Professor Esra Özyürek is Professor in European Anthropology and Chair in Contemporary Turkish Studies.
She received her BA in Sociology and Political Science at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul and her MA and PhD in Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Before joining the LSE she taught at the Anthropology Department of University of California, San Diego.
Professor Özyürek is an anthropologist who seeks to understand the tension between politics and religion in Turkey and in Europe. Secularism, Christianity, Islam, liberalism, and democracy are among seemingly universalist worldviews, inviting any individual, community, or government to embrace them. However, they are also considered indigenous to certain geographies and populations and foreign imports to others. Her overall research agenda explores this tension between the universalism and particularism of globally appealing religious and post-religious belief and value systems by studying them ethnographically as they travel in and out of their assumed natural habitats. More specifically, she is interested in the personal experiences of individuals who embrace a universalistic ideology or belief system that they did not inherit from their grandparents, but instead choose to borrow from others and make their own, with a specific focus on Islam and Muslims. She explored what it means to be a secular Turk in a country where political Islam is on the rise; to be an ethnic German who converted to Islam; and a Turk who converted to Christianity. She is currently working on a project about Muslim background Germans who look for ways to adopt the memory of the Holocaust as proof of their commitment to liberal democracy and empathic humanity.
Her research received funding from the British Academy, Arts and Humanities Research Council, Fulbright Foundation, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, German Academic Exchange, Institute for Turkish Studies. She was a resident fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.
She is also the author of Being German, Becoming Muslim: Race, Religion and Conversion in the New Europe (Princeton University Press, 2014) and Nostalgia for the Modern: State Secularism and Everyday Politics in Turkey (Duke University Press, 2007). She is the editor of Authoritarianism and Resistance in Turkey: Conversations on Democratic and Social Challenges, co-authored with Gaye Özpınar and Emrah Altındiş, (SpringerLink, 2018). Politics of Public Memory in Turkey (Syracuse University Press, 2007) and Unuttuklarɩ ve Hatɩrladɩklarɩyla Turkiye’nin Toplumsal Hafɩzasɩ by İletişim Yayɩnevi (2002).