​Prof. Dr. Hande Birkalan-Gedik

Dr. Hande Birkalan-Gedik

Research Fellow

Project: Traveling Theories: Die Geschichte der Anthropologie in der Türkei (1850 - 1950)

Prof. Dr. Hande Birkalan-Gedik's research interests are cultural anthropology, folklore studies and gender studies. Following her studies at Bogaziçi Unviersity Istanbul, she completed an M.A./Ph.D. program at Indiana University Bloomington in the USA at the Folklore Institute and Department of Anthropology. She teaches topics such as migration, gender, nationalism, space and narratives, feminist theory and methods, research methods, anthropological theory, and the history of folklore - in the U.S., Europe (especially Germany and Austria), Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Middle East, among others.

Currently, Birkalan-Gedik is working in a DFG-affiliated position on the research project "Traveling Theories: the History of Anthropology in Turkey (1850 - 1950)" at Goethe University Frankfurt, where she was formerly a visiting professor. She has taught courses on Islam and women; gender and migration, Islam and gender in transnational space, and gender regimes in Turkey; fatherhood programs and fathers, masculinity and fatherhood.

She is co-editor of the collection Gelenekten Gelecege Antropoloji (Anthropology from the Past to the Future, 2005). She is also the editor of Sinirlar, Imajlar, Kültürler (Borders, Images, Cultures, 2013), which includes an article by Birkalan-Gedik on Turkey, and guest editor of a special issue on folkloristics in the journal Folklor/Edebiyat (Folklore/Literature, 2000). The most recent book, Feminist Antropoloji: Türkiye'den ve Dünyadan Kültürlerarasi Perspektifler (Feminist Anthropology: Intercultural Perspectives from Turkey and the World), is published in 2020.
  • Theories and methods: cultural anthropological fieldwork, feminist theories and methods. Nationalism, postcolonialism. Performance Theory. Political anthropology, transnational migration and transnationality, migration and integration.
  • Research stays in: Turkey and Germany; Europe, USA, Central Asia, Middle East.
  • Specialization in cultural anthropology and folklore: interactions of Turkish- and German-speaking social science. Specialized history of cultural anthropology and folklore. World anthropologies. Ethnographies of modern Turkey. Anthropology of the city/urban practices. Islam and Gender. Ethnicity and women, Alevis in Germany.
  • Genres: gender and art, oral history, memory culture, narrative and material culture.

DFG-Project: "Traveling Theories": Die Geschichte der Anthropologie in der Türkei (1850-1950)

This project critically examines the history of anthropology in Turkey between 1850 and 1950. Anthropology in Turkey is characterized by eclecticism: It combines evolutionary, nationalist, and modern paradigms and shapes them into a complex non-Western anthropological tradition.

In the context of this project, anthropology should be understood as a collective term that refers to the disciplines of folklore and ethnology in addition to the discipline of anthropology. The emerging landscape of anthropology and its particularities are shaped in Turkey by National Projects, specific intellectual configurations, and the political constellations. The eclecticism of anthropology in Turkey stems, among other things, from the socio-cultural changes taking place in the political and cultural elites of the time in the late Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish Republic. Until now, Turkish anthropology has been largely overlooked in the historiography of anthropological disciplines for two reasons. First, Western theory and practice, through its dominance, managed to neglect the "other" anthropologies. At that time, Turkey was epistemologically considered only as an "anthropological field." Ethnographic knowledge was merely to be collected there. But Turkey was not considered a place of independent anthropological knowledge production. On the other hand, Turkish anthropologists themselves had a share in this invisibility. They failed to recognize the uniqueness of their disciplinary development and to relate in a positive way to the distinctive features that resulted from it.

To address these facets of the invisibility of Turkish anthropology, the project adopts the analytical perspective of "world anthropologies." Drawing on postcolonial theories, this approach emphasizes the unequal distribution of power as a condition for the uneven development of anthropologies in different national contexts. Against this background, the project is able to bring to bear the autonomy of traditions in research and teaching in Turkish anthropology. A central assumption here is that Turkish anthropology flourished precisely through "traveling theory" (Said 1982). In this, Turkish anthropology negotiated various European ethnological traditions from the 1850s onward and modified them in creative ways. Through this original perspective on the dynamic anthropological tradition in Turkey, the project contributes to a decentralized anthropological historiography. Through five defining moments in the disciplinary history of Turkish anthropology, the project elaborates the transitions and upheavals in the meanings and uses of central concepts of the discipline, such as race, people, and nation.

Completed Projects

Project title: Andreas David Mordtmann und die Ethnologie des 19. Jahrhunderts in der Türkei: Umdeutung der Geschichte der Anthropologie vor der Spaltung in Volkskunde und Völkerkunde.

Funded by: Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. Gastwissenschaftlerin im Seminar für Volkskunde/Europäische Ethnologie.

Project duration: Winter semester 2018/2019.

Project overview: The terms ethnology, cultural anthropology, and folklore used in German-speaking countries today are the result of complex negotiation processes. Scholars* point to the 18th and 19th centuries as a critical period in the history of the discipline (H.F. Vermeulen). At that time, terms such as "human," "race," and "peoples" became interrelated. Terminologies blurred. Before the academization of anthropology in Turkey in 1925, numerous European travelers caused ethnology and ethnographic thinking to enter the Ottoman Empire. Among them was Andreas David Mordtmann the Elder (1811-1879), who traveled to Istanbul. Mordtmann was a self-taught Orientalist from Hamburg and a protégé of the educated statesman Münif Pasa. Mordtmann taught ethnology and ethnography at the Western-oriented Faculty of Political Science "Mülkiye Mektebi" in Istanbul. His student Osman Bey published his transcripts, "Ilm-i Ahvâl-i Akvâm" (Ethnology), from Mordtmann's lectures in 1884, showing how formative his influence was on Turkish ethnology. The publication refers to the source text "Ilm-i Ahvâl-i Akvâm", which relates the theories and boundaries to biographies, as well as social and political history. The source text also examines the interplay between author Osman Bey and his teacher Mordtmann, as well as the thematic complexes of orientalism, folklore and ethnology.
To what extent can Mordtmann be seen as a representative of German ethnology of his time? How did he teach his students? What representation do Mordtmann's terminologies find in "Ilm-i Ahvâl-i Akvâm"? How were other professional terminologies later used in Turkey?

Mordtmann witnessed the decline of the Ottoman Empire as it responded to Western pressures (political and economic) with the Tanzimat reforms (1839-1876). His travels and theories worked in two directions: Mordtmann generated knowledge about the "Orient" that found appeal in Germany, and he carried a perspective of ethnology into Ottoman literature. The project aims to elaborate on Mordtmann's significance and also to shed new light on the scholarly legacy of Turkish ethnology in the 19th century. It aims to reassess the hitherto neglected long history of German-Turkish scientific exchange.

Project title: Begegnung mit der Deutscher Volkskunde, Europäischen Ethnologie und Ethnologie: „Travelling Theory“ von `Volk´, `Kultur´ und `Rasse´ im Habitus der Türkischen Ethnologie (1850-1940).

Project duration: 2016-2017

Project funding: Stiftung zur Förderung der internationalen wissenschaftlichen Beziehungen der Goethe-Universität und Forschungsförderung durch den Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD)

Project Summary: The project is inspired by the concept of "traveling theory" by Edward Said (Said 1984, 2012) and examines the disciplines of anthropology, ethnology and folklore in their historical development in Turkish and German-speaking countries. This concept enables me to shed light on the global transfer of knowledge in the humanities. I have comparatively examined the two case studies and conducted numerous qualitative expert interviews with anthropologists and ethnologists in Germany and Austria. My research on anthropology, ethnology and folklore in the Turkish-speaking world is based on literature analyses. The term "world anthropologies" enabled me to critically question the hegemonic way of thinking of the dominant English-speaking science in this field, its academic institutions and produced narratives. This kind of scientific dominance negates the autonomy of national research in anthropology. By combining "traveling theory" with the theoretical approach of "world anthropologies" I was able to reflect on the "global" understanding of this discipline in all its facets.

Project title: Erzählung der transnationalen Vaterschaft: Drei Generation türkischer Väter mit Migrationshintergrund und ihre wechselnden Perspektiven und Erfahrungen in Deutschland

Project Duration:2014-2015

Project Funding: TÜBITAK 2219 Stipendienprogram der Internationalen Post-Doktoranden-Forschung. University of Applied Sciences Frankfurt am Main - Research Fellow

Project Summary: Since the early 2000s, there has been an ongoing political debate in Germany about the "new fatherhood". The study is embedded in the debate about "new fatherhood" and migration from Turkey to Germany. The research focused on the experiences of fathers with a migration background, taking into account an intergenerational perspective, the subjective experiences of fathers from Turkey from three generations were examined. This included how men deal with the different demands of fatherhood starting from the German state, different NGOs and their fatherhood programs, German culture and society, and the sending society and culture of Turkey. The research was mainly based on in-depth interviews with fathers and other actors in the fatherhood programs, such as their developers, implementing social workers and researchers. In addition, the methods of observation and participant observation were applied to selected families. A total of 60 interviews were conducted, which are in the phase of further detailed analysis.

Recent Publications

  • 2019. “A Chronology of Turkish Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Political Contexts and Disciplinary Movements." Link zur Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l'anthropologie. Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l'anthropologie
  • 2019. “A Century of Turkish Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (c. 1850s-1950s)", in Bérose - Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l'anthropologie, Paris." Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l'anthropologie
  • 2019. “Über das Leben von Geflüchteten, oder Eine Notiz zur conditio humana." In Diaspora – Netzwerke globaler Gemeinschaften.  Pp:7-20. Caroline Y. Robertson-von Troha. Karlsruhe: Karslruher Institut für Technologie, ZAK und Ifa.
  • 2019. Limina / Muslim | Martyr | Masculine unipub.uni-graz.at "Muslim | Martyr | Masculine: Reading the AKPs “New" Nationalism  and the “Attempted Coup" on 15 July 2016 through Intersectional  Feminist Lenses." In: Limina. Jg.2. H. 1, S.109-137. Verlagsseite

Older Publications

  • 2018. “World Anthropologies: Turkey, Anthropology in." International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, v: 11, pp: 6620-6239. Wiley-Blackwell.Gen. Ed. Hilary Callan. Wiley Encyclopedia
  • 2018. The Role of Female Minstrels in the Transmission of Alevi Ritual Knowledge: Two Female Äftks from Kisas-Urfa, Turkey." In:   Transmission processes of religious knowledge and ritual practice in  Alevism between innovation and reconstruction. Johannes  Zimmermann/Janina Karolewski/Robert Langer (eds.), pp: 189-228.  Berlin: Peter Lang
  • 2018. “The Curious Travels of German Ethnology to Ottoman Turkey: Some  Preliminary Thoughts on Anthropology, Ethnology, and Folklore  (1850-ca.1950)." In: Fundstücke europäisch/ethnologischen Forschens:   Eine Festschrift für Helmut Eberhart. Burkhard Pöttler,  Katharina  Eisch-Angus, Johann Verhovsek (Hrsg.), pp:55 -68. Münster: Waxmann. Englisch | Türkisch
  • 2017 “Intersectionality and Difference: Women's Movement(s) and Feminist Theory in Post 1990s in Turkey."/“Kesisimsellik ve Farklilik: Türkiye'de 1990 Sonrasi Kadin Hareketi ve Feminist Teori." In: Women's Museums: Center of Social Memory and Place of Inclusion. Istanbul: ATV and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
  • 2011. “Anthropological Writings on Turkey: A Historical Overview." In: Urban Anthropology (39/3-4): 1-66.
  • 2009. “Türkiye'de Feminizmi ve Antropolojiyi Yeniden Düsünmek: Feminist Antropoloji Üzerine Bir Deneme." (Thinking About Feminism and Anthropology in Turkey: An Essay on Feminist Anthropology) Cogito Feminism Special Issue. (58): 285-338.


Prof. Dr. Hande Birkalan-Gedik
Institut für Kulturanthropologie und Europäische Ethnologie
Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität
Frankfurt am Main

IG-Farben-Haus, Room 1.516
Phone: +49 69 798 32918