Critical engagements with contemporary Turkey and the Ottoman world

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Ottoman and Turkey Encounters at Stanford

OTES – Ottoman and Turkey Encounters @ Stanford – is an intellectual forum housing several series of events that foster critical engagements with contemporary Turkey and the Ottoman world, namely Southeast Europe, the Middle East and North Africa during the Ottoman centuries.

Taking the potential embedded in the word “encounter” seriously, OTES encourages the radical rethinking of the relationships between intellectual work, public engagement, and action in our encounters with scholars, writers, activists, and artists.

We particularly aim to cultivate new perspectives on diverse but interconnected experiences of peoples, practices, and environments in contemporary Turkey and the Ottoman world in the global context. Intending to change the tone and norms of studying Turkey and the Ottoman past, OTES provides platforms for Stanford faculty, researchers, students as well as invited speakers and presenters to share their research, writing and performances through outreach and public engagement.

Co-founders: Ali Yaycıoğlu and Denise Gill


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Scholars and affiliates


Denise Gill bio photo

Denise Gill

Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and of Islamic Studies, Music
Ph.D. University California, Santa Barbara

Denise Gill is an ethnomusicologist and sound studies scholar specializing in silence, sonic, and musical practices of western Turkey and former Ottoman territories. She is centrally concerned with developing new methodologies for critical listening. Gill is the author of Melancholic Modalities: Affect, Islam, and Turkish Classical Musicians (Oxford University Press, 2017), which received the Ruth Stone Book Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology. Her current book project, Aurality and the Craft of Deathwork, explores women’s labors in Gasılhane-s of Istanbul—institutions in which local Muslim practices for washing, reciting to, and shrouding the deceased are sponsored and monitored by the state. A trained gassâle herself, Gill’s ethnography ruminates on questions of sound, listening, and the literal posthuman. A third project in process is an autoethnography of deathwork and caring for deceased refugees on Turkey’s shores of the Mediterranean. Denise Gill is also a kanun musician of Ottoman art and Mevlevi music traditions. She has performed on radio and television programs and in concert halls in Turkey, throughout North America, and in multiple cities in Europe.

Ali Yaycioglu bio photo

Ali Yaycıoğlu

Associate Professor of History
Ph.D. Harvard University

Ali Yaycıoğlu is a historian of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. His research centers on economic, political and legal institutions and practices as well as social and cultural life in southeastern Europe and the Middle East during the Ottoman Empire. He also has a research agenda on how people imagined, represented and recorded property, territory, and nature in early periods. Furthermore, Yaycıoğlu explores how we can use digital tools to understand, visualize and conceptualize these imaginations, representations and recordings. Yaycıoğlu’s first book, Partners of the Empire: Crisis of the Ottoman Order in the Age of Revolutions (Stanford University Press, 2016) offers a rethinking of the Ottoman Empire within the global context of the revolutionary age in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Currently Dr. Yaycıoğlu is working on a book project entitled The Ultimate Debt: State, Wealth and Death in the Ottoman Empire, in which he analyzes transformations in property, finance and statehood in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Ali Yaycıoğlu is the supervisor of a digital history project, Mapping Ottoman Epirus housed in Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis.

Faculty and Researchers

Ayça Alemdaroǧlu

Ayça Alemdaroǧlu

Associate Director of the Program on Turkey, Freeman Spogli Institute

Ayça Alemdaroğlu is Associate Director of the Program on Turkey and a Research Scholar at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. A political sociologist, Dr. Alemdaroğlu focuses on social and political inequality and change in Turkey and the Middle East. Her recent work examines youth politics, and authoritarianism. In “Governing the youth in times of dissent: Essay competitions, politics of history and affective pedagogies” (forthcoming), she examines the politics of history and emotional tactics the Justice and Development Party (AKP) uses in its effort to control, administer and recruit youth. In “The AKP’s Problem with Youth”, Dr. Alemdaroğlu examines the significance of youth for the AKP and the politics of its tremendous expansion of religious education in Turkey. In an article co-authored with Sinan Erensü, "Dialectics of Reform and Repression: Unpacking Turkey's Authoritarian Turn," she analyzes the dynamics and dialectics of reform and repression in the last two decades.

Nora Barakat bio photo

Nora Barakat

Assistant Professor of of Middle Eastern History
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley

Nora Barakat is a historian of the late Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. Her scholarship addresses historical experiences of law and legal practice, property and space, and capital and economy-making in the Arabic-speaking Ottoman regions, as well as the Ottoman legacy in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean worlds. She is currently working on a book manuscript titled Bedouin Bureaucrats: Property, Law, and Nomads in Ottoman Syria, which examines late nineteenth century Ottoman modernization projects from the perspective of pastoral nomads. She is also working on a project on the history of credit relations and mortgage in the Ottoman Empire. She has published articles in The Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient and The Journal of Ottoman and Turkish Studies.

Anna Bigelow

Anna Bigelow

Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara

Anna Bigalow studies the devotional and material life of sacred sites shared by Muslims and non-Muslims, particularly in Turkey and India. In Turkey, her research sites include the Ayasofya/Hagia Sophia and the Panagia of Vefa Church in Istanbul and the House of Mary in Selçuk. Currently she is working a book project tentatively titled The Varieties of Secular Experience: Studies in India and Turkey, which is a comparative study of shared sacred sites in India and Turkey. This work interrogates the shifting nature of secularism as experienced, interpreted, and adjudicated through shared sacred spaces. Also in progress, she is editing a volume on Islamic Objects (under contract with Bloomsbury), which surveys everyday objects and how Muslims engage and use them.

Patricia Blessing bio photo

Patricia Blessing

Visiting Scholar at the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, Stanford University, Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at Princeton University
Ph.D., Princeton University

Patricia Blessing is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at Princeton University and Visiting Scholar at the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford.  Professor Blessing specializes in the art and architecture of the Islamic world, with a focus on the eastern Mediterranean and Iran from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. Her first book, Rebuilding Anatolia after the Mongol Conquest: Islamic Architecture in the Lands of Rūm, 1240–1330 (Ashgate, 2014; Turkish translation Koç University Press, 2018) investigates the relationship between patronage, politics, and architectural style after the integration of the region into the Mongol empire. Blessing is working on her second book, Malleable Monuments: The Material Politics of Ottoman Architecture in the Fifteenth Century, which studies how transregional exchange shaped building practices in the Ottoman Empire. Moving away from a narrative of Ottoman architecture that foregrounds the centralized workshops and imperial style of the sixteenth century, Blessing demonstrates how workers from Anatolia, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, Iran and Central Asia participated in Ottoman construction projects.

Saadet Ebru Ergul bio photo

Saadet Ebru Ergül

Lecturer in Turkish

Saadet Ebru Ergül has been teaching Turkish language and conversation courses at various levels for both graduate and undergraduate students at Stanford University Language Center since 2010. Her research interests include oral proficiency assessment in Turkish, teaching Turkish through interculturality and social justice, curriculum development, Turkish language frameworks, and national language standards.

Ian Hodder bio photo

Ian Hodder

Dunlevie Family Professor of Anthropology, Director of the Stanford Archaeology Center
Ph.D. University of Cambridge

Ian Hodder teaches and writes about archaeological method and theory. For 25 years, Professor Hodder has been excavating the Neolithic “town” of Çatalhöyük in central Turkey. The site was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2012 and is seen as important for understanding the early formation of settled life. His most recent books are Where are We Heading? The Evolution of Humans and Things  (Yale, 2018) and Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships Between Humans (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

Marie Huber

Marie Huber

Assistant Professor of Persian and Comparative Literature
Ph.D. Harvard University

Marie Huber’s research revolves around poetry and poetics, especially of the twentieth century; comparative literature; and mystical discourses and heterodoxies in the Islamic middle ages. While Iran lies at the heart of her work, the Turkish and Ottoman worlds keep exerting their gravitational pull. She has published translations of some modern Turkish poets and is fascinated by the continuation of Rumi’s intellectual heritage in the Mevlevi tradition. She is the author of Memories of an Impossible Future: Mehdi Akhavān Sāles and the Poetics of Time (Brill, 2016).

Kelda Jamison bio photo

Kelda Jamison

Fellowship Program Manager at the Stanford Humanities Center
Ph.D. University of Chicago

Kelda Jamison is a socio-cultural and linguistic anthropologist and has conducted long-term ethnographic fieldwork in the predominately Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. Dr. Jamison’s research examines how language ideologies and linguistic practices mediate the everyday productions of self- and group-making in Turkey. She is particularly interested in understanding the political economy of language use: how particular language varieties (Turkish, Kurdish) are deployed—in what contexts, to what purposes, and with what histories of association for their speakers and the communities they are understood to represent. 

Burcu Karahan bio photo

Burcu Karahan

Lecturer in Turkish Literature and Language, Department of Comparative Literature
Ph.D. Indiana University

Burcu Karahan specializes in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Ottoman Turkish literature. Her areas of interest include the novel, issues of translation, sexuality, the formation of masculine identities, and the Tanzimat. Karahan is currently working on the Second Constitutional Era erotic fiction and its relations to national and literary histories. Karahan teaches literature and culture courses in Ottoman and contemporary Turkish literature in translation and Turkish cinema as well as language courses on Ottoman Turkish, reading knowledge for Turkish, and translation.

Burçak Keskin-Kozat

Burçak Keskin-Kozat

Director of Finance and Operations, Department of History
Ph.D. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Trained as a political and historical sociologist, Dr. Burçak Keskin Kozat is interested in how power inequalities within and between communities shape—and are shaped by—processes of identity formation and institution-building. Her M.A. thesis at the University of Chicago explored how Turkey’s nationalist, Islamist, and feminist activists interacted with each other through the binarism of secular modernity and religious traditionalism, and thereby failed to challenge the predominant forms of discrimination within and beyond their particular communities. Her dissertation at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor focused on the limits of power and resistance in the context of foreign assistance programs and examined the conjunctural negotiation of power disparities in the case of the Marshall Plan in Turkey. Her research on religion, nationalism, modernization, and gender has appeared in academic journals and books.

Selma Koroglu bio photo

Selma Koroglu

Project Manager of the Mapping Ottoman Epirus Project at the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis

Selma Koroglu is a Geomatics Engineer with an M.A. in Political Science. She works as the manager of Mapping Ottoman Epirus Project (MapOE) and she specializes in mapping and geographic information systems (GIS). During her professional career in Turkey, she worked at various local government public projects. Her interests include digital humanities as well as spatially integrated social science and historical GIS. As the project manager of the MapOE, she coordinates the team members, graduate students, and interns. Her interests include digital humanities, spatially integrated social science and historical geographic information systems.

Pauline Lewis

Pauline Lewis

Interim Curator for Middle East Studies, Stanford University Libraries
Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles

Pauline Lewis is responsible for curating and managing Stanford Library’s rich collection of materials related to Turkish and Arabic speaking societies, including manuscripts and artifacts, political and cultural ephemera, as well as Stanford Library’s extensive holdings related to the Ottoman world. Her academic research focuses on the history of transnational technology in Ottoman and post-Ottoman societies. Her article “Telegraphs-in-use: Submarine Cables in the Ottoman Empire” has been submitted to History of Science and currently under review.

Bissera  Pentcheva

Bissera Pentcheva

Professor of Art History
Ph.D. Harvard University

Pentcheva's work on Hagia Sophia has re-shaped the study of architectral history by introducing acoustics, music, and digital technology. Her book Hagia Sophia: Sound Space and Spirit in Byzantium (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2017) won the 2018 American Academy of Religion Award in Historical Studies.  She is publishing a new edited volume, Icons of Sound: Voice, Architecture, and Imagination (Routledge, 2021) and her work has been featured on NPR, the New York Times, the national newspaper of Greece, Kathimerini (see here and here), and Asia House. For Pentcheva's work on Hagia Sophia and the interdisciplinary project "Icons of Sound" she co-directs, see here.

Aron Rodrigue bio photo

Aron Rodrigue

Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History, Burke Family Director of the Bing Overseas Studies Program at Stanford University
Ph.D. Harvard University

Aron Rodrigue’s research centers on the history and culture of Sephardic Jews in the Ottoman Empire, Balkans and Modern Turkey; Jews of Modern France; Ottoman History and Modern Turkey. His books include A Jewish Voice from Ottoman Salonica: The Ladino Memoir of Sa'adi Besalel a-Levi (edited and with an Introduction with Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Stanford University Press, 2012), with Esther Benbassa Sephardi Jewry: A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community, 14th-20th Centuries (University of California Press, 2000), Ottoman and Turkish Jewry: Community and Leadership (Indiana University Turkish Studies Series, 1992), and French Jews, Turkish Jews: The Alliance Israélite Universelle and the Politics of Jewish Schooling in Turkey, 1860-1925 (Indiana University Press, 1990).

Marie Saldaña

Marie Saldaña

Academic Technology Specialist, History Department and Center for Interdisciplinary Digital Research (CIDR)
Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles

Marie Saldaña is a historian of the built environment whose dissertation project focused on the city of Magnesia on the Maeander in western Turkey. She uses digital tools, such as maps and 3D models, to reconstruct historical built environments and investigate their social and environmental impacts. Saldaña's work takes a holistic approach that incorporates disciplines such as architecture, history, and archaeology. She is particularly interested in urban identity and the formation of frontier communities.


Kabir Tambar

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Ph.D. University of Chicago

Kabir Tambar is a sociocultural anthropologist working at the intersections of political anthropology and the anthropology of religion. He is broadly interested in the politics of history, performances of public criticism, and varieties of Islamic practice in Turkey. Tambar’s first book, The Reckoning of Pluralism: Political Belonging and the Demands of History in Turkey (Stanford University Press, 2014) is a study of the politics of pluralism in contemporary Turkey, focusing on the ways that Alevi religious history is staged for public display. More generally, the book investigates how secular states govern religious differences through practices of cultural and aesthetic regulation. Tambar is currently working on a new project that examines the politics and ethics of nonviolence in Turkey.

Serkan Yolacan bio photo

Serkan Yolaçan

Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Ph.D. Duke University

Serkan Yolaçan’s research straddles anthropology and history to examine how transregional networks of business, religion, and education act as conduits of political change in the Middle East and Asia. His book project, Time Travelers of Baku: Conversion and Revolution in West Asia, brings to light the role of the Caucasus and its erstwhile Azeri diaspora in connecting the modern histories of Iran, Turkey, and Russia. His recent publications include “Azeri Networks Through Thick and Thin: West Asian Politics from a Diasporic Eye,” published in Journal of Eurasian Studies.