Yasemin Ipek

Yasemin Ipek

Yasemin Ipek

Assistant Professor

Activism and civil society, crisis, political imagination, citizenship and belonging, decoloniality, sectarianism, nationalism, class, refugees and humanitarianism, migration, Middle East and North Africa, the United States

Yasemin İpek is a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Global Affairs Program. Her research is situated at the intersection of the anthropology of politics, activism, and inequality; critical studies of humanitarianism and refugees; decoloniality studies; and studies of Islam, sectarianism, and nationalism in the modern Middle East. As a political anthropologist interested in emergent political formations against globally and locally hegemonic forms of power, her interdisciplinary research trajectory draws upon ethnography, political theory, sociology, and critical area studies. She is particularly interested in how crisis can become generative of competing political and ethical lifeworlds, and her diverse research projects demonstrate how new political imaginations and (un) belongings continually arise in contexts of ongoing precarity. 

Her current book manuscript, titled Crisiswork: Activism, Class-Making, and Bounded Futures in Lebanon, draws upon twenty-four months of fieldwork conducted between 2012 and 2015 as well as follow-up research between 2018 and 2023. It examines the relationship between crisis and political imagination in Lebanon by ethnographically studying activism as a simultaneously colonizing and decolonizing field of encounters between a wide range of self-identified activists, such as unemployed NGO volunteers, middle-class consultants, leftist entrepreneurs, and humanitarian workers. Having spent time with activists in different spaces of everyday life such as work, family, and leisure, Dr. İpek theorizes diverse and contradictory meanings of being an activist by drawing on decolonial approaches and interdisciplinary debates on crisis, political agency, social class, ethics, affects, and temporality. In addition to demonstrating the complexity of everyday struggles and civil society activism in Lebanon, the book provides an analytical framework for understanding the multiplicity of political struggles in the global South. 

In her new research project, tentatively titled Muslim Humanitarianisms: Transnational Care Networks in the Middle East, she studies Syrian humanitarian actors and explores how piety interacts with secular, nationalist, and cosmopolitan discourses to shape global migration, refugees, and humanitarianism. This book will be among the first ethnographic studies of Muslim Syrian actors’ growing influence in the global field of humanitarian aid. Studying concepts such as “professional Muslim” and “Arab humanitarian aid,” Dr. İpek’s research bridges the anthropology of Islam and secularism with interdisciplinary studies on global inequality and transnational humanitarianism.

Dr. İpek received her Ph.D. degree in Anthropology from Stanford University. She also received a second doctoral degree from the Department of Political Science, Bilkent University, where she studied political memoirs and conservative nationalism in early Republican Turkey. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Center for Humanities Research at George Mason University, among others. She has published in journals such as Cultural Anthropology, American Ethnologist, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, The Muslim World, Turkish Studies, and Society and Science [Toplum ve Bilim]. She teaches a wide range of subjects such as globalization, anthropology of the Middle East, refugees and humanitarianism, nationalism, youth, activism and social movements, and qualitative research methods.  

Selected Publications

2022. “Entrepreneurial Activism: Ethical Politics and Class-Based Imaginations of Change in Lebanon,” American Ethnologist 50 (3): 474-490. https://doi.org/10.1111/amet.13109.  

2022. “Bala Wāsṭa: Aspirant Professionals, Class‐making, and Moral Narratives of Social Mobility in Lebanon,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 28 (3): 746-768. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9655.13764. 

2021. “Global Standards, Cultural Islam: Syrian-led Muslim Humanitarianism in Turkey,” The Muslim World 112 (1): 57-77. https://doi.org/10.1111/muwo.12421. 

2021. “Activism and National Imagination in Lebanon after the Syrian Civil War,” in Atlıoğlu, Y., and Danış, M.F. (eds.), Lübnan’da Devlet, Toplum, ve Kimlik [State, Society, and Identity in Lebanon] Istanbul: Vadi Publications.

2020. “Activists In-Becoming: Lebanon’s October Revolution and Its Afterlives,” in Delaporte, P.S., and Huang, S. (eds.), Global Movements in 2019: What Do They Teach Us. Cultural Anthropology, the Member Voices. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/activists-in-becoming-lebanons-october-17-revolution-and-its-afterlives.

2018. “Autobiography and Conservative-Nationalist Political Opposition in Early-Republican Turkey,” Turkish Studies, 19 (1), 139-165. https://doi.org/10.1080/14683849.2017.1397516.

2013. “Securing ‘Security’ amidst Neoliberal Restructuring: Civil Society in Post-1990 Turkey,” in Gambetti, Z. and Godoy-Anativia, M. eds., Rhetorics of Insecurity: Belonging and Violence in the Neoliberal Era, NY: NYU Press.

2007. “Rethinking Civil Society in Turkey: Neo-liberal Transformations and Volunteerism,” Toplum ve Bilim [Science and Society] 108: 88-128.

Grants and Fellowships

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

Residential Fellowship, George Mason University, Center for Humanities Research (CHR)

Faculty Research and Development Award (FRDA), George Mason University, College for Humanities and Social Sciences

Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, National Science Foundation

Graduate Research Opportunity Grant, Stanford University, Office of the Vice Provost for Education

Diversity Dissertation Research Opportunity Grant, Stanford University, Office of the Vice Provost for Education

Language Study Grant, Stanford University, Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies

Research Grant, The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK)

Courses Taught

GLOA 101 - Introduction to Global Affairs

ANTH 308 - Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East

ANTH 331 - Refugees in the Contemporary World

GLOA 400 - Global Nationalisms

GLOA 400 - Global Middle East

GLOA 615 - Global Humanitarianisms

ANTH 631 - Refugees in the Contemporary World