Kristof D'hulster

Colleges, School and Institutes


Kristof D’hulster studied “Eastern Languages and Cultures” (Arabic & Hindi) and “Arabic and Islamic Studies” (Arabic, Persian & Turkish) at the universities of Ghent and Leuven. Following a master dissertation on 19th-century Belgian-Persian relations (“The sojourn of Nasir ed-Din Shah Qajar in Belgium in 1873: Faits Divers or Milestone in Persian-Belgian relations?”), in 2010 he defended his PhD on Turkic socio- and contact-linguistics, (“Writing Norms, Code Interferences and Textual Dynamics. A Study of 18th- and 19th-Century Chaghatay Texts”), in which he developed the DCS (Diglossic Code-Switching) model for processing Post-Classical Chaghatay texts. From 2010 to 2014, he worked as a postdoctoral research fellow on an ERC-funded project that was supervised by Jo Van Steenbergen (“Mamlukisation of the Mamluk Sultanate. Political Traditions and State Formation in 15th-Century Egypt and Syria”). From 2014 to 2019, he was a research fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO), with an independent research project (“Turkic and Circassian between Ethnonym and Socionym. The Linguistic and Ethnic Dimensions to Mamluk Identity as a Discursive Construct”).

From March 1 2020 onwards, he started working as a postdoctoral research fellow and translator at the University of Birmingham, responsible for the Turkic section of GlobalLit (“Global Literary Theory: Caucasus Literatures Compared”), an ERC-funded project that is supervised by Rebecca Gould.

D’hulster was a guest professor at the KU Leuven and the UGent, teaching BA and MA courses (2009-2010, 2014-2015), and has (co-)organized several international conferences and conference panels. Next to articles and book chapters on a variety of topics, he has co-edited five volumes of the proceedings of the Colloquia on the “History of Egypt and Syria in the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk Eras” (CHESFAME, KU Leuven & UGent) and a Festschrift. His first monograph, Browsing through the Sultan’s Bookshelves. Towards a Reconstruction of the Library of the Mamluk Sultan Qāniṣawh al-Ghawrī (r. 906-922/1501-1516), is accepted for publication by Bonn University Press.

Research interests

I engage with the social, political and cultural history of the pre-modern Islamic world, exploring processes of exchange, interaction and connectivity between the Turkic, Persian and Arab world.

On the one hand, this engagement has resulted in a research track that is as diverse as its generic description suggests. In a way, it has brought me from the Kazakh steppes to the Cairo Citadel, and from Post-Classical Chaghatay pilgrimage narratives to Classical Arabic muwashaḥ poetry. As such, my research is eclectic in terms of the problématiques it addresses, and equally straddles the most diverse institutional partitions: areal (Middle East – Central Asia), temporal (medieval –modern), linguistic (Arabic – Persian – Turkic) and disciplinary (history – literary studies – linguistics).

At the same time, however, my research track is held together by some common threads. First, I like to think of myself first and foremost as a historian who draws on a variety of disciplines, such as linguistics, literary studies or sociology, in order to answer historically informed questions, and not the other way around. Second, rather than being mistaken for lack of focus, this interdisciplinarity should be understood as a most conscious critique of ill founded institutionalized partitions that often blind instead of elucidate. Finally, what has remained an important focal point throughout the years is the meaning of “Turkic” within the Islamic world, especially within its Arabic and its Persian spheres (i.e., not within its Turkic sphere sensu stricto).

What I am currently engaged in first and foremost are the fields of Mamluk-Turkic studies and of Turko-Islamic rhetoric (belāǧat).