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Osman Balkan

Visiting Assistant Professor

Political Science

Global Studies

Islamic Studies

Interpretation Theory


  2. Phone: (610) 690-3546
  3. Trotter Hall 312

Osman Balkan is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Swarthmore College. He received his B.A. from Reed College and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. His research and teaching interests include Europe and the Middle East, migration and citizenship, political identity, Islam, transnationalism, race and ethnicity, diasporas, and necropolitics. Many of his classes contribute to Swarthmore's Global Studies minor and to the  Islamic Studies and Interpretation Theory programs. 

Balkan is a political ethnographer whose first book manuscript, Dying Abroad: The Afterlives of Migration in Europe, examines how migrant communities and ethnic and religious minorities in Europe navigate and make sense of dying in countries where they face structural barriers to political inclusion and full citizenship. Building on multi-sited fieldwork in Berlin and Istanbul, where he worked as an undertaker in several Islamic funeral homes and conducted interviews with  bereaved families, government officials, religious leaders, and representatives of Islamic associations and funeral aid societies, he argues that in contexts where the boundaries of the nation and its members are contested, burial decisions are political acts that are connected to broader existential questions about the meaning of home and homeland. In highlighting forms of "everyday necropolitics," Dying Abroad shows how the corpse functions as a political object by structuring claims about citizenship, belonging, and collective identity. 

Balkan is also interested in questions connected to public mourning and the politics of memory. He has written about the complex negotiations accompanying the burial and commemoration of terrorists and victims of political violence in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the Boston Marathon bombing, and a failed military coup attempt in Turkey in 2016.  His work has been published in several peer reviewed journals including Studies in Ethnicity and NationalismJournal of Intercultural StudiesContemporary French Civilization​, and in edited volumes such as Muslims in the UK and Europe, The Democratic Arts of Mourning, and Turkey's Necropolitical Laboratory: Democracy, Violence, Resistance.  

Balkan's current research focuses on border deaths and biopolitical technologies of border control. Click here to access his publications and his CV.

At Swarthmore, Balkan is proud to serve as a faculty mentor for the Richard Rubin Scholar Mentoring Program and as the campus advisor for the U.S. State Department's Critical Languages Scholarship. He is an active member of the campus community and has organized numerous public lectures and events on a wide range of contemporary political issues. In 2017, he and Sofia Fenner launched the "Global Ethnographies Workshop" to foster interdisciplinary conversation and collaboration among qualitative researchers and ethnographers at Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford Colleges. In 2018-19, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, he spearheaded the "Contending Visions of the Middle East" colloquium, a year-long series featuring artists, activists, and scholars whose work speaks to pressing social, political, and cultural issues in the Middle East. Balkan was a lead faculty participant in Swarthmore's Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary program, a collaborative project with the city of Philadelphia and recently resettled Syrian and Iraqi nationals, which explored art's capacity to build empathy and create a deeper sense of belonging. He has developed and convened several interdisciplinary workshops at Swarthmore on topics such as "Cuture and Identity in Europe," "Borders, Migration, and Human Rights," and "Global Mobilities."  

Balkan is a member of the American Political Science Association and serves as an elected member on the executive council of its Migration and Citizenship section. He is the co-founder, with Tani Sebro, of APSA's "Political Ethnography Working Group." He serves on the editorial boards of the journals International Political Sociology and Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism

For more information, please consult his personal website at: