Ertegun Staff and Scholar Profiles

Gizem Pilavci

MSt Syriac Studies | 2014 Graduate

I am currently reading for my D.Phil in Oriental Studies at Oxford where my research focuses on the role of the Manas family of artist-cum-diplomats in Ottoman imperial identity construction across the 19th century, a crucial historical juncture when the Ottoman Empire experienced growing nationalist sentiment, while the shifting balance of power towards Europe led to increasing modernization and bureaucratization on the pattern of the West.

My interest in questions of nationalism and identity in the Turkish Republic and their connection to historical issues of identity in the Ottoman Empire began during my undergraduate studies at Sabancı University, where I received my Bachelor of Arts in Social and Political Science and began my study of Ottoman Turkish. I went on to pursue my Master of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, where I focused on the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire. I studied Eastern and Western Armenian and continued to study Ottoman Turkish. Following my studies in Chicago, I received the Ertegun Scholarship to read for an MSt in Syriac Studies at Lady Margaret Hall, where I took papers in the Literature and Culture of the Syriac Churches, Early Poetry, Historical Literature as well as Hagiography, which allowed me to gain the language skills and experience to better contextualise Ottoman-Armenians vis-à-vis the Ottoman-Assyrians within the broader set of Ottoman minority communities, due to the closely linked nature of these communities under the Ottoman administration.

My D.Phil research examines questions of identity and the place of minority communities in the Ottoman state more deeply in a continuation of my earlier research. Using members of the Manas family who pursued dual careers in portrait painting and foreign service during the 19th century, as a window through which to construct an understanding of the relationship between the different groups and social structures comprising the Ottoman state, and how these were disrupted and reshaped in the period in question, can help shed light on the forces at play behind the efforts to portray the Ottoman Empire and its sultans in a particular way. It is hoped that this will also help to explain how the shift in the imperial identity construction was underpinned by both the external power relations of the Empire vis-à-vis Europe and internal social and political transformations, highlighting the role that Armenians as a minority played in shaping that imperial image in the eyes of a European audience.

Outside of my studies I enjoy calligraphy and gilding, as well as fencing (épée) and I have more recently taken up learning to play the harp.


Awards /Scholarships:

Ertegun Scholarship (2013-2014)

The generosity of the Ertegun Scholarship Programme goes beyond funding to include the intellectual and social community of the House, adding a great deal to the Oxford academic experience. Outside of my course, I had the opportunity to interact with fellow students from a variety of other disciplines in the humanities and benefited from both our weekly lecture series, where we each had the opportunity to lecture on our individual research or on a particular area of interest, and from our many informal conversations over tea and forays into the cultural scene at Oxford. I achieved a broader, more well-rounded perspective and a better grasp of the humanities overall, and I have gained a wide circle of friends and a strong sense of community in the process.

Full academic scholarship from the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago (2012–2013)

Academic Scholarship from Sabancı University (2010 –2011)