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Madeline C. Zilfi

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Professor Emerita, History

(301) 405-8403

2101L Francis Scott Key Hall
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Research Expertise

Middle East

      Madeline Zilfi specializes in Middle Eastern and Islamic history during the last centuries of the Ottoman Empire, including the transition to the modern states of the Middle East. Her written research focuses on the period from the 1680s to the 1850s, particularly with regard to urban culture and social and religious movements, law and legal practice, slavery, and gender issues.


      Professor Zilfi is the author of The Politics of Piety: The Ottoman Ulema in the Post-Classical Age (1988), editor of Women in the Ottoman Empire: Middle Eastern Women in the Early Modern Middle East (1997), and an associate editor of the six-volume work, Europe 1450-1789:  Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World, ed. Jonathan Dewald (2003).  She is also the author of Women and Slavery in the Late Ottoman Empire:  The Design of Difference (Cambridge University Press, 2010), which examines the way that slavery, particularly the enslavement of women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was closely tied to imperial ideology and the construction of masculinity in the Ottoman Empire. 



      Professor Zilfi's articles deal with Islamic revivalist movements (“The Kadizadelis:  Discordant Revivalism in Seventeenth-Century Istanbul”); divorce and family relationships in Islamic law and Ottoman-era practice ("We Don't Get Along: Women and Hul Divorce in the Eighteenth Century”); sumptuary regulation and patterns of consumption (“Whose Laws?  Gendering the Ottoman Sumptuary Regime”); cultural conflict in the early eighteenth-century Tulip Era ("Ibrahim Pasha and the Women"); and slavery and domestic labor (“Servants, Slaves, and the Domestic Order in the Ottoman Middle East").  In addition to research on recent debates regarding the history and legacy of the Ottoman Janissary corps, her current projects include a study of early twentieth-century Muslim immigration to the United States and the landmark “Ex Parte Mohriez” court decision of 1944.



      Professor Zilfi has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, from the National Humanities Center, the U.S. Fulbright Committee, the Social Science Research Council, the American Research Institute in Turkey, the University of Maryland General Research Board, the Turkish Studies Association, and others.  In addition to studies in England, Germany, and France, she has conducted research in Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.  She is a member of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the Turkish Studies Association, and the Renaissance Society of America.  She has served on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Middle East Studies (IJMES); Hawwa:  Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World; the Association of Central Asian Studies; and the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (JMEWS).  She also served as editor of the Turkish Studies Association Bulletin/Journal (1992-1994).



      Professor Zilfi’s courses include "Law and Society in the Middle East, Past and Present"; "History of the Ottoman Empire”; “Women and Society in the Middle East”; “Islam in Europe”; “Orientalist Visions and the History of the Middle East”; “The Ottoman Empire and the Making of the Modern Middle East”; “Nationalism and Nation-Building in the Middle East”; and “Islamic Civilization.”  Her graduate courses include special topics courses on Ottoman-era politics, society, and gender issues as well as the “General Seminar in Middle East History,” “Social and Intellectual Movements in Early Modern and Modern Middle Eastern History,” and "Law and Legal Issues in the Early Modern and Contemporary Middle East.”