Muhammet Topal

I earned my bachelor’s degree from the Department of History, Boğaziçi University (Istanbul, Turkey) where teaching medium is English. My choice to pursue studies in this discipline and to have an academic career as a lifelong goal may be explained by my curiosity, interest and delight in history as a subject matter. A phrase by British novelist L. P. Hartley, which I read in my first year at this university, sums it up more elegantly than a long speech: "History is a foreign country, they do things differently there". This simple sentence has profoundly transformed my perception of ​​history into awe and made me glimpse all the power and weakness of the historian in an exclusive manner.

In the third year of my undergraduate education in Istanbul, as part of an Erasmus Exchange Program, I had the opportunity to stay in France, at SciencesPo and at École normale supérieure (ENS-Ulm), which turned out to be an enriching period both personally and academically. Following my return to Istanbul and completing my final project (investigating the nature and the making of the eastern border of the Ottoman Empire and borderland relations with Iran in the context of the centralization of the both states during the 19th century) under the supervision of Edhem Eldem, I decided to improve my French and continue my graduate studies in Paris, with a master's degree in the Department of Civilizations, Cultures and Societies of the École Pratique des Hautes Études | EPHE - PSL (Paris, France) where the teaching medium is French.

My undergraduate years at Boğaziçi University gave me a broad openness to other disciplines, in particular the humanities and social sciences. In Paris, I wanted to do somehow with the EPHE a... return to the sources, to the work on the sources, the texts in Ottoman, the archives. At the end of my master studies at the EPHE, I defended my thesis, Individuation et politisation, portrait d'un intellectuel ottoman en tant que journaliste : Mehmed Murad, that I wrote under the supervision of Özgür Türesay, in front of a jury consists of Özgür Türesay, Nicolas Vatin and Alexandre Toumarkine.

Currently, under the supervision of Benjamin Fortna, I am working on my PhD project, which is a trans-imperial biography of a prominent Ottoman intellectual, Mehmed Murad (1854-1917), originally from the Russian Empire (North Caucasus), and who became a central figure in the Young Turk opposition to Sultan Abdülhamid, before rallying to him. Yet, writing Murad’s biography is not an end in itself, but rather a methodology to understand the spirit of the time through entangled histories and geographies, circles and ideas which he passed through. This project intends to study the different facets of a public figure who was at the same time a bureaucrat, a writer, a journalist, a politically active intellectual, a memorialist and a historian. The combination of these professional activities allows us to identify this Ottoman intellectual by questioning ourselves precisely on the paradigmatic nature of his profile for the definition of the intellectual, precisely the intellectual of the 19th century, the Ottoman intellectual, but also by questioning its limits.