Benjamin Gatling

Benjamin Gatling

Benjamin Gatling

Associate Professor

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

Benjamin Gatling is a folklorist specializing in the expressive culture of Central Asia and the Middle East. Prior to coming to Mason, he held a postdoctoral fellowship in the Thompson Writing Program at Duke University, where he was a core faculty member of the Duke Islamic Studies Center. His first book, Expressions of Sufi Culture in Tajikistan, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2018. His research interests include narrative, performance, the ethnography of communication, Persianate oral traditions, and Islam in Central Asia. His current research considers the experiences of Afghan migrants and refugees in the U.S. He serves as associate editor of the Journal of American Folklore and lead list editor of H-Folk, H-Net's network for folklore and ethnology.

Selected Publications

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

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.

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

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


Expanded Publication List

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

ENGH 591 Graduate Introduction to Folklore and Folklife

HNRS 360 Contemporary Central Asia


Ph.D. The Ohio State University

M.A. The Ohio State University

B.A. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill