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Emrah Yıldız

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

PhD Harvard University 2016

Emrah Yıldız (he/him/o) is a socio-cultural anthropologist whose research spans religious studies, political economy and social geography. More specifically he researches, writes, learns and teaches about ritual, pilgrimage and saints in Islam; sanctions, contraband commerce and currencies as well as about mobility, borders and their territorial polities.  

His forthcoming first book, Traffic in Zainab: Religion, Economy and Polity across Southwest Asia (University of California Press, Atelierseries, 2024) synthesizes these areas of scholarship to chronicle Iranian visitors’ journeys via Turkey to the Sayyida Zainab shrine in Syria. Rather than thinking of ritual as a scripturally canonized manual for pious self-cultivation, the book makes the argument for approaching rituals of mobility like saint visitation (ziyarat) as a traffic of pilgrims, goods, and ideas across Iran, Turkey, and Syria. Mobilizing ethnographic and archival sources in Persian, Turkish, as well as in Arabic and French, the book produces a dynamic and spatial conception ziyarat as a ritual of mobility—whereby religious practices interarticulate with social and spatial institutions, including bazaars, borders and shrines, neglected in recent anthropological work on Islamic religiosity. The dissertation that serves as the basis for Traffic in Zainab garnered the Malcolm H. Kerr Award in the Social Sciences from the Middle East Studies Association. 

Yıldız is editor of the forthcoming Journal of Cultural Economy special issue, kaçak | qaçax | قاچاق: Fugitive Forms of Bureaucracy and Economy across Southwest Asia, and co-editor of the volume Resistance Everywhere”: The Gezi Protests and Dissident Visions of Turkey (2014). He published research articles with Cultural Anthropology, differences, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, International Journal of Middle East Studies, and Toplum ve Bilim, as well as short-form public-facing commentaries  and editorials with Counterpunch and Jadaliyya 

At Northwestern Yıldız has taught across anthropology, gender and sexuality studies, Middle East and North African Studies, and religious studies. He served as Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Faculty Fellow (2019-2020), College Fellow (2016-2017), Crown Junior Chair in Middle East Studies (2020-2023), and continues to serve as faculty board member for Keyman Modern Turkish Studies Program, and founding member and co-convener of the Colloquium for Global Iran Studies (CoGIS).  

Yıldız is currently at work on two book-length projects: one about queer asylum and sexual migration across Iran, Turkey and Germany, and one about the regional lives of economic sanctions and fictitious commodities (money, land, and labor) across Iran and Turkey.  


Selected Publications 

The Traffic in Zainab: Spatial lives of an Islamic ritual across Southwest Asia, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 30 (1). Forthcoming in 2024     

Migrant Sexualities, Queer Travelers: Iranian Bears and the Asylum of Translation in Turkey, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 33 vol.1 (2022): 119-147.  

Of Nuclear Rials and Golden Shoes: Scaling Commodities and Currencies across Sanctions on Iran, International Journal of Middle East Studies 53 vol.4 (2021): 604-619.  

Nested (In)securities: Commodity and Currency Circuits in an Iran under sanctions, Cultural Anthropology 35 vol.2 (2020): 218-224.  

Cruising Politics: Sexuality, Solidarity and Modularity after Gezi, (ed. Ozkirimli) The Making of a Protest Movement: #occupygezi. London: Palgrave. (2014): 103-122. 

Alignments of Dissent and Politics of Naming: Assembling Resistance in Turkey, (ed. Alessandrini et al) “Resistance Everywhere”: The Gezi Protests and Dissident Visions of Turkey, JadMag 1 vol.4 (2014): 21-28. 

Fugitive Markets and Arrested Mobilities: An Essay on Antep’s Iranian Bazaar, Kaçak (Contraband) Labor, and Its Cross-Border Transgressions, Toplum ve Bilim 131 (2014): 186-207. In Turkish. 


Selected Short-Form Writings, Interviews and Translations 

Us&Them: An Example of Threshold Literature, Asoo Magazine, May 26, 2021. In Persian.  

What does Trump’s celebration of the resurgent dollar tell us about the international monetary system? Counterpunch, April 17, 2020.  

The Ankara Massacre and the State as a Serial Killer in Erdogan’s Turkey, Jadaliyya, October 12, 2015. Translated into Spanish and republished on Rebelión, October 15. 

Fugitive Markets and Arrested Mobilities: Gaziantep’s Iranian Bazaar, Jadaliyya, November 15, 2014 

Translated into Persian, Jadaliyya, February 12. 

“Alevizing Gezi” by Ayfer Karakaya-Stump, trans. from the Turkish, in Jadaliyya, March 26, 2014.  

Cruising Politics: Sexuality and Solidarity after Gezi, Counterpunch, July 12, 2013.  

Alignments of Dissent and Politics of Naming: Assembling Resistance in Turkey, Jadaliyya, June 4, 2013. Translated into Arabic, Jadaliyya, June 13, 2013. 

Rojava’s Political Structure by Amed Dicle, trans. from the Turkish, in Jadaliyya. September 23, 2013. 

Recent Courses Taught 

ANTH 101 Moving Papers: Money, Passports and Visas in Global Context (College Seminar) 

ANTH 242 | MENA 290. Porous Borders? Geography, Power and Techniques of Movement 

ANTH 290. Economic Anthropology: Fundamentals of Political Economy vol. 1 

ANTH 384 | MENA 301 | REL 359. Traveling While Muslim: Islam, Mobility, Security after 9/11 

MENA 390/490 | ANTH 390/490. Sexing the Middle East: Gender and Sexuality in the Making of a Region 

MENA 410.  Locating the Middle East and North Africa (Graduate Proseminar) 

ANTH 442. Territory: Space, Power and Mobility