He received his PhD in 1985 at Indiana University, and since then has continued to do research on Central Asian Islam, particularly Sufism and its political and social dimensions. He has published major studies of Central Asian religion and history using Persian, Arabic and Turkic manuscript sources he has painstakingly accumulated from collections all over the world. Until 2008, he served as the Director of the Denis Sinor Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies at Indiana University. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003 and was named a Carnegie Scholar in 2006.
His work is widely acknowledged for its importance in Central Asian studies because his precise analysis of manuscript sources helps understand the motivations of the authors of these texts, and places them within the cultural contexts of the manuscript traditions. He is one of a small group of scholars, including Jürgen Paul, Adeeb Khalid, Robert D. McChesney, Jo-Ann Gross, Ashirbek Muminov, Maria Subtelny, Beatrice Forbes Manz, and Stéphane A. Dudoignon, who have worked seriously to debunk prevailing essentialist and ahistorical stereotypes about Sufism, Islam, and politics in the history of Central Asia. Like a very few Central Asian scholars before them, these experts work with equal facility on Arabic, Persian and Turkic, but have also developed working methods that understand concepts and practices of Islam and Islamic communities on the believers' own terms, rather than through biased and invariant concepts.
His most well-known work is Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tükles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition, published in 1994. Called "a truly groundbreaking work" and "an epic book" that has "opened up whole new vistas onto the religious landscape of the Mongol empire and post-Chingizid Inner Asia", the book examines a narrative of Uzbeg Khan's conversion to Islam in the 14th century. It also examines pre-Islamic religious life in Inner Asia, the use of narratives as foundational myths, and the role of Islam and conversion in identity formation. The work won the Albert Hourani Book Award in 1995, and has received praise from many scholars.
- Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tükles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition. Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994 Series "Hermeneutics: Studies in the History of Religions", 638 pp.
- "Khojagani Origins and the Critique of Sufism: The Rehtoric of Communal Uniqueness in the Manaqib of Khoja 'Ali 'Azizan Ramitani," in Islamic Mysticism Contested: Thirteen Centuries of Controversies and Polemics, ed. Frederick De Jong and Bernd Radtke (Leiden: E.J. Brell, 1999) 492-519.
- "The Masha'ikh-i Turk and the Khojagan: Rethinking the Links between the Yasavi and Naqshbandi Sufi Traditions," Journal of Islamic Studies (Oxford), 7/2 (July 1996), 180-207.
- "The Tadhkira-i Bughra-khan and the "Uvaysi" Sufis of Central Asia: Notes in Review of Imaginary Muslims," Central Asiatic Journal, 40 (1996), 87-127.
- "The Descendants of Sayyid Ata and the Rank of Naqib in Central Asia," Journal of the American Oriental Society, 115 (1995), 612-634.
- "Sacred Places and 'Public' Narratives: The Shrine of Ahmad Yasavi in Hagiographical Traditions of the Yasavi Sufi Order, 16th-17th Centuries," Muslim World, Fall 2000, Vol. 90, Issue 3/4
- "Baba Kamal and Jandi and the Kubravi Tradition among the Turks of Central Asia," Der Islam, 71 (1994), 58-94.
- Devin Deweese John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
- Carnegie Scholars program Carnegie Corporation of New York
- Devin Deweese. Islam and the Legacy of Sovietology: A Review Essay on Yaacov Ro'i's Islam in the Soviet Union Journal of Islamic Studies, Volume 13, Number 3, September 2002 , pp. 298-330
- Amitai-Preiss, Reuven (1997). "Review: Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tükles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition". International Journal of Middle East Studies. Cambridge University Press. 29 (2): 315–317. JSTOR 164043. doi:10.1017/s0020743800064734.
- Melville, Charles (1997). "Review: Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tükles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Cambridge University Press. 7 (1): 177–180. JSTOR 25183337. doi:10.1017/s1356186300008737.
- Karamustafa, Ahmet T. (1997). "Review: Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tükles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition". Journal of the American Oriental Society. American Oriental Society. 117 (3): 601–603. JSTOR 605282. doi:10.2307/605282.
- Feldman, Walter (1997). "Review: Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde: Baba Tükles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition by Devin Deweese". Slavic Review. The American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. 56 (2): 352–353. JSTOR 2500803. doi:10.2307/2500803.
- Devin DeWeese - Department of Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University