Michael J. Bechtel is a doctoral student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations working under the guidance of Prof. John E. Woods. He studied medieval history at Truman State University and studied at the University of Chicago’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies before beginning doctoral work. The Mongol Empire, Central Asia and the Middle Periods of Islamic history are his general areas of research. His 2012 master’s thesis was entitled “Prospectus for a New Mediæval Researches” and addressed issues concerning medieval Chinese language sources on Central Asia and the Middle East.

theo head shotTheo Beers is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC). He studies Persian literature with Franklin Lewis and Iranian history with John Woods. Theo’s current research explores the interplay between political and literary history in Greater Iran during the Timurid and Safavid periods. His dissertation, tentatively titled Sam Mirza’s Biographies, focuses on the life and works of a sixteenth-century Safavid prince. Before coming to Chicago, Theo was an undergraduate at Princeton University, where he studied Persian with Michael Barry. He spent the 2009–10 academic year (between undergraduate and graduate school) living in Kabul and working for the American University of Afghanistan. These experiences left him with a strengthened academic interest in Central Asia and a feeling of personal connection to the region.

DSC_6865 Carol Fan is a doctoral student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Fan holds a bachelor’s in Arabic with a minor in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language, a master’s in Arabic Language and Literature from Beijing Language and Culture University, and a master’s in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago. Her master’s thesis, entitled “Chen Cheng’s Xiyu Fanguo Zhi: a Full Translation,” introduces Chen Cheng’s fifteenth century ambassadorial excursion from the Ming court in China to the Timurids based on the newly discovered sources and provides a full English translation, for the first time, of his report.

SHodgkinSam Hodgkin is a doctoral student in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, specializing in Persian language and literature.  While he is interested in the Persianate arts as a continuity across time and space, his current work focuses on Persian/Tajiki and Chaghatay/Uzbek literature in Russian Imperial and Soviet Central Asia, as well as the cultural history of that period.  Since writing his master’s thesis at Harvard University on popular poetic culture in the Russian protectorates of Bukhara and Kokand, he taught pre-university courses in both the US and Tajikistan.  His recent conference talks have discussed the Soviet Tajik panegyric qasida, the figure of Abulqasim Lahuti in Persianate neoclassicism and committed literature, and the national operas of Soviet Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan.  His University of Chicago master’s thesis is entitled, “Revolutionary Springtime: Reading the Soviet Tajik Ghazal.”

RhyneKingRhyne King is a doctoral student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations who studies Ancient Near Eastern History with Professor Richard Payne.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in Classical Languages and Linguistics from Duke University.  Rhyne’s primary interest is the Achaemenid Empire, with a particular focus on the interaction between the central imperial authority and local peoples.  In addition to his studies, Rhyne works on the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, in an effort to make Achaemenid administrative texts accessible to the larger scholarly community.

Claire Roosien is a doctoral student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, with a joint degree in Russian History. Claire spent seven years growing up in Samarkand, Uzbekistan and is currently working on Soviet and late Russian Imperial Central Asian literature and culture. Her MA thesis is entitled “New Ways: The Aesthetics of Unveiling in Uzbekistan and the Formation of Socialist Realism.” She contributed essays on gender and internationalism to Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary, an exhibit of Soviet children’s books at the University of Chicago library. She spent a year in Cheboksary and Kazan, Russian Federation, researching the Il’minskii system of national pedagogy and its reception by first-generation Chuvash intellectuals, and has also studied in St. Petersburg, Russia. She is an active member of the Central Asian Studies Society.


August Samie is a doctoral student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. August holds a bachelor’s in Literature with a Russian minor from California State University Northridge and a master’s from the University of Chicago’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. His master’s thesis, entitled “From Safavids to Soviets: The Soviet Azeri Appropriation of Safavid Origins”, explores the influence of Soviet policies on historiography on early modern Iran and Central Asia. His interests include pre-Islamic Turkic culture, Turkic languages and literature, and film. August is an active member of the Central Asian Studies Society.

Thalea StokesThalea Stokes is an ethnomusicology doctoral student in the Department of Music. She holds bachelor’s degrees in Music Performance and in International and Global Studies with a Chinese-language minor, and a master’s in Music Research all from Western Michigan University. Her MA thesis, “Across the Red Steppe: Exploring Mongolian Music in China and Exporting It from Within,” examined Mongolian music-culture in China. She is now building upon that research to explore music-cultural links between Mongols and North-Asiatic/circumpolar groups. Thalea is currently the president of the Central Asian Studies Society.