History, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the Oriental Institute, and the College
Director, Chicago Initiative for Global Late Antiquity
On Research Leave, Autumn 2018
PhD 2009 (history) Princeton University
University of Chicago
Social Science Research Building, box 82
1126 E. 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
Persian and Islamic history, the Sasanian Empire, late antiquity
—Awards for A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity (California, 2015):
- World Award for Book of the Year, Islamic Republic of Iran
- Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History, American Philosophical Society
- Ehsan Yarshater Prize, International Society for Iranian Studies
- Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion, American Academy of Religion
—Named a Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in 2013.
A historian of the Iranian world in late antiquity, ca. 200–800 CE, Payne's research focuses primarily on the dynamics of Iranian imperialism, specifically how the Iranian (or Sasanian) Empire successfully integrated socially, culturally, and geographically disparate populations from Arabia to Afghanistan into enduring political networks and institutions.
His recent book, A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity, explores the problem of religious diversity within the empire, showing how Syriac-writing Christians could create a place for themselves in a political culture not of their own making. He is currently at work on the role of Zoroastrian religious institutions and the intersection of ideological and material dimensions in Iranian history.