Spring 2023: On Leave
Ph.D. – University of Chicago, 2016
M.A. – University of Chicago, 2010
M.A. – Sabancı University, 2008
Interests and Research
Tunç Şen is a historian of the Ottoman Empire and its many connections with the early modern world. He takes advantage of the rich, untapped sources from and about the Ottoman world available in multiple forms and languages. At the core of his research lies a curiosity to explore the socio-political, economic, cultural, and emotional dynamics framing and affecting the intellectual activities of individuals and communities in the past from different walks of life, privileged elites and disadvantaged commoners alike. What Şen means by “intellectual activities” is not just purely scholarly forms of writing, reading, and scientific endeavors. He is equally interested in how less- or non-scholarly actors took part in the production of literary culture. He investigates the vast array of sources Ottomans left behind for themes and subjects with universal appeal and humanistic flavor, including but not limited to the construction of self, authorship, and authority, sciences and divination, conceptions of time, and understanding of nature and the supernatural. Şen thereby tracks down local, historical particularities of Ottoman experiences, traces their intersections with Islamicate/Middle Eastern and European/Mediterranean historical trajectories, and disentangles tiers of essentializing convictions seated in different scholarly traditions.
His past and future publications focus on the history of sciences and divination, manuscript culture, the history of emotions, and the social history of scholarship. Şen's forthcoming first book, based on his award-winning dissertation and tentatively titled Forgotten Experts: Astrologers and Scientific Expertise in the Ottoman Empire, 1450-1600, examines what "scientific authority" and "expertise" meant in the early modern context. He is also a member of an international research project, Geographies and Histories of the Ottoman Supernatural Tradition (GHOST): Exploring Magic, the Marvelous, and the Strange in Ottoman Mentalities, funded by the European Research Council. Prior to joining Columbia University, Şen taught courses on Ottoman history/paleography and Modern Middle East history at Leiden University. He currently serves as the deputy director of the Sakıp Sabancı Center for Turkish Studies at Columbia University.
- The Ottoman Empire (Global Core survey)
- Contemporary Civilization I-II
- Manuscripts of the Muslim World
- Topics in Ottoman History, 1300-1700
- Occult in the Muslim Past
- Margins of Historiography: Ottoman-Turkish Tradition (co-taught with Prof. Zeynep Çelik)
- Research Seminar for PhD Students
- CIEPO (Comité International des Études pré-Ottomanes et Ottomanes): Best Original Article in the field of pre-Ottoman and/or Ottoman studies written by a young scholar (2018)
- MEM (Middle East Medievalists) Inaugural Best Dissertation Prize (2018)
Grants & Fellowships
- Humanities War & Peace Initiative Grant, Columbia University (2021).
- Hettleman Junior Faculty Summer Research Grant, Columbia University (2020).
- Lenfest Junior Faculty Development Grant, Columbia University (2019).
- Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Humanities, McGill University (2016-2018) (Declined).
- Provost’s Dissertation Completion Fellowship, University of Chicago (2015-2016).
- Stuart Tave Teaching Fellowship, University of Chicago (2015-2016).
- SSRC International Dissertation Research Fellowship (2014-2015).
- American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT) Dissertation Fellowship (2013-2014).
- Newberry Library Dissertation Seminar for Historians Fellowship (2012-2013).
- University of Chicago Graduate Studies Fellowship (2008-2013).
- The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey Fellowship (2006-2008).
Book (manuscript in progress)
Forgotten Experts: Astrologers and Scientific Expertise in the Ottoman Empire, 1450-1600
Select Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals and Volumes
“The Emotional Universe of Insecure Scholars in the Early Modern Ottoman
Hierarchy of Learning,” IJMES 53/2 (2021): 315-321.
“Manuscripts on the Battlefields: Early Modern Ottoman Subjects in the European
Theatre of War and Their Textual Relations to the Supernatural in their Fight for
Survival,” Aca’ib: Occasional Papers on the Ottoman Perceptions of the
Supernatural 2 (2021): 77-106.
“The Sultan’s Syllabus Revisited: Sixteenth-Century Ottoman Madrasa Libraries and
the Question of Canonization,” Studia Islamica 116 (2021): 198-235.
“Letters of an Insecure Scholar, 1553; Zaifi, d. after 1557,” in The Ottoman World: A
Cultural History Reader, 1450–1700, eds. Hakan T. Karateke and Helga
Anetshofer (Oakland: University of California Press, November 2021), 1-6.
“Authoring and Publishing in the Age of Manuscripts: the Columbia University Copy
of an Ottoman Compendium of Sciences with Marginal Glossing,” Philological
Encounters 5/3-4 (2020): 353-377.
“Books on Astrology, Astronomical Tables, and Almanacs in the Library Inventory of
Bayezid II (co-authored with Cornell H. Fleischer,” in Treasures of Knowledge: An
Inventory of the Ottoman Palace Library (1502/3-1503/4), eds. Gülru Necipoğlu,
Cemal Kafadar, Cornell H. Fleischer (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 767-821.
“Reading the Stars at the Ottoman Court: Bāyezīd II (r. 886/1481-918/1512) and
his Celestial Interests,” Arabica 64/3-4 (2017): 557-608.
“Practicing Astral Magic in Sixteenth-Century Ottoman Istanbul: A Treatise on
Talismans attributed to Ibn Kemāl (d. 1534),” Journal of Magic, Ritual, and
Witchcraft 12 (2017): 66- 88.
“Rasattan Takvime: 15. ve 16. Yüzyıllarda Osmanlı Dünyasında Astrolojinin Yeri
Üzerine Bazı Gözlemler,” [From Astronomical Observations to Almanac
Prognostications: Revisiting the Role of Astrology in the fifteenth-and sixteenth-
century Ottoman World] in Osmanlı’da İlim ve Fikir Dünyası, ed. Ömer Mahir
Alper et al. (Istanbul: Klasik, 2016), 227-250.
“A Mirror for Princes, A Fiction for Readers: Habname of Veysi and Dream
Narratives in Ottoman-Turkish Literature,” Journal of Turkish Literature 8 (2011):