2005 – Elif Shafak, University of Arizona
Elif Shafak was born in Strasbourg, France in 1971. She spent her teenage years in Spain before returning to Turkey. She has published five novels, most recently, THE SAINT OF INCIPIENT INSANITIES, which is her first novel in English and which was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the fall of 2004.
Shafak is also a social scientist, graduated from International Relations at Middle East Technical University. She holds a Master of Science degree in Gender and Women Studies, and earned her PhD from the Department of Political Science. Her major in Contemporary Western Political Thought and her minor in Middle Eastern Studies, Shafak's academic background has been nurtured by a critical, interdisciplinary, and gender-conscious rereading of the literature on the Middle East & West, Islam, and modernity.
Elif Shafak's master’s thesis on Islam, women and mysticism, titled "The Deconstruction of Femininity Along the Cyclical Understanding of Heterodox Dervishes in Islam" was awarded by Social Scientists Institute. Shafak has taught “Ottoman History From the Margins,” “Turkey & Cultural Identities,” and “Women and Writing” in Istanbul Bilgi University.
In summer of 2002, Shafak came to the United States for the first time as one of the fellows chosen from different parts of the world by the Five Colleges Women’s Studies Research Center. During the academic year 2003-4, she was a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan, where she taught courses such as “Women Writing on Women: East-West Encounters” and “The Queer in the Middle East.” Currently, Shafak is an Assistant Professor in the Near Eastern Studies Department at The University of Arizona. Her courses include “Literature and Exile,” “Politics of Memory,” and “Sexualities and Gender in the Muslim World.”
An outspoken intellectual and activist, Elif Shafak continues to write for various daily and monthly publications in Turkey.