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Emrah Yıldız

Emrah Yıldız is Crown Junior Chair in Middle East Studies and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at emrah yildizNorthwestern University. He is a historically attuned cultural anthropologist, studying routes of religious, commercial and political mobility between Iran, Turkey and Syria. His research lies at the intersection of historiography and ethnography of borders and their states; anthropology of pilgrimage and visitation in Islam as well as the study of currencies and contraband commerce in political economy.  

His first book project, The Traffic in Iranian Pilgrims: Religion, Economy and Territory across Borders, synthesizes these areas of scholarship to chronicle the pathways of a ziyarat (visitation) route. Often referred to as Hajj-e Fuqara’ (pilgrimage of the poor) in Iran, this route has shuttled Iranian pilgrims as well as contraband goods such as oil, sugar and tobacco, among bus stations in Iran, informal bazaars in Turkey, and the Sayyida Zaynab shrine in Syria. Yıldız’s dissertation that serves as the basis for the book received the 2017 Malcolm H. Kerr Award in the Social Sciences from the Middle East Studies Association. The book manuscript in progress has been recognized as an Atelier 2019 finalist by the University of California Press. Yıldız is also interested in studies of gender and sexuality in the Middle East and is currently at work on a second project that examines the journeys of LGBT and queer Iranian asylum-seekers through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Turkey. 

Yıldız holds a PhD in Social Anthropology and Middle East Studies from Harvard University. A former DAAD Research Fellow at Institut für Europäische Ethnologie—Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, he received his BA (Anthropology & German Studies) and his MA (Cultural Anthropology) from Wesleyan University. He has been a visiting researcher at Boğaziçi and New York Universities, and completed a short-term residency with marra.tein—Beirut, Lebanon. The Wenner-Gren Foundation, Die Zeit Stiftung Bucerius Fellowship in Migration Studies, Cora Du Bois Charitable Trust, Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies and Northwestern’s Buffett Institute for Global Studies have supported his research and writing. A founding and former co-editor of Jadaliyya’s Turkey Page, Yıldız co-edited (with Anthony Alessandrini and Nazan Üstündag) the collection Resistance Everywhere:” The Gezi Protests and Dissident Visions of Turkey (2014). His recent academic publications and short-form writings could be found here.

Since his arrival at Northwestern in 2016, Yıldız has taught across anthropology, Middle East and North African Studies, Religious Studies and Gender & Sexuality Studies. He has also held fellowships with the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. 

Recent courses taught 

Traveling while Muslim: Islam, Mobility and Security after 9/11

Interpreting Iran: Revolution, Reform, and Revolt

Paper Mobilities, Mobile Papers: Passports, Visas, and Cash in the Global Ecumene

Producing Territory: People, Commodities and Values on the Move

Porous Borders? Geography, Power and Techniques of Movement

Locating the Middle East: Space, Power and Mobility in the Making of a Region

Migrant Sexualities, Queer Travelers: Trans-locations

Breaking the Law in the Middle East: The Illicit 

Shady Business: Informal Economies in Contemporary Capitalism