Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) and Diyap Ağa
Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) and Diyap Ağa

Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] with Diyap Agha, one of the five parliament members representing Dersim. Diyap Agha was the leader of Feradan tribe, one of around fifty tribes in Dersim. Photo taken on March 22, 1921. In his Nutuk speech, Mustafa Kemal mentions conducting his trip from Erzurum to Sivas in 1919 under the threat of "Dersim Kurds." He contacted several tribal leaders, one of whom might have been Diyap Agha Source: Turkish Historical Society (Türk Tarih Kurumu) archives. EÖ. D:243 N:13.

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Background map illustrating "Armenia, Kurdistan and Upper Mesopotamia" by J.G. Taylor, 1865.
Background map illustrating "Armenia, Kurdistan and Upper Mesopotamia" by J.G. Taylor, 1865.

In 1865, British Consul General of Kurdistan, J.G. Taylor, traveled across Dersim through different routes and produced one of the earliest and most detailed topographic maps of the region. Geography played a significant role in shaping the history of the inhabitants of the region, which Taylor described in great detail.

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Mustafa Kemal Atatürk' adopted daughter war pilot Sabiha Gökçen bombing Dersim on May 4, 1937
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk' adopted daughter war pilot Sabiha Gökçen bombing Dersim on May 4, 1937

Sabiha Gökçen, who served in Dersim, is known as the world's first female war pilot. Atatürk rewarded her with a medal for her service in the operations. SourceŞ Dersım Oral Hıstory Project

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Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) and Diyap Ağa
Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) and Diyap Ağa

Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] with Diyap Agha, one of the five parliament members representing Dersim. Diyap Agha was the leader of Feradan tribe, one of around fifty tribes in Dersim. Photo taken on March 22, 1921. In his Nutuk speech, Mustafa Kemal mentions conducting his trip from Erzurum to Sivas in 1919 under the threat of "Dersim Kurds." He contacted several tribal leaders, one of whom might have been Diyap Agha Source: Turkish Historical Society (Türk Tarih Kurumu) archives. EÖ. D:243 N:13.

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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 current work deals with policies and processes of modern state making in the late-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Middle East. Whereas the dominant narrative in conventional historiography treats this conjuncture as a radical rupture with the past, my research demonstrates a historical continuity in state making that transcended regime changes in the region before, during, and after World War I.

In my PhD dissertation, I explored late Ottoman and early republican Turkish state making policies and practices through the peripheral and local context of Dersim, an Alevi (Kizilbash) Kurdish–majority region in Eastern Anatolia, and the reactions of Dersimis to such policies and practices imagined and designed at the state center.

in different historical periods: Hamidian (1876–1908), Young Turk (1908–1923), and Early Republican (1923–1938). I argued that the Turkish state’s violent transformation of Dersim in 1937–38 marked the completion of a process of state building and centralization that was set in motion in the early nineteenth century and that intensified in Dersim following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78. 

 

My research challenges existing periodizations and disciplinary boundaries, encourages rethinking the geographies and the transregional flows that shaped territorial spaces, and engages creatively with underrepresented subjects and themes. My work is primarily invested in historical methodology and archival research, but it also exhibits an interdisciplinary and comparative line of argumentation.

 

In the future, I intend to expand my current inquiry in Dersim into the histories of other people and places in different parts of the Greater Middle East, stretching from North Africa to Central Asia. I am particularly interested in exploring and comparing histories of such peoples as the Berbers, Kurds, and Baloch who are understudied in the existing scholarship. I believe that encouraging a rigorous inquiry into the histories of such groups and their diverse geographies crossing nation-state borders can inform and stimulate intellectual challenge, engagement, and exchange beyond the horizon of conventional historiography, thereby contributing to a better understanding of the regions they inhabit. 

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