About this Site: This site, which began as my personal blog, has a couple of purposes that I’d like to develop more going forward. Foremost, I would like for it to serve as a place to present my scholarship- primarily, but not exclusively, on early modern and medieval Islam- in formats accessible to the interested public (you, dear reader). Second, you will continue to find the sorts of personal reflections and opinion pieces that made up my original blog, hopefully matured somewhat. Finally, you will find things under the broad rubric of ‘culture’- primarily poetry, my own and that of others, but also the odd short story, photographic essay, maybe even a bit of art I’ve made. I think there is an inner logic connecting all of these parts, but feel free to peruse the material that interests you and ignore the rest. For all of it, I welcome interaction- questions, comments, criticism, and so forth. I welcome the use of my work in other, non-commercial contexts; all the original content here should be regarded as falling under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. While use and reproduction of this material is of course free, if you do find anything here useful for whatever purposes, do think about chipping in a little support!

About the Author: My name is Dr. Jonathan Parkes Allen, and I am a sometime historian. I am a recent PhD in Ottoman and Islamic history (my dissertation can be read online: Self, Space, Society, and Saint in the Well-Protected Domains: A History of Ottoman Saints and Sainthood, 1500-1780), and am currently a post-doctoral researcher attached to the Roshan Institute for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland working on, among other things, Islamicate typography and print history, and, as of 2021, Islamicate Arabic script manuscripts and the development of handwritten text recognition for the Arabic script manuscript tradition. My wife Wynne, our son Cormac, our daughter Vera, our two tabby cats Benjamin and Flora, and I live in the charming hamlet of Takoma Park, MD, a couple miles north of the Washington, D.C., line, a place also affectionately known as the People’s Republic of Takoma Park.

My area of research interest is, broadly, the medieval and early modern Islamic world, with my current focus primarily on early modern Ottoman religious history, though my subsidiary interests are many, as you can deduce from this blog. I work primarily in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish, with translations from those languages appearing rather frequently here. I am also interested in Armenian and Syriac matters, albeit more peripherally, and with much more basic relevant linguistic skills. I enjoy history across the board really, especially but by no means exclusively medieval. I’m also a bit of an amateur botanist with an interest in ecology, evolutionary biology, environmental history, and other attendant disciplines. I’ve published academically a bit, here are a couple recent highlights: Up All Night Out of Love for the Prophet: Devotion, Sanctity, and Ritual Innovation in the Ottoman Arab Lands, 1500–1620, Journal of Islamic Studies, Volume 30, Issue 3, September 2019; Sanctifying Domestic Space and Domesticating Sacred Space: Reading Ziyāra and Taṣliya in Light of the Domestic in the Early Modern Ottoman World, Religions 2020, 11(2), 59. The latter is open access; if you’d like to read the former and don’t have access, e-mail and let me know and I can send you a copy.

I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian; I grew up Southern Baptist and converted after a longish but not terribly exciting process. Politically I’m something of an anarcho-Tory, if that makes any sense to anyone. I have a fondness for agrarianism and distributism as well as mutualism and libertarian socialism.

Finally: in case you’re wondering about ‘Thicket & Thorp’: it’s a line from Gerard Manely Hopkins. Thorp is an archaic word that means village or hamlet. Hence, ‘thicket and thorp’ connects ‘wild’ nature and human habitation, which, in reality, aren’t strict dichotomies, anymore than many supposed dualities really are. But mostly I came across them while thinking up a blog title and really liked the sound of the words.

Contact Information and Such: My old blog can be accessed here; my Academia.edu page is here. My e-mail is jonathanjallen8460 at gmail.com if you’d like to contact me that way, or at my institutional e-mail, jallen22 at umd.edu. My Twitter feed is to the right, do follow me if you’re there.


Me and the family at Christmas last year

17 thoughts on “About

  1. Jonathan,

    Thank you for the link, I will return the favor!

    And great site by the way–I just found it and am looking forward to reading what you post.

    In Christ,

    +Fr Gregory

  2. Macrina

    I’ve just found your blog through your post on St Moses appearing in my wordpress tag surfer, and look forward to coming back.

    You may already know about them, but if you do go to Syria you really should visit Deir Mar Musa, near Nebek: http://www.deirmarmusa.org

  3. Seraphim

    Dear Jonathan,

    Since you like wandering, here if you like are links to some parts of Orthodoxy you might not have yet discovered in your wanderings:

    1. Epizod. A Bulgarian power-rock band that has put together a rock opera about Tsar Maryr St. Shiman and the Patriarch St. Evtimi. The music is thier own, but the words are from some classic Bulgarian poetry written after they had thrown off the Islamic yoke of the Ottomans. If you go to their webside you can find English translations to their lyric: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Flgyj_m4qBM

    2. I don’t know if you’ve ever explore Ethiopian Coptic mezmur music but they have some strange but hauntingly beautiful hymns such as this…which musically I don’t even know how to classify: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM2WMQ8PN3Q

    Otherwise you might be pleased to learn (in case you didn’t know already) USM now has a small but functioning OCF and the foundations are being laid for a mission parish in Hattiesburg, blessed by Archbishop Dimitri as Holy Cross.

  4. Wow- Bulgarian power rock. That’s pretty awesome- “Scholar of pan-Slavic fame!”

    I’d not heard Ethiopian music before (unless Bob Marley counts), though my collection has a fair amount from the Egyptian, Syriac, and Armenian miaphysite traditions.

    I had heard about the OCF at USM- they started the year after I graduated from Carey, sadly, and I didn’t find out about that until right before I left for Morocco last spring. I did not know about the mission parish- glory to Jesus Christ! That’s really good to hear- until the OCF chapter there wasn’t any Orthodox presence particularly nearby- Jackson really was the only place (other than that one schismatic or whatever monk in the woods of Jones County…).

  5. seraphim

    The verse I liked best was “When darkness falls, sow stars”…just begs to be in a novel somewhere.

    Carey..that’s my old Alma Mater.

    There is Jackson and McComb which several Hattieburgers go to.

    The old monk…Fr. Elia. I believe he is now with the Milan Synod…so getting closer it seems. It is a pity about his troubles about his communion because he is a font of liturgical history. He trained some at St. Catherine’s on Mt. Sinai and at Yar Saba in Palistine…at least that is what he once told me.

    Also for what it is worth there was an older monk at the consecration of now his Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah who is from Mt. Athos who at present is planning to take up residence at St. Michael’s Skete in NM. Abbot John is very much looking forward to that eventuality.

    Anyway though we’ve never met, I’ve followed your journey to Orthodoxy via your blogs for the past few years. It has been very interesting reading and I am glad at last to learn you have decided to swim the Bosphorus…or the Volga as it were.

    BTW another corner you might want to root around in is Orthodox campanological arts…bell ringing…some wonder fascinating stuff out there. Here is a link to the Sisoy a giant 35+ton bell that you hear in the movie Andre Rublev (and speaking of Rublev go find the movie Andre Rublev by Tartovsky, and the movie Ostrov by Tartovsky’s disciple …and it is magnificent) It is one of the most beautiful deep bells I have heard…its got a voice like the the hymning of mountain: http://www.russianbells.com/zvons/zvons/rostov-georgiev.mp3 (slow stately) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8R9R9O4hIg

    And finally…here is a band of homeschooled Orthodox PKs and DKs who in my opinion are enormously talented (the lead singer made these videos and did the claymation:

    Great Glass Elevator links:

    Hope you like them…

    well enough being a pest

  6. Hi Jonathan, great to find your site and see what you’re up to! Any blog that has an icon of St Moses, a quote from a desert father, and references to Islam, mutualism, orthodoxy and Syriac catches my attention! I’m an (Antiochian) Orthodox priest in my 2nd year of a PhD in Syriac and islamic studies in Australia, ex-Protestant minister and have helped set up several mutualist cooperative businesses over the years, so I join you in a very small circle :-) There’s a fair bit of overlap in our general interests and research areas. I’m also exploring the eraly Sufis mainly in relation to ascetic struggle (jihad) and how that relates to the agona of Sts Aphrahat, Isaac, Ephrem etc. Check out my blog and please stay in touch.

    1. Wow, that is a remarkable amount of overlap! I’ve been thinking about the relation of early Sufism with Syriac Christian asceticism and mystical thought off and on for a while now- it’s one of those topics that got a cursory treatment back at the height of Orientalist studies, but needs to be re-appraised. It’s good to hear someone else is looking at these things. Do you ever make up to North America for conferences or anything?

  7. S

    What a delightfully eclectic blog! It was the first thing that popped up when I googled “Sulami tafsir translation”. Have you looked at the tafsir on surat an-najm? I was thinking about translating this for an project on the mi’raj. I really look forward to reading more about your journey to orthodox practice: I am a Catholic who derives much pride from being involved in the Catholic worker org. but on a personal level of practice feels a bit stagnant. I feel a strong pull to convert to Islam, perhaps because I am doing an MA in Islamic studies and constantly immerse myself in it, but at the same time feel that my Christianity has unexplored potential. However, sometimes this conundrum appears to represent more of a social choice than an actual theological choice, and then I wonder if I am actually even capable of true, deep belief.
    I am happy to know of another history nerd with southern roots (I am half Louisville) who wants to be a medievalist. At the moment I am leaning towards a future in either museum education (making medieval islamic art and archaeology relevant to kids) or phd on Islam in the Indian Ocean … can teaching medieval history actually change the way people think about the contemporary Muslim world? I wonder. To academia or not to academia? hmmm.

  8. Hi S,

    For what it’s worth, I don’t know if there is a very sharp division between social and theological choice; ‘religious life’, if it is to make any sense, must be lived in a society, in a community of practice and shared life. Faith is first practice, habitus; one cannot separate faith and works, after all. I would suggest that your deeper exploration of the Christian tradition flow out of your lived experience and practice, out of the Christian community in a particular place, with particular people. As with love, we are not called to deeply feel it first, but to begin by practicing it, struggling for it, desiring it; in time God grants the increase.

    As for going into the academy or not- I’ve been struggling with that for the past few years, going in and out, currently in. My attitude toward the academy likewise oscillates, but has been mostly negative for a while now. If you’d like to talk a little more about this, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at: j.allen at wustl.edu.

  9. Good day & peace,
    Great postings! Surprised you like Tafsír, great pic. with the waterfall!
    Wish you all the best!

    with best regards,
    Omar KN
    (Stockholm, Sweden)

  10. Hello Jonathan,
    I actually just enjoyed reading your comment on Malcolm Harris’ review of Two Cheers for Anarchism by James Scott, and wanted to see if you’ve noticed our new journal, Modern Slavery. Now that I see you’re living in my old hometown area, I’m even more curious. (You probably even know about the Black Bear Bakery on Cherokee.) I invite you to check out the web site address I included with this message for more information, if you haven’t come across Modern Slavery yet. In our second issue (not quite back from the printer), we’re featuring a detailed critique by Joseph Winogrond, titled “Slavery and Slack,” that covers quite a bit of historical and anthropological ground regarding the British Isles that’s in some ways complementary to some of Scott’s work.
    Take care,

    1. Glad you enjoyed it- I try to post a decent comment or two somewhere on the internets on a fairly regular basis, despite often feeling it is usually a lost cause…

      I had not seen the journal before, but am glad you’ve made me aware of it- looks like some good stuff. I will definitely keep an eye on it- thanks for the link!

  11. Just came upon your blog from a search on Gustav Landauer. Enjoyed perusing your posts. You are an “Anarcho-mutualist. Or something.” It’s not easy giving a label to such a view of the world such as yours…and mine. Enjoyed your recent poems as well. I find it easier to express the “Or something” through poems. Thanks for the blog.

  12. Just came across your blog. It is very interesting. As a Turk myself, Ottoman history has always been an interest of mine. But the interest grows bigger when I come across scholars that study this great empire that was able to maintain peace for nearly 6 centuries even though it consisted of various ethnic groups and beliefs. This may be out of your study scope, but what do you think about the millet system regarding tolerance? Because when I look at modern times, we are all divided by nationalism and the Middle East, Balkans, Palestine-Israel has always been in conflict after the fall of Ottomans. Therefore I really wonder the idea of tolerance in the Ottoman Empire to avoid all these conflicts that we experience today.

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