Cevat Dargin

Postgraduate Research Associate
Email Address: 
cdargin@princeton.edu

Cevat Dargin is a Postgraduate Research Associate affiliated with the Department of Near Eastern Studies. His field of research and teaching is modern Middle Eastern/North African history, with a specialization in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century transformations from empires to nation-states and their impact on borderlands and peoples in the peripheries. A historian with a background in political science, he works on theories of state making, empire, and nationalism with thematic interests in colonialism, Islamic political thought, and environmental history within and across the Greater Middle East. His scholarship is primarily concerned with the conjunctures as well as contingencies that gave rise to modern state-making policies. His current work deals with policies and processes of state making in the late-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Middle East.

His dissertation explored late Ottoman and early republican Turkish state making policies and practices through the peripheral and local context of Dersim, an Alevi (Kizilbash) Kurdish–majority region in Eastern Anatolia, and the reactions of Dersimis to such policies and practices imagined and designed at the state center in different historical periods, i.e., Hamidian (1876–1908), Young Turk (1908–1923), and Early Republican (1923–1938). The dissertation combines a theoretical focus on the processes of state formation and nation building with in-depth knowledge of the histories of ethnic and religious minorities such as the Kurds, Alevis (Kizilbash), and Armenians, among others.

He is currently working on three publications projects. The first is a peer-review journal article titled “‘It Is a Shame. It Is Cruel. It Is Murder!’: A Battle of Historical Memory behind and beyond a Mafia Leader’s Desire for a ‘Stylish Death.’” This article tells the story of a tribal and spiritual leader named Seyid Riza (1863–1937), whom Turkish authorities executed in 1937 at the age of seventy-five, and whose departing words have increasingly been used as a slogan of resistance and demand for justice by a diverse group of actors in Turkey, including a self-identified pan-Turkist mafia leader in exile, who considers Seyid Riza "our enemy."

His second publication project, also a peer-review journal article, is titled “‘A Universe, Many Folds Bigger Than It Appears’: Imagining a Non-State Space ‘In the Heart of Anatolia’ as Terra Incognita (1866–1938).” This article provides a geographical history of Dersim, a mountainous region with rich water sources and forests in Eastern Anatolia, in terms of the complex interconnectedness between its topography and demography.

His third publication project is a book manuscript largely based on his PhD dissertation. It is about the history of state making and nation building in Dersim from the 1877–78 Russo-Turkish War to the Turkish state’s violent transformation of the region in 1937–38. The book will draw on the “competing histories” of Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian, and Alevi historiographies in the context of historical developments in Dersim, a domain where, due to its unusual geographic and demographic profile, the Kurdish, Armenian, and Alevi questions came together toward the end of the nineteenth century and clashed with the project of Ottoman and Turkish state formation and nation building. It will contribute to the debates around conflicts and cooperation among various ethnic and religious entities in the region and put these discussions in conversation with theories of nationalism and empire as well as environmental politics. 

In the future, he plans to expand his current inquiry into the histories and politics of other people and places in different parts of the Greater Middle East in order to develop a comparative framework reflecting the diverse ethnic, religious, political, and geographical landscape of the region.