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Historian Quataert promoted to distinguished rank

Donald Quataert, professor of history, has been promoted to the rank of distinguished professor by the SUNY Board of Trustees.

Quataert, who joined the faculty at Binghamton University in 1987, has established an international reputation as a scholar of Ottoman economic, labor and social history through his pioneering archival research. His ability to search out new kinds of research materials has set the standard for other researchers.

Granted only by the SUNY trustees, the distinguished professorship is the highest academic rank possible, conferred upon individuals who have achieved national or international prominence within their chosen fields.

Quataert’s work has “led to fundamental changes that formed the basis for an entire field of international scholarship” noted President Lois B. DeFleur in her nomination letter. “... he shifted the focus of historians from the state and state elites to the peasantry and workers ... and he set a new and significantly higher standard of scholarship in the field more generally by uncovering heretofore unexamined or unused data that he carefully translated, analyzed and synthesized.”

Quataert’s research has focused on “those who aren’t written about or talked about — workers, peasants, groups who are often left out of the historical record,” he said.

Quataert earned his PhD from the University of California at Los Angeles and
has authored seven books, co-edited or edited another 10 and published more than 40 articles. His co-authored book, An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1914, has been translated into three languages and is a standard reference for the field. His textbook on Ottoman history has been adopted widely around the globe and translated into Turkish, Greek, Portuguese, Korean, Arabic and Italian.

Quataert sees his promotion to distinguished professor as an affirmation of his work and a statement from SUNY “that the study of workers and peasants is also important — not just of leaders, but of everyday people.”

He believes that his research methods can also be used to study other areas of history.

“That’s why this is important,” he said. “It gives people a voice that didn’t have one, a visibility that they didn’t have and I’m very proud of that.”

Quataert is working on a number of research projects — one a history of everyday life in the late Ottoman Empire.

“It’s really an attempt to take some of the broad knowledge I’ve created and combine it with some research to write a history of everyday people that is accessible to a general audience,” he said. “I’m very excited about this because there is this wonderful set of documents that will allow me to pull this information out and try to bring these people to life in the cover of a single book.”

He hopes to demonstrate that the lives of workers and peasants in the Middle East have much in common with the lives of people of similar groups in other parts of the world.

Another important aspect of his work, Quataert said, is to show how Ottoman Christians, Muslims and Jews worked together in common environments and that very often in the workplace their worker identities were more important that their religious identities.

“These people need to be understood as textile workers, coal miners, wheat growers and not as Christians, Muslims or Jews,” he said. “To talk about them as workers/people and not dwell on the religion, and to show that the intercommunal nature of so much of Ottoman life really speaks to many of the problems of the contemporary age.”

Quataert was instrumental in helping to create greater cooperation between Binghamton and several Turkish universities and has continued to assist the strengthening of these connections and the dual-degree program through his knowledge of the Turkish academic scene and his personal contacts at Turkish universities.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08