Daniel Beben

School of Sciences and Humanities, History, Philosophy and Religious Studies
Assistant Professor

Daniel received his PhD in History and Central Eurasian Studies from Indiana University.  His research and teaching focuses on the history of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran, as well as the broader Islamic world, with a particular focus on the history of religious communities.

Daniel is currently engaged in several research projects centered on the social and religious history of the Ismaili Shiʿi communities of Central Asia.  The first project is a monograph examining textual production and cultural memory practices among the Ismailis of present-day Tajikistan and Afghanistan.  Drawing upon previously unstudied manuscript materials, oral histories, shrine records and genealogies, this project take a long-term view of the evolution of conceptions of communal and religious identity among the Ismailis of Central Asia from the Mongol invasions down to the early Soviet period.

The second project is one for which Daniel and two colleagues (Jo-Ann Gross of the College of New Jersey and Umed Mamadsherzodshoev of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan) have recently been awarded a three-year Collaborative Research Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, titled “Ismailism in Badakhshan: A Genealogical History.”  This project entails a study of original, privately held Badakhshani Ismaili genealogical histories from Tajikistan and Afghanistan dating from the 16th-20th centuries, in addition to letters and financial documents associated with them. The project goal is to render a defined corpus of these Persian-language texts legible as historical sources by digitalizing them; identifying their features; defining the local genres of genealogy, letter writing and document production as historical practices; and analyzing them as a source for local knowledge of the Ismaili tradition of Badakhshan.  The results will be presented in a co-authored printed book and in the creation of an open access digital repository at Princeton University Library.  This will be the first corpus of Ismaili documents from Badakhshan available online in transcription and English translation.  The project will have intellectual significance for the historical study of Ismaili Shiʿism, the history of Central Eurasia, and the study of cultures of documentation in the Islamic world.

Daniel also serves as treasurer for the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies.  He previously taught Central Eurasian history at Indiana University and began teaching at Nazarbayev University in August 2015.




The Memoirs of Aga Khan I: Text Edition and English Translation of the ʿIbrat-afzā of Muḥammad Ḥasan al-Ḥusaynī Āqā Khān Maḥallātī (London: I.B. Tauris and the Institute of Ismaili Studies, forthcoming in spring 2018)

Conversion and Textualization in Islamic Society: The Legendary Biographical Traditions of Nasir-i Khusraw (provisional title; manuscript in preparation)

Ismailism in Badakhshan: A Genealogical History (co-authored with Jo-Ann Gross and Umed Mamadsherzodshoev, manuscript in preparation)


Articles and Book Chapters:

Islamisation on the Iranian Periphery: Nasir-i Khusraw and Ismailism in Badakhshan” in: Islamisation: Comparative Perspectives from History, ed. Andrew Peacock (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017)

“The Fatimid Legacy and the Foundation of the Modern Nizārī Imamate” in The Fatimid Caliphate: Diversity of Traditions, ed. Farhad Daftary and Shainool Jiwa (London: I.B. Tauris, 2017)

“Remembering Saladin: The Politics of Heresy and the Legacy of the Crusades in Persian Historiography,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (forthcoming)

“Re-imagining Taqiyya: Strategies of Secrecy among the Ismāʿīlīs of Central Asia” in: Religious Secrecy as Contact: Secrets as Promoters of Religious Dynamics, ed. Anna Akasoy, et al. (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming)

“Religious Identity in the Pamirs: The Institutionalization of the Ismāʿīlī Daʿwa in Shughnān” in: Revisiting Pamiri Identity in Central Asia and Beyond, ed. Carole Faucher and Dagikhudo Dagiev (London: Routledge, forthcoming)

“The Ṣaḥīfat al-nāẓirīn: Reflections on Authorship and Confessional Identity in a Fifteenth-Century Central Asian Text” in Before the Printed Word: Texts, Scribes and Transmission, ed. Wafi Momin (London: I.B. Tauris, forthcoming)

“The Ismaili in Central Asia,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History (forthcoming)


Book Reviews:

Review of Andreas Wilde, What is Beyond the River? Power, Authority, and Social Order in Transoxania, 18th-19th Centuries (Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 2016), Journal of Persianate Studies (forthcoming)

Review of Nile Green (ed.), Afghan History through Afghan Eyes (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), Central Asian Survey (forthcoming)

Review of Alice C. Hunsberger (ed.), Pearls of Persia: The Philosophical Poetry of Nasir-i Khusraw (London: I.B. Tauris, 2013), Journal of Shiʿa Islamic Studies 8 no. 3 (2015): 379-85

Review of Farhad Daftary, A History of Shiʿi Islam (London: I.B. Tauris, 2013) and Farhad Daftary and Gurdofarid Miskinzoda (eds.) The Study of Shiʿi Islam: History, Theology and Law (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014), Journal of Oriental and African Studies 23 (2014): 474-79

Review of Benjamin Clark Gatling, Post-Soviet Sufism: Texts and the Performance of Tradition in Tajikistan (Ohio State University, 2012), Dissertation Reviews, February 2014



Collaborative Research Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for project entitled “Ismailism in Badakhshan: A Genealogical History,” with Jo-Ann Gross (College of New Jersey) and Umed Mamadsherzodshoev (Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan), 2017-20

Social Policy Research Grant, SHSS, Nazarbayev University, 2016-2017

Overall Excellence in Teaching Award, SHSS, Nazarbayev University, 2016

Award for Best Ph.D. Dissertation on a Topic of Iranian Studies, Foundation for Iranian Studies, 2015

Dissertation Fellowship, Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University, 2014-15

International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Social Science Research Council (SSRC),  2013-14

Advanced Research Fellowship, American Councils Title VIII Research Scholar Program, 2012-13

Fulbright IIE Fellowship, 2012-13 (declined)

Van Der Weele Fellowship, Indiana University History Department, 2012



History of Kazakhstan

History of Islam I

History of Islam II: Islam in the Modern World

History of the Crusades

Sufism in the Middle East and Central Asia