Brett Wilson

Associate Professor
Vienna, Quellenstrasse 51
ext. 2784

M. Brett Wilson is Associate Professor of History and Public Policy and the Director of the Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies (CEMS). His research and teaching engage the fields of religious, intellectual, and cultural history with specialization in late Ottoman and modern Turkish contexts. Originally from the southeastern United States, he earned his MA and PhD at Duke University.

His research interests include modernism, print culture, Islamic Studies, Sufism, cultural heritage, 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) is a cultural history of Turkish translations of the Qur'an. It explores how and why Muslim intellectuals and statesmen envisioned the translation of the Qur'an into Turkish as a milestone for national culture, modernization, and religious reform. In doing so, it examines not only the intellectual and political debates but also the material evolution of printed religious texts and the Qur'an in the late Ottoman context. His current book project examines the abolition of Sufi orders in the early Turkish Republic and the subsequent transformation of Ottoman Sufi traditions into national culture and heritage. Additionally, Wilson is completing 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/Turkish History
  • Modern Middle East and Mediterranean
  • Nationalism, National Culture, and Cultural Heritage
  • Modernism
  • Sufism - Islamic Movements and Thought
  • Print Culture/History of the Book
  • Translation and Intellectual History

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

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

Wilson, M. Brett, trans. and ed., Nur Baba: A Sufi Novel of Late Ottoman Istanbul by Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu (Routledge, Sufi Studies Series, 2023).


Wilson, M. Brett. "Ottoman and Turkish Translations of the Qur'an," Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an (Brill, Forthcoming).

Wilson, M. Brett. "Putting out the candle: Sufism and the Orgy Libel in late Ottoman and modern Turkey," Culture and Religion (2024). 

Wilson, M. Brett. Pouvoir et secret dans l’Empire ottoman. L’initiation dans la confrérie Bektaşîe, written by Alberto Fabio Ambrosio, 2017, Die Welt des Islams, 60, no. 4 (2020), pp. 473-477.

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
  • Modern Turkey: Religion, Culture, and Nation


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

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