Elyse Semerdjian

Professor of History (Middle East, Islamic World), Chair

Maxey Hall 237


Ph.D. History
Georgetown University

M.A. Middle Eastern Studies
University of Michigan

B.A. Political Philosophy
Albion College

Elyse Semerdjian is Professor of Islamic World/Middle Eastern History and Chair of the History Department. She teaches a broad range of courses at Whitman on the subject of gender, sexuality, social history, culture, and politics of the Middle East. A specialist in the history of the Ottoman Empire and Syria, she authored " Off the Straight Path": Illicit Sex, Law, and Community in Ottoman Aleppo  (Syracuse University Press, 2008), Remnants: Embodied Archives of the Armenian Genocide (forthcoming with Stanford University Press, 2023), and has published several articles on gender, law, violence, and Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

Semerdjian currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Middle East Women's Studies, the Journal for the Society of Armenian Studies, and she recently finished her term as book review editor for the  International Journal of Middle East Studies. A two-time Fulbright scholarship awardee, her research is primarily focused on Syria, the social history of Aleppo’s Armenian community, and gender and the Armenian Genocide. In the Spring of 2013, she was awarded the Dumanian Visiting Professor in Armenian Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Cultures and Languages at the University of Chicago. Her article " Naked Anxiety: Bathhouses, Nudity, and Muslim/non-Muslim Relations in Eighteenth-Century Aleppo," published in the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, won the Syrian Studies Association Best Article Prize in 2014. She was awarded a fellowship at Cornell University Society for the Humanities in 2016-2017 to support research on “Skin” for her forthcoming book Remnants.  She recently received a German Research Grant with the “Religion and Urbanity” Research Group at University of Erfurt, Germany to write Aleppo: An Urban Biography, an inclusive pre- and post-war urban history of the city’s Muslim and non-Muslim inhabitants.

Select publications by Professor Semerdjian can be accessed on academia.edu

Middle East History Courses
History 128: Islamic Civilization II: The Modern Islamic World

History 214: Sex in the Casbah: Sex, Gender & Islam
History 220: Ottomania! History, Politics, and Memory of the Ottoman Empire

History 235: The Arab Spring in Historical Context

History 322: History of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
History 397: Harem Histories 

First Year Seminars
GENS 176: “Epic History” 
GENS 175: “The End(s) of the Body”