By: Michael Bruckler, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Professor of Religious Studies Betül Ba?aran has won a three-month Fulbright Global Scholar Research award for the Spring 2021 Semester to conduct critically important archival research in England and India for her book project on the legacy and impact of Princesses Niloufer (1916-1989) and Durrushehvar (1914-2006).
Ba?aran’s host institutions will be the School of Oriental and African Studies in London,The Centre for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi, and the Centre for Deccan Studies in Hyderabad. As a Fulbright Global Scholar, she will give lectures about her research at each of these institutions, and organize seminars with students who have an interest in Islamic Studies and Gender Studies.
Ba?aran’s project underscores the agency of Muslim women as important role models and pioneers in world history, in contrast to the contemporary western narrative most prevalent today that reduces them to mere victims or religious extremists.
The story of late Ottoman princesses and their cross-cultural journeys present a unique perspective to investigate the intertwined themes of international politics, religion, royalty, and Muslim women’s agency during a turbulent period of major social and political transformations in the 20th century. The princesses belonged to the Ottoman dynasty and were condemned to life-long exile after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. Their life is a fascinating story of exile from Turkey to the French Riviera, followed by royal glamor in India as daughters-in-law of Hyderabad’s last independent ruler, where they evolved from foreign brides into cultural ambassadors dedicated to women’s empowerment.
Ba?aran’s project aims to enhance our understanding of the role of Ottoman princesses as transnational and cross-cultural agents for change during the 20th century.