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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
October 19, 2017
Canadian Excellence

Dr. Gavin Brockett

Associate Dean: Student Affairs & Learning; Associate Professor, Middle East and Islamic History

Contact Information
Phone: (519) 884-0710 ext.3774
Fax: (519) 746-3655
Office Location: Woods 4-144
Office Hours: Students are welcome any time. In Winter 2015 you will definitely find me in my office on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.
Languages Spoken


Academic Background


BA (Hons) History, University of Victoria (1990)
BA History, Simon Fraser University (1995)
PhD Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, The University of Chicago, 2003


Adjunct Professor, University of Northern British Columbia (2003-2006)
SSHRC Post-doctoral Fellow, Simon Fraser University (2005-2006)



Global Engagement Liaison with Laurier International
Faculty Adviser for the Daughters for Life Laurier Initiative
Teaching Fellow with the Center for Teaching Innovation and Excellence
Co-Coordinator of the Muslim Studies Option

Secretary to the Board, North American Association for Islamic and Muslim Studies


Ten Moments that Made the Middle East (for WLU and also Third Age Learning Waterloo)
Ottomans, Armenians and the Question of Genocide
Israel, Palestine and the Question of Apartheid
Lives of Peace & Conflict: Jews & Arabs in the Contested Land of ‘Palestine’ 1882-2014
The Ottomans in an Age of Islamic Empire
Modern Turkey: Themes in Twentieth Century History
An Introduction to Muslim Studies


“Middle East History is Social History,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 46:2 (May 2014), 382-84.

“When Ottomans Become Turks: Commemorating the Conquest of Constantinople and its Contribution to World History,” American Historical Review 119:2 (April 2014), 399-433.

How Happy to Call Oneself a Turk.  Provincial Newspapers and the Negotiation of a Muslim National Identity.  (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011).

Towards a Social History of Modern Turkey.  Essays on Theory and Practice.  (Istanbul: Libra Kitap, 2011).

With Touraj Atabaki, Ottoman and Republican Turkish Labour History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).


Laurier Teaching Fellowship (2014)
Honorary Life Membership in the Turkish Historical Association (2013)
Fellow, Summer Institute for Israel Studies, Brandeis University (2012)
Insight Development Grant, SSHRC (2012)
Standard Research Grant, SSHRC (2010)
Invited Participant in the Tel Aviv University Workshop “Israel and the Middle East” (2010)
Special Programme Islam Grant, Gerda Henkel Stiftung (2009)

Additional Information


My teaching and research are integrally connected. In the classroom I explore methods by which to inspire and assist students to actively engage and learn about people in parts of the world that seems very distant to young Canadians today. My desire is to ignite interest in and empathy for the peoples and cultures of the Middle East as well as Muslims in many parts of the world as we explore contemporary experiences from a historical perspective. More information about my approach to teaching can be found on my Teaching Fellow’s website at In the context of what can seem to be mind-boggling developments across the Middle East, I am interested not just in making sense of significant political developments and transformations but equally in the experiences of ordinary women, men and children who contribute to these changes while also enduring their consequences.

Religion and Turkey have long been my primary points of departure. I am fascinated by the many meanings attached to religion in different places and at different times, by the many ways religious ideals inform daily life, and by influence of religion even on those who prefer not to identify with a particular faith. Over the past century few countries offer a better opportunity to study the intersection between the sacred and the secular than Turkey. For decades the ostensible “secularism” of Turkey in a region associated with “Islam” has made it appealing to many in Europe and North America. On the contrary, in my research I have been privileged to explore and study the many expressions of Muslim faith in Turkey from its founding to the present. Even those Turks who eschew Islam to the extreme find their lives shaped by the undeniable influence of religion in Turkish culture, society and politics.

My present research concerns the influence of the last generation of “Ottomans” on the shape of Islam in Turkey over the past sixty years. These men published a wide range of newspapers, journals and books in the 1950s, and it is their disciples, whether deceased or elderly, who have considerable influence on the multiple facets of Muslim belief and practice in Turkey today. At the same time Turkish Islam has not formed in a vacuum: rather it reflects dynamic interaction with trends in many other Muslim countries. Hence a related dimension to my research is the nature of “International Islam” since 1945, particularly as articulated by the World Muslim Congress. At a time normally associated with secular nationalism and decolonization, the World Muslim Congress worked to cultivate a shared Muslim identity within the nation-state framework. This produced an expression of Muslim unity distinct from both early Pan-Islam and the Islamism with which we are more familiar today. In light of the prominence of various expressions of Islamism in recent years it is imperative that we consider the nature of International Islam, its capacity to reflect the priorities of people in countries throughout the world and the framework it offers Muslims trying to negotiate modernity and globalization in the twenty-first century. Turkey offers but one opportunity to explore these themes.


Wilfrid Laurier is the only university in Canada to offer an interdisciplinary undergraduate program in the comparative study of contemporary Muslim experiences both in Canada and internationally. In the classroom and in programs that incorporate the broader community faculty apply an active and fruitful research agenda. Engaging the textual sources and interpretive traditions of Islam as well as the social and historical context in which Muslims live today, we explore what it means to identify as Muslim and to engage daily life through every possible sector of society, including business, government, science, education, media and advocacy for human rights. In the process we are developing new, integrative approaches to pedagogy and learning in a dynamic and expanding area of study.

Students explore the diversity of human experience in countries such as Canada where Muslims are a minority and in the many countries where they constitute the majority. Students enroll in two core courses that introduce them to the heritage of Islam and to the methods necessary to study Muslim experiences. Thereafter they shape their own program of study from a variety of courses offered by faculty teaching across the social sciences and humanities. We emphasize active learning to better equip students, and we are developing a global pedagogy through a creative relationship with our partner, Istanbul Şehir University in Istanbul. We challenge students to seek opportunities to combine what they discover about Muslim experiences with what they learn from other programs, and to apply this knowledge to address current social problems while educating others around them.

Canadians who identify as Muslim constitute a vital and valuable part of our society today. Canada’s growing Muslim population now exceeds one million, while at the moment newly arriving refugees come from predominantly Muslim countries. From youth in schools to the retired and aging, Muslims are part of our social fabric. Internationally, Canada must work effectively with the dozens of Muslim countries that wield increasing economic and political influence. It must develop healthy and productive relationships with these partners in a globalizing world. Students preparing to shape our country in the future, therefore, must be equipped to understand the dynamics that result from these new realities. As an emerging field, Muslim Studies will prepare leaders to seize the opportunities and resolve the challenges that lie in our future.  

Further information can be found at:

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