Amy Singer named to Hassenfeld Chair of Islamic Studies

Amy SingerPhoto/courtesy

Amy Singer

Amy Singer, a leading scholar on Ottoman history, has been appointed to the Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Chair in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University.

Singer comes to Brandeis from Tel Aviv University, where she has served on the faculty since receiving her PhD from Princeton in 1989. Her early research explored agrarian relations in Ottoman Palestine, published as “Palestinian Peasants and Ottoman Officials: Rural Administration around Sixteenth-century Jerusalem” in 1994. This led to a study of Ottoman public kitchens, and the book “Constructing Ottoman Beneficence: An Imperial Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem.” She then examined philanthropic practices more broadly, authoring “Charity in Islamic Societies.” Singer’s current research focuses on Edirne, second capital of the empire, and long a multi-confessional commercial hub of south-eastern Europe.

“Amy Singer is a superb scholar, has deep roots within the Israeli academic community, and has earned a strong reputation for mentorship,” said Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz. “These qualities make her a perfect match for Brandeis. Students and faculty in many areas of study will be enriched by her presence.”

The Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Chair in Islamic Studies was created in 2002 through a generous gift from Sylvia K. Hassenfeld, president, and Alan G. Hassenfeld, vice president of the Hassenfeld Foundation. The Chair was held until 2016 by Kanan Makiya in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.

David Engerman, Ottilie Springer Professor of History and chair of the Department of History, said Singer will immediately be an invaluable leader within the department and strengthen connections with other areas of study, particularly Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.

"Amy Singer brings unparalleled knowledge of Ottoman history and its many dimensions to the university," Engerman said. "She is an accomplished scholar who also possesses a drive to innovate, as illustrated by her work in the digital humanities. We expect her to be an intellectual leader in the History Department and across campus."

Singer has been awarded numerous fellowships and grants, authored dozens of articles, overseen academic conferences and is currently president of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association. Her digital humanities work includes the establishment of OpenOttoman, an online portal and an incubator for developing digital resources.

 “Ottoman studies is an extraordinarily dynamic field in current historical research, increasingly integral to European, Asian and African history. While the power of sultans and sultanas continues to fascinate, communities in the empire defined by faith, ethnicity, language, geography and ecology now draw considered attention,” Singer said. “A dizzyingly rich record of written and material evidence exists as sources for research. I’m excited to be joining the Brandeis community as a guide to this part of human history.”

Along with Singer’s appointment, Brandeis welcomes her husband David S. Katz as a visiting professor of history. Katz also comes to Brandeis from Tel Aviv University where he is a professor of early modern European history and the director of the Lessing Institute for European History and Civilization. Singer was selected after a search led by History Professor Paul Jankowski that was launched in 2017.

"Amy Singer brings to her extensive travels in the Ottoman past all the digital, linguistic, and intellectual skills of a gifted contemporary scholar," Jankowski said. "She also brings to Brandeis her experience, as well as her bright future, in a fascinating and growing field."

Both Singer and Katz will join the Brandeis community in the summer of 2019.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, International Affairs

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage