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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
September 1, 2014
Canadian Excellence

Dr. Gavin Brockett

Associate Professor and Co-ordinator, Muslim Studies Option
Middle East/Islamic History

Chercheur Associé
Institut de Recherches et d'Etudes sur le Monde Arabe et Musulman
Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l'Homme

Contact Information
Phone: (519) 884-0710 ext.3774
Fax: (519) 746-3655
Office Location: Woods 4-144
Office Hours: Fall 2013: Thursdays 1:00 - 3:30 pm
Languages Spoken


Academic Background

BA History, University of Victoria, 1990
MA History, Simon Fraser University, 1995
PhD Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, The University of Chicago, 2003

Fields of Interest

Modern Middle East

Ottoman and Modern Turkish History

Israel, Palestine and the History of a Conflict

Comparative Religion

Islam and Nationalism

Brief Biography

My research interests revolve around the social history of the modern Middle East. I explore how ordinary people have experienced the formation of the nation-state subsequent to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. In particular I am interested in understanding the significance of Islam to the modern nation, and in untangling the complicated relationship between religion and secularism in the twentieth century.

My primary focus has been upon the social history of modern Turkey. In a number of publications I have tried to develop an alternative to the elite and centrist secular modernism that has long infused historical accounts of Turkey but which fails to explain adequately the dynamic realities that constitute Turkey today. In my monograph, ‘How Happy to Call Oneself a Turk.’ Provincial Newspapers and the Negotiation of a Muslim National Identity (University of Texas Press, 2011), I study the earliest years of popular national identity formation in Turkey between 1919 and 1954. I move beyond the long-dominant official nationalist narrative and adopt a peripheral perspective by examining provincial newspapers published across the country. I conclude that through this source we can see that in fact the people played a more active role in the shaping of their country – in particular that they were determined to inject popular religious identities into the new Turkish nationalism that the state encouraged. The result was a negotiated Muslim national identity – one that is very evident today when we look at social and political debate in Turkey. More information about my book is available at:

As a social historian, I am also interested in Turkish labour history. I am an active member of the Global Collaboratory on International Labour Relations which is sponsored by the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam. My contribution is to collect and analyse data related to labour relations in early republican Turkey. In 2009 I collaborated with Touraj Atabaki to edit Ottoman and Republican Turkish Labour History. ( Published by Cambridge this originally appeared as a Supplement to the International Review of Social History.

My work contributes to a slowly emerging body of literature now being produced by a new generation of scholars committed to applying a socio-historical perspective to the well-established narrative of modern Turkey. Many of us collaborate to present related papers at workshops and conferences. Most recently, in 2011, I edited a volume that represents a selection of this scholarship: Towards a Social History of Modern Turkey: Essays in Theory and Practice. This book is available from Libra Kitap in Istanbul, at:

More recently, I have broadened my focus to consider the place of religion in the Middle East in the years immediately after World War II. I began this work during a sabbatical in 2010-11 at the Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme in Aix-en-Provence, France. It has been supported by grants from both the Gerda Henkel Stiftung in Germany and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in Canada. In 2012 I received an Insight Development Grant from SSHRC to develop this research with regards “international Islam” in Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt. My research concentrates on the role of the World Muslim Congress in establishing trans-national connections between Muslims in the early Cold War world. At a time normally associated with secular nationalism and decolonization, in fact there was an active movement to cultivate a shared Muslim identity within the nation-state framework. This produced an expression of Muslim unity distinct from both early Pan-Islam and the Islamism with which we are more familiar today. To appreciate its significance it is necessary to explore not only the centrality of Pakistan to the movement, but also the currents of international Islam as they were manifest in many different countries in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

Additional Information


At a time when the value of a university education is under scrutiny, my concern is to equip students with a useful knowledge of an unfamiliar part of the world. My goal is to make students more aware of the contemporary Middle East and to understand the historical background to current developments and conflicts. I am also committed to helping students refine their skills related to analysis, research and writing. As such I try to incorporate a variety of active learning techniques into my classes.

I teach both undergraduate and graduate students.  At present I have two doctoral students and six MA students. For further information about the graduate program please see the Tri-University Graduate Program in History webpage at:

In the 2012-13 academic year I am teaching a graduate seminar, The Making of the Modern Middle East (Hi 696 R&S). I am also teaching a first year seminar, 1948: A War to End All Peace (AF 101b); a second year introduction to the Middle East, Ten Moments that Made the Middle East (Hi 265); a third year introduction to the Ottoman Empire (Hi 368).

Areas of Expertise

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