Brett Wilson

Associate Professor
Associate Professor
Budapest, Nador u. 11

Brett Wilson works in the fields of late Ottoman/modern Turkish history and Islamic studies. He has taught at Duke University, Macalester College, and Central European University.  He is currently the Program Director of the One-Year MA program in Comparative History within the Department of History at Central European University.

His research interests are in the area of modern Islamic thought and practice with particular interest in religious modernism/reformism, Sufism, print culture, and state relations with religious institutions. Working with Arabic, Ottoman, and Turkish language sources, his first book Translating the Qur’an in an Age of Nationalism: Print Culture and Modern Islam in Turkey (Oxford University Press, 2014) explores how and why Muslim intellectuals and statesmen attempted to create an official Turkish translation of the Qur'an and how this definitively modern text was envisioned as a milestone for national culture and religious reform. Drawing upon leads from this research, his current book project examines Sufi thought and institutions in the late Ottoman/early Turkish Republican context within a broader framework that takes into account the global context of progressive modernist reforms during the 20s and 30s as well as Islamic discourses and contemporary movements hostile to Sufi practice. Additionally, Wilson is working on a translation of the classic Turkish novel - Nur Baba (1922) by Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu - about a debauched Sufi lodge in turn-of-the-century Istanbul.

Prof. Wilson welcomes applications from students interested in working on theses/dissertations in:

  • Late Ottoman Empire/Modern Turkish History
  • Islamic Studies
  • Religious Modernism
  • Sufism
  • Print Culture/History of the Book
  • Translation and Intellectual History

Academic Employment

Associate Professor, Central European University, Department of History 2016-present

Associate Professor, Macalester College, Department of Religious Studies 2015-18

Assistant Professor, Macalester College, Department of Religious Studies 2009-15


Wilson, M. Brett. Translating the Qur’an in an Age of Nationalism: Print Culture and Modern Islam in Turkey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Wilson M. Brett. Milliyetçilık Çağında Kur'an Tercümeleri: Türkiye'de Yazılı Kültür ve Modern İslam. trans. Ceren Can Aydın (İstanbul: Alfa Yayınları, 2018).

Articles and Book Chapters

Wilson, M. Brett. "Binding with a Perfect Sufi Master: Naqshbandi Defenses of rābiṭa from the Late Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic," Die Welt des Islams 60, no. 1 (2020), pp. 56-78.

Wilson, M. Brett. “Translations of the Qur’an: Islamicate Languages,” in The Oxford Handbook of Qur’anic Studies, eds. M.A. Abdel Haleem and Mustafa Shah, vol. 4 (Oxford University Press, 2020), pp. 552-564.

Wilson, M. Brett. "The Twilight of Ottoman Sufism: Antiquity, Immorality, and Nation in Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu’s Nur Baba," International Journal of Middle East Studies 49 (2017), pp. 233-253.

Wilson, M. Brett. “Mehmet Akif Ersoy ve Kur’an’a Erişim [Mehmet Akif Ersoy and Access to the
Qur’an],” trans. Sema Üstün, in Direnen Meali, ed. Recep Şentürk (Mahya, 2016), pp. 39-46.

Wilson, M. Brett. “Ritual and Rhyme: Alevi-Bektashi Interpretations and Translations of the Qur'an (1953-2007),” Journal of Qur'anic Studies 17:3 (2015), pp. 75-99.

Wilson, M. Brett. “The Optional Ramadan Fast: The Debate over Q. 2:184 in the Early Turkish Republic,” in The Meaning of the Word: Lexicology and Tafsīr. Ed. Stephen Burge (Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 351-371.

Wilson, M. Brett. “The Failure of Nomenclature: The Concept of ‘Orthodoxy’ in the Study of Islam,” in Orthodoxy and Heresy in Islam: Critical Concepts in Islam. Ed. Maria Isabel Fierro (Oxon: Routledge, 2013), pp. 153-176.

Wilson, M. Brett. “The First Translations of the Qur'an in Modern Turkey (1924-1938),” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 41 no. 3 (2009), pp. 419-435.

Wilson, M. Brett. “The Failure of Nomenclature: The Concept of ‘Orthodoxy’ in the Study of Islam,” Comparative Islamic Studies, 3 no. 2 (2007), pp. 169-194.

Wilson, M. Brett. “Women, Gender, and Women's Religious Education: Turkey” in Encyclopedia Of Women & Islamic Cultures, Volume IV: Economics, Education, Mobility and Space, ed. Suad Joseph (Leiden: Brill, 2006), pp. 9-10.

Courses Taught in the previous years

  • From Atatürk to Erdoğan: Political History of Modern Turkey
  • Historiography II: Grand Debates in Mediterranean History (together with Volker Menze)\
  • Religion and Society in Turkey
  • Cultural History of the Late Ottoman Empire
  • Great Lives: Biography and Individual Lives in Historical Writing
  • Religion in the Public Sphere

Academic Degrees

PhD, Religious Studies, Duke University
MA, Religious Studies, Duke University
BA, Honors College at the University of South Carolina