Years of experience in academia have given me skills in research and writing, but also an interest in bringing disparate communities together. These skills in organizing groups to engage cooperatively are transferable to administrative responsibilities. Specifically, during seven graduate years at Columbia University, I co-founded three graduate student groups. The first, the Organization for the Advancement of the Study of Inner Eurasian Societies (OASIES), was based on the notion that a large swath of Inner Eurasia was understudied within the university at large. We hosted graduate student conferences, brown bag seminars, film series and guest lectures on communities that were under- represented in the study of the world. A second group that I co-founded focused on the Kurdish Community -- often left out of mainstream histories of the Middle East. A third group, History Across Borders, was a workshop where students studying diverse parts of the world could examine how ideas, people and goods move across space and time.
As I completed my dissertation, I taught world history at Pratt Institute in New York City. Most of my students were International ESL students. Building on my teaching experience, I met and co-planned discussions of neglected histories in World History from the histories of the Mongols to the Haitian Revolution.
Two years ago, I was a visiting lecturer at Cornell University where I taught a course on women in the Modern Middle East. The class examined the historical development of gendered identities and the fluid manner in which different Middle Eastern communities responded to shifting ideas of sexuality, reproduction, and the family during the long 19th century. As a scholar of African-American and Filipino descent, I have long been sensitive to the histories of marginalized and effaced communities, but I had never taught (nor taken) a class on the history of women. I decided that instead of simply teaching the students, I would ask the fourteen students (all women) to become teachers alongside me. My goal was to invert the usual top-down hierarchy of information dissemination (the lecture class) and instead work with every student in the class as a co-teacher.
For two years I was a preceptor for Columbia's Great Books program. That program was highly competitive and based on my high marks as teaching assistant for the history department. For four hours a week, the students and I discussed works of political or ethical significance. Each semester we covered an enormous range of time and place, discussing work as varied as Plato's Republic, the Qur'an and Du Bois' Souls of Black Folk. The class was based both on discussion of these texts and weekly essay assignments. Every week, one or two students were responsible for developing questions and leading the class conversation. I met with all of the students to discuss how they would conduct the discussion and the questions they would raise. My own role was more to facilitate the conversation than to lecture. This class arrangement gave me a chance to become more familiar with the student's academic work.
During my academic studies of Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Ottoman in Turkey, I worked for a while as a full time teacher of English in the burgeoning city of Gaziantep, near the border with Syria. My third grade students were predominantly Kurdish, a minority community whose history has some parallels (institutional racism, structural underdevelopment) with communities of color in the United States. There I learned that teaching is to a large extent a series of conversations.
Dissertation Title “Sasun 1894 Mountains, Missionaries and Massacres at the End of the Ottoman Empire"
Chair Richard Bulliet
Recently, there has been a shift in thinking about the Ottoman Empire among many scholars. Part of this stems from a long trend to place Ottoman history within world history. Rather than considering the Ottoman Empire as unique and sui generis, connected and comparative approaches have linked the Ottoman Empire to the broader ages of exploration, empire and colonialism. Another part of this shift comes from a growing consensus that Ottoman history has been fixated for too long on reproducing the vantage points of a tiny bureaucratic-military elite, often accepting documents from the Ottoman archive as prima facie evidence. Recent Ottoman scholars have shifted the historical camera. They are increasingly exploring the histories of marginalized communities and engaging in dialogue with the hitherto segregated scholarships of Ottoman Armenians, Assyrians, Jews, Kurds, and Greeks. My book project, entitled The Massacre in the Sasun Mountains (1894) Memories of Violence at the Ends of Empire, brings together these two currents – global history and history from below -- to tell the story of a local series of events in global terms. In my book, the local history of the Sasun mountains is analogized to global histories of racism, protest movements, genocide, missionaries, prisons, and the history of upland areas in the Ottoman Empire and around the world. At the heart of this work is a detailed analysis of the Sasun violence of 1893-1894. I used a variety of sources consular reports (British, American, French, Russian, Italian); missionary material from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM); and Ottoman archival documents. My dissertation examines how different accounts of the violence were disseminated and censored in the years following the violence of 1894. In order to understand the larger breakdown of communal relations, leading to the massacres of Sasun, we need to understand the efforts of the Ottoman State to maintain a monopoly of both legitimate violence and narrative. While my research has focused on Ottoman history, I see my work as addressing the broader transformations of state and society that occurred throughout the modern world.
Studied the depiction of race in US textbooks between 1870 and 1930 with the sociologists Aaron Gullickson and Ann Morning.
Magna cum laude
Thesis “Camus' Algeria Identities, Ambiguities and Imagined Communities"
My parents, public school teachers with seventy years of combined teaching experience, reared their children to believe that teaching was a means to change the world. Their philosophy, which I have adopted as my own, is that the essence of learning is to question one's own presuppositions.
One of the exercises that I have found useful in encouraging students to grapple with texts from a different perspective has been to ask them to take on the mantle of a particular writer, and in prose or in class, embody their ideas and arguments about the world. I first developed this technique while serving as a TA for Rashid Khalidi's History of the Modern Middle East. When discussing the advent of Israel in 1948, I asked the students to randomly select a historical actor from a list of stock characters that I had chosen (survivor of the Holocaust, Palestinian peasant, etc.). Then over the course of several weeks of class time the students developed their own interpretation on how this actor would perceive this transformative moment in the history of the modern Middle East. By coupling research and interpretation, this exercise allowed students to imaginatively gain another perspective and thereby question their own assumptions.
I have lived and studied in three countries (Germany, Spain and Turkey) and visited a couple dozen more. I speak Spanish and Turkish and can read Persian, German, French, Italian and Ottoman Turkish. I have some knowledge of Arabic and Western Armenian.
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