About

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Amid the ruins of a destroyed Kurdish-Armenian village of Osmaniye near Elâzığ, Turkey (Photo Credit: Kathryn Cook)

Elyse Semerdjian is Professor of Islamic World/Middle Eastern History. She teaches a broad range of courses on the subject of gender, sexuality, social history, culture, and politics of the Middle East and won the G. Thomas Edwards Award for excellence in Teaching and Scholarship at Whitman College in 2016. A specialist in the history of the Ottoman Empire and Syria, she authored “Off the Straight Path”: Illicit Sex, Law, and Community in Ottoman Aleppo (Syracuse University Press, 2008) as well as several articles on gender, non-Muslims, and law in the Ottoman Empire. She received her M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and her Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University. Her dissertation earned both distinction from Georgetown University and the Syrian Studies Association Best Dissertation Prize in 2003.


Semerdjian has received two Fulbright scholarships to fund her research in Syria. She continues to write about the city and its social history, lately focusing on the Armenians of Saliba Judayda, the city’s Christian quarter, during the formative sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. Her article “Naked Anxiety: Bathhouses, Nudity, and Muslim/non-Muslim Relations in Eighteenth-Century Aleppo” was published in the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies and won the Syrian Studies Association Best Article Prize in 2014. She currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies and on the board of the Syrian Studies Association. Recently , she finished a five-year term as book review editor for the International Journal of Middle East Studies.  In the Spring of 2013, she was the Dumanian Visiting Professor in Armenian Studies in The Department of Near Eastern Cultures and Languages at the University of Chicago. Recently, she was awarded a Cornell University Society for the Humanities Fellowship on the subject of “Skin” for the 2016-2017 academic year to support the writing of her forthcoming book, Remnants: Body, Gender, and the Memory of the Armenian Genocide.