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Alp Yenen

University Lecturer

Dr. A.A. Yenen
+31 71 527 2943

I work primarily on the political history of the modern Middle East with a specialized focus on modern Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. In reading modern Turkish history, I am mostly interested in transnational relations, transitional periods, and contentious politics. I have predominantly studied the so-called Young Turk period, a transitional period from the Ottoman Empire to the post-Ottoman world, a period characterized by war and revolution in international history. As a new research project, I am preparing a proposal on the Turkish civil war in the 1970s and the unmaking of the Cold War order in the Middle East.

More information about Alp Yenen

Fields of interest

As a historian, I am specialized in the history of the Young Turk period in its transnational and international dimensions. In world history, this period connects the eventful sin de siècle / belle époque years with the “roaring” and depressed interwar years. Recently, I came to approach the history of Cold War era in the Middle East, especially the history of the “long” 1970s (1968-1982) in Turkey. As a scholar, I am primarily interested in unconventional, unexpected, and undercover aspects of politics. I study therefore forms of contentious politics, i.e. non-routine forms of political interactions, such as insurgencies, conspiracies, and political movements. In doing so, I study transnational networks of agents, cultural repertoires of contention, frames of political sense-making, and complexity and contingency of historical processes. As a member of the COST-Action Comparative Studies of Conspiracy Theories in Europe, I am also interested in the relation between real-life conspiracies (parapolitics) with conspiracy theories as well as in culturalist and Orientalist tropes in conspiracy thinking. In history writing, I particularly enjoy episodes that challenge our teleological expectancies and illustrate alternative paths and unconventional patterns.


During my stay in Leiden, I will be publishing my previous and on-going research on the transnational history of contentious politics at the End of the Ottoman Empire, including my first book on the Young Turk networks and Muslim nationalist-revolutionary movements during the aftermath of the First World War (1918-1922), as well as an edited volume on the comparative and connected history of rebels, revolutionaries, and racketeers in the turn-of-the-century Middle East, Balkans, and Caucasus.

For my second book project, which I am preparing a research project. I will study the “civil war” in Turkey in the 1970s, especially in the regional context of the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean and the global currents of the Third World and the Cold War. In the spirit of recent developments in Cold War Studies, I will reread this understudied yet momentous era of recent Turkish history in its societal, regional, and global complexities by moving beyond the normative cliché of “Turkish exceptionalism” and embed the Turkish experience in regional and international affairs beyond conventional geopolitics. My research will first map the transnational interactions and discourses of world politics among right and left movements in Turkey in order to map the “big” world of “small” actors. Partisan, paramilitary, and parapolitical forms of contentious politics will be studied as a complex process of changing state-society relations. Finally, on the road to the 1980 military coup, Turkey will be compared to the radical processes of upheaval of socio-political order in the entire Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Third World. In comparative terms, I would like to place the 1980 coup in relation to the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Camp-David Accords with Egypt, Baath Party purge of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and rise of Saudi Arabia as a regional power. Around 1980 in Turkey and elsewhere in the region, where leftist movements were all persecuted and Soviet Union had lost grounding, different types of conservative authoritarian regimes emerged that, as I argue, brought the bipolar order of the Cold War to an abortive end in the Middle East—a decade earlier than in 1989. 


I completed a combined Bachelor and Master program at the University of Munich in Middle Eastern Studies (Ottoman, Turkish, and Iranian Studies), Political Science and Economic Geography, including study and research stays in Samarkand, Istanbul, Tehran, and Ankara. For my PhD degree, I first attended the University of Freiburg and then, following my PhD advisor Prof. Dr. Maurus Reinkowski, I went to the University of Basel, where at the Graduate School of Social Sciences I defended my PhD in the Near & Middle Eastern Studies in December 2016. During my PhD studies, I held a full-scholarship from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Since 2010, I have been involved in university teaching. From February 2013 to July 2018, I was a university lecturer (after February 2017 as a postdoc) at the Middle Eastern Studies program in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Basel. I teach extremely broadly both in subjects of history and social sciences as well as both in themes of Ottoman and Turkish Studies and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. In 2017, I was lecturer in Islamic religion and civilization at the School of Education of the University of Applied Sciences & Arts Northwestern Switzerland. Since August 2018, I am University Lecturer in Modern Turkish History at the School of Middle Eastern Studies at the Institute of Areas Studies of the University of Leiden.

University Lecturer

  • Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies

Work address

Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 4
2311 BZ Leiden
Room number 1.16b



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