Sasson Chahanovich holds a PhD in Islamic Intellectual History from Harvard University where he studied under Profs. Khaled El-Rouayheb, Cemal Kafadar, Laura Nasrallah (Yale), and Christian Lange (Utrecht). Sasson’s thesis presents the first extensive study in English of the eschatological and esoteric apocalypse titled The Tree of Nuʿmān Concerning the Ottoman Empire as an example of the early modern phenomenon of Ottoman eschatological enthusiasm. Sasson’s interests are grounded in the long history of eschatological apocalyptic thought in Islamic history from Muhammad’s revelation, throughout the Early Modern Period, and also in contemporary Islamic militant movements. In addition, he is interested in the various ‘marketing’ strategies employed that shift and streamline Islamic apocalyptic tradition across time, place, and empire. Sasson is also currently working on a study of Shabbtai Zvi, the 17th century Ottoman Jew from Smyrna who immersed the Jewish world in a messianic frenzy. Herein, the heretofore exclusively Jewish would-be messiah is reinterpreted as a product of an Ottoman world beset with messianic expectations of its own. Prior to joining CAPAS, Sasson spent 3 wonderful years as a guest researcher at Bogazici University’s History Department under the sponsorship of Prof. Edhem Eldem with support from the American Research Institute in Turkey and Harvard University. He also received a competitive 2-year research fellowship from Dumbarton Oaks.
Sasson’s published research can be found here:
- Profile of Sasson Chahanovich on the web page of the Harvard University
- Interview with Sasson Chahanovich
Ottoman Apocalypticism and Early Modern Eschatological Enthusiasm
I propose to study the imbricate relationship between Ottoman imperial apocalypticism, Islamic mysticism, and esoteric prophecy in the Eastern Mediterranean as set forth in my PhD thesis. But my project is not exclusively Islamic in religious focus or imperial in its appeal. The pseudonymous prophet Ps.-Ibn al-ʿArabī who composed The Tree of Nuʿmān, one of the most intriguing esoteric apocalypses of the Ottoman world, should not be left standing alone; he is the product of a world in which many other prophets, preachers, and messiahs across religious lines and social categories lived. Thus, as part of my CAPAS project, I propose firstly to publish my PhD research along with a translation of my primary text The Tree of Nuʿmān (ToN). Second, I will publish an article that expands on the concept of Ottoman eschatological enthusiasm to include the remarkably influential messianic career of Sabbatai Sevi (d. 1676). Third, I will organize an art exhibition on Islamic apocalypticism from the Early Modern Period up to the present day.