Osman Balkan is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative Politics 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 the politics of migration and citizenship, transnationalism and diasporas, Islam and Muslims in the West, race and ethnicity, biopolitics, and necropolitics.
Balkan is a political ethnographer who employs qualitative methods to understand how politics is experienced and interpreted by ordinary citizens in their everyday lives. His first book manuscript, Death Out of Place, examines how migrant communities and ethno-religious minorities in Germany navigate and make sense of dying in a country that they do not necessarily view as their home. Building on multi-sited fieldwork in Berlin and Istanbul, which included interviews and participant observation with bereaved families, Muslim undertakers, government officials, religious leaders, and representatives of Islamic associations and funeral aid societies, it argues that in contexts where the boundaries of the nation and its members are contested, burial decisions are political decisions that are connected to broader existential questions about the meaning of home and homeland. By highlighting forms of "everyday necropolitics," it shows how the corpse functions as a political object by structuring claims about citizenship, belonging, and collective identity.
Balkan's second research project explores the political afterlives of terrorism. It analyzes the complex negotiations accompanying the burial of terrorists and victims of political violence in Europe and the United States. Drawing on case studies including "Boston Bomber" Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, Turkey's "Cemetery of Traitors," and Osama Bin Laden's burial at sea, it investigates how the governance of "unwanted bodies" helps delimit the boundaries of moral and political communities.
His work has been published in peer reviewed journals including Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, Journal of Intercultural Studies, Contemporary French Civilization, and in Muslims in the UK and Europe, an edited volume from the Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge. Click here to access his publications and CV.
At Swarthmore, Balkan is proud to serve as a faculty mentor for the Richard Rubin Scholar Mentoring Program. He is an active member of the campus community and has organized numerous public lectures, workshops, and events on a wide range of contemporary political issues. In the 2017 - 2018 academic year, he and Sofia Fenner (Bryn Mawr) are leading a Mellon Tri-College Faculty Workshop on "Global Ethnographies," aimed at fostering interdisciplinary conversation and collaboration among qualitative researchers at Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford Colleges.