-political, and theological context of ca. 8-10th centuries.

He has explored various dimensions of political discourse and practice in several published articles including “Language of Empire: Politics of Arabic and Persian in the Abbasid World,” “Translation as Self-Consciousness: The Abbasid Translation Movement, Ancient Sciences, and Antediluvian Wisdom (ca. 750-850),” “Ancient Imperial Heritage and Islamic Universal Historiography: Al-Dinawari’s Secular Perspective,” “Political Anarchism, Dissent, and Marginal Groups in the Early Ninth Century: The Ṣufis of the Mu’tazila Revisited,” and “Justification of Political Authority in Medieval Sunni Thought” in prestigious journals and edited volumes.

He currently teaches courses on premodern political thought and practice, history of food, history of slavery, the prophet Muhammad, history of Islamic civilization, and history of premodern Middle East as an exercise in post-orientalist, bottom-up, world-historical practice to resist the lingering cultural arguments as historical interpretation.

Spring 2019 Courses

Topics in Islam: History of Political Thought (JINELC 445)

This course aims to study political thought and practice in Islamic history (ca.8-13th centuries) through a close reading of a selection of primary sources in translation (and in their original language if language proficiency is satisfactory). Particular attention will be given to historical contexts in which thoughts are espoused and texts written. We plan to examine the development of political concepts and themes as articulated in diverse literary genres (legal, theological, administrative) from the 8th through the 13th century. We hope to engage various theoretical models to analyze the relationship between politics and religion and tease out the role of power in shaping socio-political relations, creating distinctions, and generating structures. We hope to tease out the historicity of ideas presented in timeless categories in political discourses. Prereqs: Knowledge of Arabic preferred but not required.

    Of Dishes, Taste, and Class: History of Food in the Middle East (JINELC 374)

    When the 13th century author Ibn al-Adim from the city of Aleppo, Syria, titled his book on food Reaching the Beloved through the Description of Delicious Foods and Perfumes, he was perhaps not concerned so much with simply how to satisfy hunger. Thinking through the title alone opens a window for us on all sorts of cultural, social, economic, and political questions about food and drink. This course does not intend to spoil, so to speak, this undeniably one of the most pleasurable human needs and activities, but rather to make you aware of how food shapes who we are as individuals and societies. We will study the history of food and drink in the Middle East across the centuries until the present time, but be selective in choosing themes, geographic regions, and historical periods to focus on. Coursework is geared toward increasing your ability to think about food and drink analytically as a socio-economic and cultural capital, noticeable marker of identity, and indicator of a political position.

      Selected Publications

      Books

      Messianic Beliefs and Imperial Politics in Medieval Islam: The Abbasid Caliphate in the Early Ninth Century (Columbia, SC: The University of South Carolina Press, 2009).

      Tatawwur al-Fikr al-Siyasi ‘inda Ahl al-Sunna: Fatrat al-Takwin [The Development of Sunni Political Thought: The Formative Period] (Amman: Dar al-Bashir, 1993). Reviewed in Usur al-Wusta: The Bulletin of Middle East Medievalists, 10/1 (1998).

      Articles

      "Language of Empire: Politics of Arabic and Persian in the Abbasid World,” PMLA 130/2 (March 2015), pp. 384-392.

      “Translation as Self-Consciousness: The Abbasid Translation Movement, Ancient Sciences, and Antediluvian Wisdom (ca. 750-850),” Journal of World History 20/4 (2009), pp. 523-557.

      “Ancient Imperial Heritage and Islamic Universal Historiography: Al-Dinawari’s Secular Perspective,” Journal of Global History 2.2 (2007), pp. 135-155.

      “Political Anarchism, Dissent, and Marginal Groups in the Early Ninth Century: The Ṣūfīs of the Muʿtazila Revisited,” The Lineaments of Islam: studies in Honor of Fred McGraw Donner, Paul Cobb, ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 61-84.

      “Justification of Political Authority in Medieval Sunni Thought,” Islam, the State, and Political Authority: Medieval Issues and Modern Concerns, Asma Afsaruddin, ed. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

      “Cemaatten İmparatorluğa: İslam’ın Erken Dönem Fetih Tasavvurlarında Bizans ve İstanbul” [From Community to Empire: The Image of Byzantium and Constantinople in the Early Muslim Conquest Narratives], Toplumsal Tarih 254 (Şubat/February 2015), pp.54-62.

      “Allahın Halifesi ve Dünyanın Kadısı: Bir Dünya Imparatorluğu Olarak Hilafet” [God’s Caliph and World’s Judge: The Caliphate as a World Empire], Divan: Disiplinlerarası Çalışmalar Dergisi, 22 (2007), pp. 133-146.

      Selected Courses

      Caliphate in Theory and Practice

      Islamic Political Thought

      History of Food in the Middle East

      History of Slavery in the Middle East

      Muhammad in History and Literature

      The World of Books in Medieval Islam

      Middle East to 1250

      Islam and Modernity

      Islamic Civilization

      Literatures of the Islamic Middle East

      Modern Standard Arabic (for beginners and advanced students)

      Advanced reading in Arabic

      A City of Peace: Baghdad in Medieval Times