Benjamin Gatling

Benjamin Gatling

Benjamin Gatling

Interim Director

Associate Professor

narrative, performance, the ethnography of communication, Persianate oral traditions, Islam, Central Asia and the Middle East

Benjamin Gatling is a folklorist, Associate Professor in the English Department, and Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program (MAIS). He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from The Ohio State University and a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to coming to Mason, he was a Lecturing Fellow in the Thompson Writing Program at Duke University. His research interests include oral narrative, performance, the ethnography of communication, Persianate oral traditions, and Islam in Central Asia. His first book, Expressions of Sufi Culture in Tajikistan, was published with the University of Wisconsin Press in 2018. His current research considers the experiences of Afghan refugees and migrants in the U.S. His research has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, IREX, and Fulbright-Hays, among others. He serves as the editor of Folklorica: the Journal of the Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Folklore Association and the associate editor of the Journal of American Folklore.

Selected Publications

2022. “The Authority of Saintly Narrative: Stories about Abuhanifa in Tajikistan.” In Muslim Religious Authority in Central Eurasia, eds. Ron Sela, Paolo Sartori, and Devin DeWeese, Leiden: Brill, 99-119.

2022. “Central Asia as Story,” in Central Asia: Contexts for Understanding, ed. David W. Montgomery, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 52-64.

2022. “Afghan Refugees’ Iconic Narratives,” Narrative Culture 9(1), 176-196.

2021. with Sarah M. Gordon, “Creating from the Margins: Precarity and the Study of Folklore.” Special issue, Journal of Folklore Research 58(3).

2021. “’How can you trust a country?’: Precarity, Personal Narrative, and Occupational Folklore among Afghan Refugees in the U.S.,” Journal of Folklore Research 58(3), 53-75.

2020. “There Isn’t Belief, Just Believing: Rethinking Belief as a Keyword of Folklore Studies,” Journal of American Folklore 133(529), 307-328.

2018. Expressions of Sufi Culture in Tajikistan, University of Wisconsin Press.

Expanded Publication List

2022. “Prisutstvie v otsutstvie: sufiiskie gruppy i ekspressivnoe blagochestie,” In Sufizm posle CCCR, eds. I. Pankov and S. Abashin, Moskva: Mardzhani, 52-69. 

2019. “Sufis, Shrines, and the State in Tajikistan,” in “Forum: Sacred Geographies in the Eurasian Space,” eds. Jesko Schmoller and Lili Di Puppo, Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics 13(2), 155-161.

2019. “Islam and Cultural Heritage on Tajik Television,” Central Asian Affairs 6(2), 113-132.

2016. “Historical Narrative, Intertextuality, and Cultural Continuity in Post-Soviet Tajikistan,” Journal of Folklore Research 53(1), 41-65.

2015.  “Abdulhaĭ Mujaxarfī and the Contemporary Reception of Tajik Oral Poetry.” In Iranian Languages and Literatures of Central Asia: From the 18th Century to the Present, eds. Matteo De Chiara and Evelin Grassi, Paris: Association pour l’Avancement des Études Iraniennes (Cahiers de Studia Iranica, 57), 207-231.

2013. “The Guide after Rumi: tradition and its foil in Tajik Sufism,” Nova Religio 17(1), 1-23.

2013. “Tradition, Stigma, and Inclusion: overcoming obstacles to educational access in Tajikistan.” In Learning to See Invisible Children: inclusion of children with disabilities in Central Asia, eds. Martyn Rouse and Kate Lapham, Central European University Press, 21-34.  

2013. “Traditsiya, stigma i inklyuziya: preodolenie prepyatstviy k polucheniyu obrazovaniya v Tadzhikistane,” in Journal of Social Policy Studies, 11(4), 457-470.

2010. “Negotiations in Performance,” Folklore Forum 40(1).

Courses Taught

ENGH 315 Introduction to Folklore and Folklife

ENGH 412/590 Personal Experience Narrative 

ENGH 412/591 Folklore in the Middle East and Central Asia 

ENGH 414/591 Folklore and the Supernatural

ENGH 484 Writing Ethnography

ENGH 591 The Ethnography of Communication

FOLK 501/ENGH 591 Advanced Introduction to Folklore and Folklife

FOLK 601/ENGH 681 Folklore History and Theory

HNRS 360 Contemporary Central Asia

MAIS 696 Proseminar


Ph.D. The Ohio State University

M.A. The Ohio State University

B.A. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill