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Rachel Mairs

  • +44 (0) 118 378 7943
  • Professor of Classics and Middle Eastern Studies
Research Division Leader

Building location

Edith Morley

Areas of interest

Multilingualism, ethnicity, cultural interaction, papyrology, epigraphy, central Asia, Hellenistic Egypt, Bactria and India, nineteenth-century Middle East.

I'm interested in the interaction between Greeks and "non-Greeks" in the Hellenistic world, with a particular emphasis on Egypt and on Central Asia. My PhD (Cambridge, 2006) was on ethnic identity in the "Hellenistic Far East" (Bactria-Sogdiana, Arachosia and India). My publications on the region include The Archaeology of the Hellenistic Far East: A Survey (2011), The Hellenistic Far East: Archaeology, Language and Identity in Greek Central Asia (2014) and The Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek World (2020). I am one of the organisers of the Hellenistic Central Asia Research Network (HCARN).

I also work on ancient multilingualism, especially Greek-Egyptian. I have worked on collaborative research projects dealing with papyrological and epigraphic material, such as the AHRC-funded Corpus of Ptolemaic Inscriptions. With colleagues in Egypt and Canada, I run the blog Everyday Orientalism, which works to highlight the legacies of colonialism in papyrology and classics.

The modern Middle East interests me as much as the ancient Middle East. A chance find on eBay led me to publish the private papers of a nineteenth-century Palestinian tourist guide (The Dragoman Solomon Negima and his Clients, 2016). With a colleague, Maya Muratov at Adelphi University in the United States, I published a book on the interpreters and guides used by early British and American travellers in the Middle East (Archaeologists, Tourists, Interpreters, 2015). My book on Europeans studying Arabic in the Nineteenth Century Arabic Dialogues: Phrasebooks and the Learning of Colloquial Arabic, 1798-1945 is published Open Access with UCL Press (2024).

Research centres and groups

Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (Steering Committee)


Before coming to Reading, I worked at Brown University, the University of Oxford and New York University. My PhD was from the University of Cambridge.


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