I am a historian and an archaeologist who is interested in understanding the constitution and maintenance of political authority, culturally specific expressions of political power, and negotiations of identity and other forms of social engagements in relation to material culture and materiality in past societies. I explore these topics throughout the history of China and Inner Asia. In my research, I ask questions about state-society relations, political ideologies, administrative practices, territorial organization, material culture, perception and depiction of the other, and construction and representation of identity, especially through the human body.

I come from an inter-disciplinary educational background which is reflected in my research as well as in my teaching. I like to teach the kind of courses where students can think about the diversity and interconnectedness of human experience through the study history. I draw on various lines of evidence and multidisciplinary materials in my classes and allow students to be in charge of their own learning.

As a historian who likes to challenge the dominant historical narrative and an archaeologist who strives to unearth the traces of marginalized communities, such as nomads, in the archaeological record, I am strongly committed to diversity and inclusivity in my research, as well as in my classrooms.

I like riding horses, shooting arrows, and I constantly regret never having combined the two in my younger ages. I travel… A lot! I travel to do research, I travel to teach. Sometimes I do research so that I can travel and come home to teach what I’ve learnt while traveling. After all, I am a bit of a nomad myself who moves in search of coffee and books…

Areas of Expertise

History, Archaeology, Central Eurasia


2022 — Dual Ph.D. in Central Eurasian Studies and Anthropology (Archaeology) from Indiana University, Bloomington

2009 — Master's of Arts in History from Middle East Technical University, Turkey

Courses Recently Taught

"The Silk Road" is a rather misleading term coined in 1877 by Ferdinand von Richthofen. It refers to a vast network of trade routes that connected East, South, and Southeast Asia with the Mediterranean region, North Africa, and Europe. While travel and migration along these routes date back to prehistoric times and continue today, communication via the land routes across the Eurasian continent primarily flourished from the second century BCE through the 15th century CE, most notably linking China with western Asia and the Mediterranean region. And while silk was one of the major products transported from China to the West as far back as the Roman Empire, the trade, especially in such other luxury goods such as spices (from India) and gemstones (from western Asia), was active in both directions. Along with the trade in material goods, the Silk Road was the medium for cultural exchange. One of the prime examples of this was the spread of Buddhism from India into Afghanistan, China, Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia. As an extensive and many-layered system of economic and cultural exchange, the Silk Road can therefore can be considered a pre-modern example of what today we call globalization. This course will survey the history of economic and cultural exchange along the Silk Road from prehistoric times to the present day. We specifically will examine geographic factors, the various ethnicities and empires that contributed to Silk Road history, the exchange of goods and technologies, the religions of the Silk Road, and the spread of artistic traditions across Asia. The general aims will be to enable students to think critically about Asia (or Eurasia) in a more holistic way, to understand the interconnections of our various academic disciplines and to appreciate some of the rich cultural heritages and exchanges that have contributed to our world. This counts toward the social science diversification requirement when paired with a course in HIST. No prerequisite.

This team-taught seminar explores the 20th century in global comparative perspective, through the reading, contextualization, and analysis of mainly primary source texts and documents. In any given year the seminar will focus on one of two themes: the post-war world (ca.1945-1989), or the inter-war world (1919-1939). It takes up themes of broad political, economic and social transformations; scientific and technological innovations; and the cultural shifts that occurred throughout these decades preceding and following the Second World War. The seminar sections will meet jointly once a week for lectures or films, and separately once a week for discussion of primary-source readings. In addition to the rich historical material that the course addresses, students will begin to learn the basic skills of the historian: asking questions, finding and analyzing relevant documents or primary sources, and identifying different kinds of interpretations of those sources. This counts toward the modern requirement for the major. Open only to first-year students.

Why and how did Mongolian and Turkic nomads join together to conquer much of the Eurasian world in the early 13th century? What impact did those conquests have on the civilizations they encountered and ruled, from southern Russia and Anatolia to Persia, central Asia, and China? Why do they remain a fertile source for contemporary pop culture? The first part of this course introduces anthropological and historical perspectives on what it meant to be a nomad (focusing on nomads of Eurasia), how sedentary writers (such as Herodotus and Sima Qian) wrote about nomadic neighbors, and how (and why) nomadic societies organized states and interacted with agrarian peoples. Next the course will examine in depth the career of Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan) and the empires founded by his descendants, with attention to how Mongol imperial priorities and political culture drove new patterns of trade and consumption, religious patronage, and administrative practices, which fostered new paradigms of political and cultural expression in areas under Mongol control. Students will read and discuss arguments made by modern scholars (from the 18th century forward), and dip into the vast body of primary sources generated by the conquests, both textual and visual: chronicles, folklore, travelers’ accounts, inscriptions, art and archaeological findings, etc. This counts toward the premodern and colonial/imperial requirements for the major and the premodern requirement for the minor. No prerequisite. Offered every two or three years.\n