I am a Visiting Scholar at the Russia and Eurasia Program at Tufts Fletcher School and a Research Fellow with the Middle East Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. I hold a Ph.D. in International Studies from the University of Washington, Seattle, and a master’s degree in Regional Security Studies (Europe-Eurasia) from the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Prior to my academic career, I served as an army officer in the Turkish Armed Forces and NATO between 2004 and 2014.
My research and teaching lie at the intersection of international security and comparative politics. I primarily study the drivers and outcomes of military power. Specifically, I study the accessibility and efficiency of the armed forces, with a focus on organizational culture, social composition, and technology, and their relationship with political regimes, major political shifts and shocks, and political violence.
As an academic and a former army officer, three principal questions motivate my research: (1) What factors affect merit and representation in state institutions, especially the armed forces in a multiethnic country? (2) How do diversity and inclusion affect the military’s organizational effectiveness and battlefield performance? (3) What are the implications of military diversity and inclusion for political stability? I examine these questions from a comparative historical perspective using qualitative and quantitative methods. My methodological approach combines historically grounded sociological work with computational techniques.
I am currently preparing a book manuscript based on my dissertation that offers the first systematic study of the causes and consequences of merit and representation in the military. It explores the ethnic and geographical representation patterns in the officer corps, focusing on the case of Turkey (and Ottoman Empire) between 1848 and 2015. My book aims to understand how officer recruitment and promotion patterns originate and evolve, and specifically how they respond to regime changes and major political shocks, specifically international war, ethnic conflict, and coup d'ètat. I identify two organizational and social mechanisms specific to the military that moderate the impact of threats and related inter-ethnic tensions prevalent in society, thus contributing to the persistence of officer demographics: (1) local recruitment networks and (2) an autonomous promotion regime. My findings reveal that the ethnic and geographical composition of Turkey’s officer corps can be traced back to the late Ottoman period when modern military institutions were established. Despite various military coups, ethnic rebellions, and multiple wars throughout the twentieth century, I find that these patterns have remained largely consistent owing to the officer corps’ deep-seated direct ties with local populations and long-established professionalism. For instance, my findings unearth that, since the late nineteenth century, Kurds have steadily enjoyed some degree of representation in Turkey’s military elite, albeit imperfect, despite major external threats and persistent interethnic tensions in the society. My book challenges conventional wisdom about the influence of threats on institutions by elucidating the moderation effect of social networks and organizational structure and processes.
My dissertation and other related ongoing projects draw on extensive fieldwork in Turkey between 2016 and 2019, during which I collected archival data to construct two original datasets of the ethnic-geographic backgrounds and career paths of all Turkish general staff officers (n= 23,450) since the mid-nineteenth century and held 146 in-depth interviews with military officers, academics, journalists, and politicians.
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