Department of History

Ron Sela

  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of History


  • Ph.D. at Indiana University, 2004

Contact Information

Goodbody Hall, Rm. 141
(812) 856-7017


I study the history and historiography of Islamic Central Asia – a region stretching from the Caspian Sea in the west to Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang) in the east – in the Post-Mongol era, with an emphasis on the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. My research examines Central Asia from within – not from the perspective of bordering empires, as it is usually accomplished – and most of my work requires a detailed study of unpublished manuscripts, primarily in Persian and Chaghatay Turkic, but also in a variety of other languages (Russian and different European languages, and for earlier periods also Arabic and occasionally, Judeo-Persian).  

My recent project, a book about “Heroic Apocrypha” in Central Asia, brings to light an unstudied eighteenth-century corpus of legendary biographies of one of the most formidable figures in the region’s history – Timur (Tamerlane). By portraying the particular circumstances under which these biographies came to life, and by addressing the many political and social changes that our manuscripts described and perhaps even induced, my research delineates Central Asia’s cultural and political boundaries in the early modern era, boundaries that presently witness an intriguing revival.

Research Interests

  • History and historiography of Islamic Central Asia, 16th-20th c.
  • Central Asia's Role in the History of the Muslim World
  • Apocryphal Traditions in Central Asia and the Middle East
  • Turkic and Iranian Identities in Central Asia

Courses Recently Taught

  • Central Asia in the 19th Century
  • International Studies Capstone Seminar
  • Introduction to Central Asian History
  • Sources for the Study of Central Asian History
  • Central Asia under Russian Rule
  • Ethnic History of Central Asia
  • Travelers & Explorers in Central Asia
  • Nations, States, and Boundaries

Publication Highlights


The Legendary Biographies of Tamerlane: Islam and Heroic Apocrypha in Central Asia. Cambridge University Press (April, 2011).

Islamic Central Asia: An Anthology of Historical Sources (Bloomington:  Indiana University Press, 2009).  With Scott C. Levi.


Ron Sela. “Rashîd al-Dîn’s Historiographical Legacy in the Muslim World.” In: Rashid al-Din. Agent and Mediator of Cultural Exchanges in Ilkhanid Iran, edited by A. Akasoy et al. (London: Warburg Institute, forthcoming).

Ritual and Authority in Central Asia: The Khan’s Inauguration Ceremony [Papers on     Inner Asia no. 37, 2003], 79pp.

“Invoking the Russian Conquest of Khiva and the Massacre of the Yomut Turkmens: The Choices of a Central Asian Historian.” In: Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques LX:2 (2006), pp. 459-477.

“The ‘Heavenly Stone’ (Kök Tash) of Samarqand: A Rebels’ Narrative Transformed.” In: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 17/1 (January 2007), pp. 21-32.