Heather Sharkey

Heather Sharkey

Professor, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations

History of the Middle East and North Africa


Heather J. Sharkey is Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) at the University of Pennsylvania.

She received her Ph.D. in History from Princeton University after conducting research abroad on a Fulbright-Hays fellowship. As the recipient of a Marshall scholarship from the British government, she earned an M.Phil. degree in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Durham in England.  She also earned a B.A. in Anthropology, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Yale University.  Before joining the Penn faculty in 2002, she taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Trinity College in Connecticut.

In 2011 she won the Charles Ludwig Distinguished Teaching Award from the School of Arts and Sciences of the University of Pennsylvania.  In 2012-2013 she was a Visiting Professor in Paris at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in the Institut d’Études de l’Islam et des Sociétés du Monde Musulman (IISMM).

Research Interests

Heather J. Sharkey’s first book, entitled Living with Colonialism: Nationalism and Culture in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, appeared from the University of California Press in 2003. Her second book, entitled American Evangelicals in Egypt: Missionary Encounters in an Age of Empire, appeared from Princeton University Press in 2008.  The Carnegie Corporation, the American Philosophical Society, and the University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation supported the latter project.  With Mehmet Ali Doğan, she co-edited a volume entitled, American Missionaries and the Middle East: Foundational Encounters (University of Utah Press, 2011).   She is the editor of Cultural Conversions: Unexpected Consequences of Christian Missions in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (Syracuse University Press, 2013). Dr. Sharkey’s most recent book is A History of Muslims, Christians and Jews in the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Dr. Sharkey has contributed to many edited volumes, including The Oxford Handbook of Modern African History (2013), Just Wars, Holy Wars and Jihads (2012), Introducing World Christianity (2012), Proselytization Revisited: Rights, Free Markets, and Culture Wars (2008), and Muslim-Christian Encounters in Africa (2006).  She has published in periodicals such as the International Journal of Middle East Studies, the Journal of African History, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, and African Affairs.  She is on advisory boards for The International Journal of African Historical StudiesChurch History and Religious CultureIslamic AfricaNortheast African StudiesSocial Sciences and Missions, and the Journal of Presbyterian History.