I am a historian with a background in political science. I work on theories of state making, empire, and nationalism with thematic interests in colonialism, Islamic political thought, and environmental history within and across the Greater Middle East. My field of research and teaching is modern Middle Eastern/North African history, with a specialization in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century transformations from empires to nation-states and their impact on borderlands and peoples in the peripheries. My scholarship is primarily concerned with the conjunctures and contingencies that gave rise to modern state-making policies at the intersection of religion, ethnicity, and environment. In my current work around this topic, I combine a theoretical focus on the processes of state formation and nation building with in-depth knowledge of the histories of ethnic and religious minorities such as the Kurds, Alevis (historically known as Kizilbash), and Armenians, among others.
I started my academic career with an interest in global water politics with regional specifications in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. For my first master’s thesis, I explored the impact of the water policies of Turkey and China on the communities and the biodiversity respectively around the Euphrates and the Tigris as well as the Yangtze and the Yellow riverbeds. Working on this subject, I delved more deeply into the questions of environmental history, historiography, and minority politics. These inquiries formed the basis of my second master’s thesis, in which I discussed historiographical implications of the nation building practices around Turkey's large-scale irrigation program known as the Southeastern Anatolia Project. Building on these studies during my doctoral education, I continued to expand my theoretical perspective on religion, empire and nation-state and developed a historical perspective on the implementation of such theories in the context of the Greater Middle East. While working toward my PhD dissertation, I further narrowed my geographical focus and explored historical developments in Dersim (renamed Tunceli in 1935), an Alevi Kurdish–majority region with a rich and diverse natural environment in Eastern Anatolia, from the 1877–78 Russo-Turkish War to the Turkish state’s violent transformation of the region in 1937–38.
Due to its unusual geographic and demographic profile, Dersim toward the end of the nineteenth century became a domain where the Kurdish, Armenian, and Alevi questions came together and clashed with the project of Ottoman and Turkish state formation. These interwoven questions placed foundational limits on the late imperial and early republican state in the realms of ethnicity, religion, and geography, and turned Dersim into a battlefield for Turkish state making. This setting provided a fruitful environment to explore and trace the process of transformation from empire to nation-state as well as the similarities and differences between the two forms of governance.
In the future, I would like to expand my current inquiry in Dersim into the histories of other people and places in different parts of the Greater Middle East. This would not only enrich the scope of my current study but also allow me to develop a comparative framework reflecting the diverse ethnic, religious, political, and geographical landscape of the region.
2015 - 2021
Department of Near Eastern Studies, PhD
2012 - 2014
New York University
Department of Near Eastern Studies, MA
2010 - 2012
Brooklyn College, CUNY
Department of Political Science, MA
2001 - 2007
Department of Political Science and International Relations, BA