Secil Yilmaz

Secil Yilmaz

Assistant Professor of History

Sexuality, Gender, Medicine, Science, Middle East, and the Ottoman Empire

College Hall 308 D

I am a historian of sexuality, gender, and medicine of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. My research and teaching focus on the broad fields of social and intellectual history at the intersections of medical humanities, life sciences, feminist, and queer studies. In my research, I am interested in the formation of knowledge and practices concerning Life as a productive site of political and social encounters, confrontations, and negotiations among various agents in which power and hegemony are formed and nested. I trace the stories of uneven and unconventional engagements and interactions of global, local, and indigenous historical agents framed by colonialism, imperialism, and modern governance.

My book in-progress Biopolitical Empire: Syphilis, Medicine, and Sex in the Late Ottoman World analyzes the social and political implications of syphilis by tracing the questions of empire-building, colonialism, modern governance, and sexuality in the late Ottoman context. My other projects include research on the relationship between religion, history of emotions, and contagious diseases in the late Ottoman Empire as well as history of reproductive health technologies and humanitarianism in the modern Middle East.

I completed my Ph.D. at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Following my PhD, I was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities (SHC) and Near Eastern Studies (NES) as a member of the cohorts on the topic of “Skin” and “Corruption.” I am the co-curator of the podcast series on Women, Gender, and Sex in the Ottoman World at Ottoman History Podcast.


Articles and Book Chapters

“On Endless Empires: Sexuality and Colonialism in the Middle East and North Africa” (co-authored with Susana Ferguson) in Routledge Companion to Sexuality and Colonialism, ed. by Dagmar Herzog and Chelsea Schields, 55-64, Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2021.

“Threats to Public Order and Health: Mobile Men as Syphilis Vectors in Late Ottoman Medical Discourse and Practice.” Journal of Middle East Women's Studies. July 2017; 13 (2): 222–243.

 “MiniaTurk: Culture, History, and Memory in Turkey in Post-1980s,” (co-authored with Şafak Uysal) in Peter Aronsson, Magdalena Hillström. NaMu, Making National Museums Program, Setting the Frames, 26–28 February 2007, Norrköping, Sweden.



2017 Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award

Office Hours
Tuesdays 3:30-4:30pm, and by appointment
Online Office Hours

Ph.D., The Graduate Center, CUNY, History

M.A., Boğaziçi University, The Ataturk Institute

B.A., Middle East Technical University, History (Major), Sociology (Minor)

Research Interests

Ottoman social and intellectual history, history of sexuality and gender, history of sexology, history of medicine, science and healing in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman world, history of emotions, birth control and reproductive health technologies in the twentieth century, developmentalism, humanitarianism

Courses Taught

GSWS/HIST 1361 Sex Matters: Politics of Sex in the Modern Middle East (Fall 2022)