I. Postdoc Fellows

Dr. Gülşah Torunoğlu (torunoglu@oiist.org)

Gülşah Torunoğlu is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Orient-Institut Istanbul, specializing in comparative women’s history in the Middle East. She holds a PhD in History from the Ohio State University (2019), and she held visiting fellow positions from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the A

merican University in Cairo (AUC), and Princeton University. Prior to her appointment at the Orient-Institut, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Koç University Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED), and a research fellow at the Swedish Research Institute (SRII). Torunoğlu has offered a variety of courses at the Ohio State and Koç Universities including Women and Gender in Literature, Histo

ry of Modern Sexualities, History of the Modern Middle East, Islam, Politics and Society in History, and World History from 1500 to Present.

Torunoğlu’s research has been supported by awards and fellowships from several sources, including the Fulbright Fellowship and the Adıvar Fellowship in Ottoman and Turkish Studies as well as the Genevieve Brown Gist Dissertation Research Fellowship at the Ohio State University. At the Orient-Institut, she will be contributing to the expansion of the research field on autobiographical sources for the study of Turkish and Ottoman history by fostering research cooperation in Turkey and internationally on women and their autobiographical writings.

Her current book project, A Comparative History of Feminism in Egypt and Turkey, 1880-1935: Dialogue and Difference investigates the interaction between organized women’s movements in Turkey and Egypt, and their relation with global women’s activism during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Based on two years of archival research in Turkey, Egypt, and the United Kingdom, Torunoğlu’s project establishes a dialogue between Turkish and Egyptian feminisms, compares nationalist versus Islamic trends among them, and takes stock of their interactions with and resistances to western feminisms. By bringing the evolution of the feminist discourse in Egypt and the Ottoman Empire in conversation with the secular and religious reform traditions in both countries in a comparative perspective, her work seeks to encourage a broader and more in-depth understanding of feminism in the Middle East, stripped from the dominant, nationalist narrative of its evolution.

Research Interests:

History of the Late Ottoman Empire and the Modern Middle East

Comparative/Global Intellectual History of Feminism and Feminist Activism

Comparative Politics of Religion and Secularism

Institutionalization of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies in Turkey

Middle Eastern Literatures

History of Food and Drinking Culture in the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey

Current Research Projects

Gender and Autobiographical Sources on the History of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey

Monograph: A Comparative History of Feminism in Egypt and Turkey, 1880-1935: Dialogue and Difference


9.12.2020: “Mapping the Field: Historicizing Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in Turkey and the Near East,” Mapping Gender in the Near East: What’s New and What’s Ahead in Ottoman and Turkish Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Workshop, Orient-Institut Istanbul & Sabancı University, Gender and Womens Studies Center of Exellence, www.mappinggenderneareast.org.

4.11.2020: Diverging Geneologies and Conflicting Trajectories of Feminism in Egypt and Turkey from the Late Ottoman Empire into the 1930s, Orient-Institut Istanbul.

15.10.2020: Comparative Secular-Islamic Patterns in the Egyptian and Ottoman, later Turkish, Feminist Discourse, Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, SRII.

24.1.2020: Comparative Feminisms: Secular and Religious Discourses in the Egyptian and Turkish Women’s Movements, 1880-1930, Koç University, Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations, ANAMED.

16.11.2018: “Egyptian and Turkish Feminisms in Conversation, Collaboration, and Dialectic Interaction, 1878 – 1935,” Middle East Studies Association, MESA, Annual Meeting.

31.3.2018: “Turkey’s Role as a ‘Trail Blazer’ for the Egyptian Feminism, 1900-1930,” Great Lakes Ottomanist Workshop (GLOW), University of Chicago.

25.2.2017: “Feminism Next Door: Piecing Together Egyptian and Turkish Women’s Movements, 1880-1930,” Gender and Women’s Studies Conference, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

20.4.2014: “The Gender Turn: What Went Wrong?,” Writing Women’s Lives: Auto/Biography, Life Narratives, Myths and Historiography, International Symposium, Women’s Library and Information Center Foundation & Department of History, Yeditepe University İstanbul.

13.2.214: “Politicization of Violence: Nablus Riots, 1876,” European Convention on Turkic, Ottoman and Turkish Studies (Turkologentag 2014) of the Society for Turkic, Ottoman and Turkish Studies (GTOT), Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

5.3.2013: “Islamic and Secular Feminism in Turkey,” 28th Annual Middle East History and Theory Conference (MEHAT), University of Chicago.

5.1.2013: “The Historical Roots of Muslim Women’s Social and Political Activism during the Arab Spring,” American Historical Association (AHA) annual meeting, New Orleans.

24.12.2012: Comparative Feminism(s): Secular and Religious Discourses in Turkish and Egyptian Women’s Movements, Gender and Women’s Studies Research and Application Center (EKOKAM) Izmir University of Economics.

3.3.2012: “Honor Killings in Turkey,” 13th. Annual Graduate Symposium on Women’s & Gender History: Indecency, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.



“Comparative and Integration History in Ottoman and Turkish Women’s and Gender Studies,” in Roundtable “Gendered Transnationalisms in the Middle East & North Africa” Journal of Middle Eastern Women’s Studies (JMEWS) 17:3, April 2021, forthcoming.

“Bir Çalıştayın Güncesi: Mapping Gender in the Near East,” Toplumsal Tarih, forthcoming.

“Fostering Intellectual Solidarity and Cooperation during the Pandemic,” Kalabalık, Bulletin, Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (SRII), forthcoming.

“Feminism in Egypt: New Alliances, Old Debates,” Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, Vol. 9, Issue 11, August, 2016. http://origins.osu.edu/article/feminism-egypt-new-alliances-old-debates

Other publications

Dossier: “The Past, Present and Future of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies in Turkey,” (Includes ten interviews) K24, Kitap-Kültür-Kritik, February, 2021, forthcoming.

“Mapping Gender in the Near East: Fortuities of an Online Search and the Complexities of Ottoman Feminism,” Orient-Institut Istanbul, Blog, 4.12.2020. https://www.oiist.org/en/fortuities-of-an-online-search-and-the-complexities-of-ottoman-feminism/

Interview with Prof. Alev Özkazanç: “Bir Musibet: Yeni Türkiye’de Erillik, Şiddet ve Feminist Siyaset,” http://kiraathane.com.tr/sezon-programi/2020-12-23-bir-musibet-yeni-turkiye-de-erillik-siddet-ve-feminist-siyaset- Kıraathane Istanbul Literature House, 23.12.2020.

“Peyniri Deri Korur, Kadını Eri”: İstanbul Sözleşmesi Üzerinde Mutabakat Eksikliği,” K24, Kitap-Kültür-Kritik, 6.8.2020. https://t24.com.tr/k24/yazi/peyniri-deri-korur-kadini-eri-gunahiyla-sevabiyla-istanbul-sozlesmesi,2795

“Feminizm 101: ‘Çünkü Feminizm Herkes İçindir’,” K24, Kitap-Kültür-Kritik, 27.8.2020. https://t24.com.tr/k24/yazi/feminizm-101-feminizm-herkes-icindir,2820

II. Doctoral Scholarship

Sebastian Willert (Technische Universität Berlin)
Cultural Imperialism versus Protectionism? On the Role of Antiquities as a matter of conflict within the German-Ottoman Art Policy between 1890 and 1918

Extraction du Grand Sarcophage (no 7): Osman Hamdi Bey/Theodor Reinach: Une nécropole royale à Sidon. Fouilles de Hamdy Bey, Paris 1892, p. 60

On November 15, 1899, the German and Ottoman Empires concluded through an exchange of notes between the German Embassy and the Ottoman Foreign Ministry in Istanbul a treaty that was binding under international law. According to the Berlin museum representatives who initiated the agreement, it was intended to secure for the Royal Museums the export of ancient objects retrieved from archaeological excavations in the Ottoman Empire. However, the Müze-i Hümayun (Imperial Museum) did not accept the agreement and pursued various strategies to prevent it from being implemented. The dispute between German and Ottoman scholars dominated German-Ottoman cultural politics and culminated in interventions by Wilhelm II and Sultan Abdülhamid II.

Against the backdrop of divergent perceptions of the existence of the treaty and a growing rivalry over the possession of prestigious antiquities that became increasingly apparent in the 19th century, the dissertation project analyzes the role ancient objects played in German-Ottoman relations. To what extent did the export of objects and the related negotiations as well as the valorization of cultural property affect diplomatic relations? What strategies and methods did actors pursue to bring ancient objects and cultural property from the Ottoman Empire to Berlin? The focus is on the German and Ottoman actors, their discourses on the granting of excavation permits and the division of finds, the Ottoman Laws on Antiquities, and the bilateral tensions generating cultural objects and excavations themselves.

III. Visiting Researchers

Jilian Ma (Koç University, Istanbul)
Ottoman/Turkish-China intellectual engagements from 1908 to 1939

Two photos of Chinese people from an Ottoman textbook, Resimli Haritalı Coğrafya-ı Umumi (Üçüncü Sene) (Istanbul: İbrahim Hilmi Askeri Kütüphanesi, 1911), 125.

This dissertation project attempts to trace Ottoman/Turkish – Chinese intellectual engagements in the early twentieth century, when both countries were searching for solutions to similar crises of internal decay and external encroachment. During this period, the empires fell and nation-states rose with the Young Turk Revolution (1908-1909), the Turkish War of Independence (1919- 1923) and socio-economic reforms in Turkey and the Xinhai Revolution (1911), the Nationalist Revolution (1924-1927), and the Agrarian Revolutionary War (1927-1937) in China. This period also witnessed the Ottoman attempts to appoint an ambassador to Beijing (1908, 1909) and the signing of the Sino-Turkish Friendship Pact in 1934. The paths Turkey and China were forced into in the contemporary era started to take shape in this period, and the thoughts and ideas produced still resonate today.  Based on analyzing both Ottoman and Chinese archival documents, articles in newspapers, several main politicians and intellectuals’ travel accounts and memoirs, it will explore how these two distant societies knew each other, how they imaged and perceived each other in relation to political problems of nation/state-building and religious connections, how the interaction shaped their knowledge of each other, and some third parties’ impacts on these two countries’ encounters. By shifting the perspective away from the Western “sick man of Europe” and “sick man of Asia” discourse to how these two countries actually perceived each other and interacted, it endeavors to shed light on two major non-western powers’ intellectual engagement and mutual responses to the challenges they faced.

Jilian Ma has been a PhD student in the Department of History at Koç University in Istanbul since 2019 after having studied in the MSc program in Middle East Studies at Middle East Technical University, Ankara. She holds an MA degree in Chinese Studies from the National University of Singapore and a BA degree in Chinese Language and Literature from the Bejing Language and Culture University. Ms Ma is currently a visiting scholar in the Orient-Institut Istanbul’s research field “Self-Narratives as Sources for the History of the Late Ottoman Empire.”