About

I am a socio-cultural anthropologist interested in transnational sexualities, migration, asylum, waiting, humanitarianism, and queer and critical race theory with a specific focus on the Middle East and its diasporas as well as collaborative, multimodal, and social justice-oriented approaches to knowledge production.

I received my Ph.D. in Anthropology (2021) at Cornell University with a concentration in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Before coming to the field of anthropology, I received an M.A. (2014) in Near Eastern Studies at New York University and a B.A. (2011) in Political Sciences and International Relations at Bogazici University in Turkey, where I was born and raised. I am currently the Martha LA McCain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto and will join the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in 2022. I serve as a co-editor for the Turkey page at Jadaliyya, an independent e-zine that provides critical analysis and pedagogy on the most pressing issues related to the Middle East and North Africa.

elifsari.com


Research

Research Interests: Asylum, queer migration, humanitarianism, mobility and immobility, waiting, time and temporality, transnational sexualities, queer and critical race theory; feminist and queer research methods, community-engaged research, ethnographic multimedia; Middle East and its diasporas, Turkey, Iran

My current book project uses ‘waiting’ both as a methodological tool and an analytical category to explore transnational queer asylum in the contemporary context of closed borders. Supported by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies as well as Cornell Center for Social Sciences, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Society for Humanities, and Office of Engagement Initiatives, I conducted extensive ethnographic research with Iranian LGBTQ refugees in Turkey awaiting resettlement to the United States and Canada. As these countries have tightened their resettlement policies since 2015, Iranian LGBTQ refugees are stranded in small Turkish towns with insecure legal status for an undetermined period. Through participant observation, archival research, interviews, and community-engaged multimedia production between 2015-2020, I explored how refugees cope with this precarious and indefinite form of waiting, while negotiating their racialized and sexualized positionings with multiple nation-states, international asylum authorities, diasporic NGOs, and local townspeople. Rather than treating waiting merely as a governmental tool that aims to control and demobilize refugees, my ethnography shows that waiting becomes an “active time-space” in which refugees refashion their identities, establish queer kin structures, and cultivate novel forms of care, support, and solidarity, while also feeling intense competition with one another to gain access to resettlement.

My second book project extends the question of queer (im)mobility into new directions by focusing on an emerging shift from public to private-sponsored refugee resettlement. As the United States and Canada have retrenched the prospect for government-sponsored resettlement, Middle Eastern LGBTQ refugees are increasingly reaching out to Canadian queer NGOs, seeking private sponsorship as one of the few available resettlement paths. My new project investigates the privatization of refugee resettlement and its effects on queer mobilities, race, belonging, and sexual citizenship in the current era of immigration retrenchment, growing xenophobia, anti-Muslim racism, and neoliberal governance.

 

Alongside my ethnographic book projects, I am committed to collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to scholarship with an emphasis on social justice. I incorporate activist and community-based engagements into my research, writing, and teaching. During my previous research in Turkey, I initiated a community-engaged multimedia project in collaboration with Iranian refugees, which received an Engaged Cornell award. At UBC, I am looking forward to expanding these collaborations into a new project that aims to bring LGBTQ refugees, artists, and activists based in Vancouver together with UBC students to create cross-border ethnographic and artistic collaborations and engaged learning and research opportunities for students.


Publications

Books

 

Waiting in Transit: Iranian LGBTQ Refugees in Turkey and the Sexuality of (Im)mobility (manuscript in preparation)

 

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

 

  1. “Lesbian Refugees in Transit: The Making of Authenticity and Legitimacy in Turkey.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 24(2): 140-158.

 

  1. “Towards a New Asylum Regime in Turkey?” Movements: Journal for Critical Migration and Border Regime Studies 3(2): 59-79 (co-authored with Cemile Gizem Dinçer).

 

Book Chapters

 

  1. “Unsafe Present, Uncertain Future: Queer and Trans Asylum in Turkey.” In Queer and Trans Migrations: Dynamics of Detention, Deportation, and Illegalization, Eithne Luibhéid and Karma Chávez (eds). The University of Illinois Press. pp. 90-105.

 

  1. Branding and Neoliberalism.” In Authoritarianism and Resistance in Turkey: Conversations on Democratic and Social Challenges, Esra Özyürek, Emrah Altındiş, and Gaye Özpınar (eds). Springer International Publishing. pp.51-61 (co-authored with Aslı Iğsız).

 

Online Publications

 

  1. “A Critical Forum About LGBTI+ Prohibitions in Turkey.” Jadaliyya, January 3.

 

  1. “In Memory of Ozgecan Aslan: Sexual Violence and the Juridical System in Turkey.” Jadaliyya, February 18.

 

  1. “The State v. Individual: On State Crimes and Judicial Parody in Turkey.” Jadaliyya, March 21.

 

 


Awards

2020 Grant for “From Competition to Solidarity: Iranian & Syrian LGBTQ Refugee Meetings” community-engaged project from the Qualitative and Interpretive Research Institute, Cornell University

 

2020 Mellon Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Dissertation Completion Fellowship

 

2020 Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (declined)

 

2020 James Slevin Prize for Graduate Student Instructors (Honorable Mention) from John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, Cornell University

 

2019 Bernd Lambert Research Fellowship, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

 

2019 Bernard S. Cohn Fund for Graduate Student Research, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

 

2018 Research Travel Grant, The Society for Humanities, Cornell University

 

2017 The Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant,

 

2017 Grant for “A Collaborative Multimedia Project with Iranian LGBTI Refugees” from Office of Engagement Initiatives, Cornell University

 

2017 Research Travel Grant, Graduate School, Cornell University

 

2016 Bernd Lambert Research Fellowship, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

 

2016 Research Travel Grant, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Cornell University

 

2014 SAGE Fellowship, Cornell University

 

2014 Master’s Thesis Research Grant. Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University

                            

2012 The MacCracken Fellowship, New York University

 

2011 Award for Excellence, Research Paper Prize, The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK)


Elif Sari

Assistant Professor
email

I am a socio-cultural anthropologist interested in transnational sexualities, migration, asylum, waiting, humanitarianism, and queer and critical race theory with a specific focus on the Middle East and its diasporas as well as collaborative, multimodal, and social justice-oriented approaches to knowledge production.

I received my Ph.D. in Anthropology (2021) at Cornell University with a concentration in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Before coming to the field of anthropology, I received an M.A. (2014) in Near Eastern Studies at New York University and a B.A. (2011) in Political Sciences and International Relations at Bogazici University in Turkey, where I was born and raised. I am currently the Martha LA McCain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto and will join the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in 2022. I serve as a co-editor for the Turkey page at Jadaliyya, an independent e-zine that provides critical analysis and pedagogy on the most pressing issues related to the Middle East and North Africa.

elifsari.com

Research Interests: Asylum, queer migration, humanitarianism, mobility and immobility, waiting, time and temporality, transnational sexualities, queer and critical race theory; feminist and queer research methods, community-engaged research, ethnographic multimedia; Middle East and its diasporas, Turkey, Iran

My current book project uses ‘waiting’ both as a methodological tool and an analytical category to explore transnational queer asylum in the contemporary context of closed borders. Supported by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies as well as Cornell Center for Social Sciences, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Society for Humanities, and Office of Engagement Initiatives, I conducted extensive ethnographic research with Iranian LGBTQ refugees in Turkey awaiting resettlement to the United States and Canada. As these countries have tightened their resettlement policies since 2015, Iranian LGBTQ refugees are stranded in small Turkish towns with insecure legal status for an undetermined period. Through participant observation, archival research, interviews, and community-engaged multimedia production between 2015-2020, I explored how refugees cope with this precarious and indefinite form of waiting, while negotiating their racialized and sexualized positionings with multiple nation-states, international asylum authorities, diasporic NGOs, and local townspeople. Rather than treating waiting merely as a governmental tool that aims to control and demobilize refugees, my ethnography shows that waiting becomes an “active time-space” in which refugees refashion their identities, establish queer kin structures, and cultivate novel forms of care, support, and solidarity, while also feeling intense competition with one another to gain access to resettlement.

My second book project extends the question of queer (im)mobility into new directions by focusing on an emerging shift from public to private-sponsored refugee resettlement. As the United States and Canada have retrenched the prospect for government-sponsored resettlement, Middle Eastern LGBTQ refugees are increasingly reaching out to Canadian queer NGOs, seeking private sponsorship as one of the few available resettlement paths. My new project investigates the privatization of refugee resettlement and its effects on queer mobilities, race, belonging, and sexual citizenship in the current era of immigration retrenchment, growing xenophobia, anti-Muslim racism, and neoliberal governance.

 

Alongside my ethnographic book projects, I am committed to collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to scholarship with an emphasis on social justice. I incorporate activist and community-based engagements into my research, writing, and teaching. During my previous research in Turkey, I initiated a community-engaged multimedia project in collaboration with Iranian refugees, which received an Engaged Cornell award. At UBC, I am looking forward to expanding these collaborations into a new project that aims to bring LGBTQ refugees, artists, and activists based in Vancouver together with UBC students to create cross-border ethnographic and artistic collaborations and engaged learning and research opportunities for students.

Books

 

Waiting in Transit: Iranian LGBTQ Refugees in Turkey and the Sexuality of (Im)mobility (manuscript in preparation)

 

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

 

  1. “Lesbian Refugees in Transit: The Making of Authenticity and Legitimacy in Turkey.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 24(2): 140-158.

 

  1. “Towards a New Asylum Regime in Turkey?” Movements: Journal for Critical Migration and Border Regime Studies 3(2): 59-79 (co-authored with Cemile Gizem Dinçer).

 

Book Chapters

 

  1. “Unsafe Present, Uncertain Future: Queer and Trans Asylum in Turkey.” In Queer and Trans Migrations: Dynamics of Detention, Deportation, and Illegalization, Eithne Luibhéid and Karma Chávez (eds). The University of Illinois Press. pp. 90-105.

 

  1. Branding and Neoliberalism.” In Authoritarianism and Resistance in Turkey: Conversations on Democratic and Social Challenges, Esra Özyürek, Emrah Altındiş, and Gaye Özpınar (eds). Springer International Publishing. pp.51-61 (co-authored with Aslı Iğsız).

 

Online Publications

 

  1. “A Critical Forum About LGBTI+ Prohibitions in Turkey.” Jadaliyya, January 3.

 

  1. “In Memory of Ozgecan Aslan: Sexual Violence and the Juridical System in Turkey.” Jadaliyya, February 18.

 

  1. “The State v. Individual: On State Crimes and Judicial Parody in Turkey.” Jadaliyya, March 21.

 

 

2020 Grant for “From Competition to Solidarity: Iranian & Syrian LGBTQ Refugee Meetings” community-engaged project from the Qualitative and Interpretive Research Institute, Cornell University

 

2020 Mellon Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Dissertation Completion Fellowship

 

2020 Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (declined)

 

2020 James Slevin Prize for Graduate Student Instructors (Honorable Mention) from John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, Cornell University

 

2019 Bernd Lambert Research Fellowship, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

 

2019 Bernard S. Cohn Fund for Graduate Student Research, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

 

2018 Research Travel Grant, The Society for Humanities, Cornell University

 

2017 The Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant,

 

2017 Grant for “A Collaborative Multimedia Project with Iranian LGBTI Refugees” from Office of Engagement Initiatives, Cornell University

 

2017 Research Travel Grant, Graduate School, Cornell University

 

2016 Bernd Lambert Research Fellowship, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

 

2016 Research Travel Grant, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Cornell University

 

2014 SAGE Fellowship, Cornell University

 

2014 Master’s Thesis Research Grant. Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University

                            

2012 The MacCracken Fellowship, New York University

 

2011 Award for Excellence, Research Paper Prize, The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK)

Elif Sari

Assistant Professor
email

I am a socio-cultural anthropologist interested in transnational sexualities, migration, asylum, waiting, humanitarianism, and queer and critical race theory with a specific focus on the Middle East and its diasporas as well as collaborative, multimodal, and social justice-oriented approaches to knowledge production.

I received my Ph.D. in Anthropology (2021) at Cornell University with a concentration in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Before coming to the field of anthropology, I received an M.A. (2014) in Near Eastern Studies at New York University and a B.A. (2011) in Political Sciences and International Relations at Bogazici University in Turkey, where I was born and raised. I am currently the Martha LA McCain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto and will join the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in 2022. I serve as a co-editor for the Turkey page at Jadaliyya, an independent e-zine that provides critical analysis and pedagogy on the most pressing issues related to the Middle East and North Africa.

elifsari.com

Research Interests: Asylum, queer migration, humanitarianism, mobility and immobility, waiting, time and temporality, transnational sexualities, queer and critical race theory; feminist and queer research methods, community-engaged research, ethnographic multimedia; Middle East and its diasporas, Turkey, Iran

My current book project uses ‘waiting’ both as a methodological tool and an analytical category to explore transnational queer asylum in the contemporary context of closed borders. Supported by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies as well as Cornell Center for Social Sciences, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Society for Humanities, and Office of Engagement Initiatives, I conducted extensive ethnographic research with Iranian LGBTQ refugees in Turkey awaiting resettlement to the United States and Canada. As these countries have tightened their resettlement policies since 2015, Iranian LGBTQ refugees are stranded in small Turkish towns with insecure legal status for an undetermined period. Through participant observation, archival research, interviews, and community-engaged multimedia production between 2015-2020, I explored how refugees cope with this precarious and indefinite form of waiting, while negotiating their racialized and sexualized positionings with multiple nation-states, international asylum authorities, diasporic NGOs, and local townspeople. Rather than treating waiting merely as a governmental tool that aims to control and demobilize refugees, my ethnography shows that waiting becomes an “active time-space” in which refugees refashion their identities, establish queer kin structures, and cultivate novel forms of care, support, and solidarity, while also feeling intense competition with one another to gain access to resettlement.

My second book project extends the question of queer (im)mobility into new directions by focusing on an emerging shift from public to private-sponsored refugee resettlement. As the United States and Canada have retrenched the prospect for government-sponsored resettlement, Middle Eastern LGBTQ refugees are increasingly reaching out to Canadian queer NGOs, seeking private sponsorship as one of the few available resettlement paths. My new project investigates the privatization of refugee resettlement and its effects on queer mobilities, race, belonging, and sexual citizenship in the current era of immigration retrenchment, growing xenophobia, anti-Muslim racism, and neoliberal governance.

 

Alongside my ethnographic book projects, I am committed to collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to scholarship with an emphasis on social justice. I incorporate activist and community-based engagements into my research, writing, and teaching. During my previous research in Turkey, I initiated a community-engaged multimedia project in collaboration with Iranian refugees, which received an Engaged Cornell award. At UBC, I am looking forward to expanding these collaborations into a new project that aims to bring LGBTQ refugees, artists, and activists based in Vancouver together with UBC students to create cross-border ethnographic and artistic collaborations and engaged learning and research opportunities for students.

Books

 

Waiting in Transit: Iranian LGBTQ Refugees in Turkey and the Sexuality of (Im)mobility (manuscript in preparation)

 

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

 

  1. “Lesbian Refugees in Transit: The Making of Authenticity and Legitimacy in Turkey.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 24(2): 140-158.

 

  1. “Towards a New Asylum Regime in Turkey?” Movements: Journal for Critical Migration and Border Regime Studies 3(2): 59-79 (co-authored with Cemile Gizem Dinçer).

 

Book Chapters

 

  1. “Unsafe Present, Uncertain Future: Queer and Trans Asylum in Turkey.” In Queer and Trans Migrations: Dynamics of Detention, Deportation, and Illegalization, Eithne Luibhéid and Karma Chávez (eds). The University of Illinois Press. pp. 90-105.

 

  1. Branding and Neoliberalism.” In Authoritarianism and Resistance in Turkey: Conversations on Democratic and Social Challenges, Esra Özyürek, Emrah Altındiş, and Gaye Özpınar (eds). Springer International Publishing. pp.51-61 (co-authored with Aslı Iğsız).

 

Online Publications

 

  1. “A Critical Forum About LGBTI+ Prohibitions in Turkey.” Jadaliyya, January 3.

 

  1. “In Memory of Ozgecan Aslan: Sexual Violence and the Juridical System in Turkey.” Jadaliyya, February 18.

 

  1. “The State v. Individual: On State Crimes and Judicial Parody in Turkey.” Jadaliyya, March 21.

 

 

2020 Grant for “From Competition to Solidarity: Iranian & Syrian LGBTQ Refugee Meetings” community-engaged project from the Qualitative and Interpretive Research Institute, Cornell University

 

2020 Mellon Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Dissertation Completion Fellowship

 

2020 Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (declined)

 

2020 James Slevin Prize for Graduate Student Instructors (Honorable Mention) from John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, Cornell University

 

2019 Bernd Lambert Research Fellowship, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

 

2019 Bernard S. Cohn Fund for Graduate Student Research, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

 

2018 Research Travel Grant, The Society for Humanities, Cornell University

 

2017 The Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant,

 

2017 Grant for “A Collaborative Multimedia Project with Iranian LGBTI Refugees” from Office of Engagement Initiatives, Cornell University

 

2017 Research Travel Grant, Graduate School, Cornell University

 

2016 Bernd Lambert Research Fellowship, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

 

2016 Research Travel Grant, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Cornell University

 

2014 SAGE Fellowship, Cornell University

 

2014 Master’s Thesis Research Grant. Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University

                            

2012 The MacCracken Fellowship, New York University

 

2011 Award for Excellence, Research Paper Prize, The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK)