Ismail Noyan

PhD Candidate

MA, Sabanci University, 2018
MSc, London School of Economics and Political Science, 2016 
BA, Bilkent University, 2015

Supervisor: Thomas Kuehn
Personal Website:

Research Interests

Conservatism, 19th century intellectual currents in the broader Islamic World, Ottoman Modernizations, Ahmet Cevdet Pasha

Research Description

My research interests lay at the juncture of theoretical and definitional controversies around conservatism and modernity and empirical studies on entangled intellectual history of the late Ottoman Empire. My doctoral work aims to examine to what extent Ahmed Cevdet can be considered a conservative modernizer by shedding light on his entanglement in the wider currents of state building, social change, and reform that extended over large parts of Eurasia in the long nineteenth century.

One central aspect of my project is to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the concepts and practices of late Ottoman politics and to inquire – through a study of Ahmed Cevdet Pasha’ s intellectual trajectory – into the very conceivability of a conservative approach to modernity. Indeed, despite notable endeavors to globalize and genuinely universalize scholarship on political thought by turning to various ‘non-Western’ sources, there is still a dearth of scholarship on comparative concept history and almost no study focusing on the late Ottoman period. This project aims to insert Ahmet Cevdet Pasha into the controversies around comparative conservative political thought and intellectual history of the concept ‘conservatism’ in the late Ottoman period. Another significant pillar of the project will be the reconsideration of flows of intellectual currents within the empire. It is only recently that historians have begun to distill the widely shared assumption that the impulses for the profound political, social, and culture transformation of the empire during the long nineteenth century invariably came from the imperial capital Istanbul, often regarded by historians as ‘the center.’ As a matter of fact, there is strong evidence that the flows of intellectual currents did not necessarily run from ‘the center’ to ‘the periphery’ but also the other way around, and, very importantly, between different peripheries. I argue that the career of Ahmet Cevdet Pasha as a bureaucrat and intellectual is a superb but hitherto unexamined example for these multidirectional, intellectual ties.

Working Dissertation Title

Conservative Approach to Modernity: Case of Ahmet Cevdet Pasha 


I do not want to take a retrospective approach and disregard the contingencies of my academic journey. There might be people who resolve at an early age to become academics, but I was not one of them. As a matter of fact, I am the first member of my extended family to earn a college degree. Thus, before my sophomore year at Bilkent University in Turkey, academia – and being an academic – had been beyond my ability to fully conceive. Therefore, not pursuing a Ph.D. but being a successful politician was my main motive for enrolling in the Political Science Department.

When I started at Bilkent, I subscribed to certain political narratives as if they were the only truths and defended them even at the cost of inconsistency. I consider myself lucky to have been taught by distinguished professors from the early stages of my academic journey. From them, I learned how to think and analyze critically and to interpret historical events and actors in nuanced ways as opposed to in stark dichotomies of good vs bad. It is a testament to my hard work and commitment to self-improvement that, after graduation from Bilkent University, I was admitted to the London School of Economics’s M.Sc. program in Comparative Politics. Moreover, as a result of a nation-wide competition I was awarded a highly competitive Jean Monnet Scholarship that covered tuition and living expenses for my studies at LSE.

I first became interested in Ottoman and Turkish political thought and intellectual history from my sophomore year onward, and throughout my studies at Bilkent, Maastricht, and LSE, I was torn between being a political scientist and a historian. In the process, I realized that the focus of my academic and intellectual interests is the intersection of both disciplines. Therefore, after obtaining my M.Sc. in Comparative Politics from LSE, I opted for a master’s degree in History at Sabancı University in Turkey. There, I began to learn Ottoman Turkish and Arabic in order to be able to use primary sources, while the focus of my course work was on problems and methods of late Ottoman history. As of September 2019, I enrolled in the History PhD program at SFU and am now working on 19th-century Ottoman intellectual life.

I like biking, jogging and killing time with a close circle of friends. Among other things, I am passionate not only about tasting and drinking variety of coffees but also super enthusiastic about different brewing methods and have a humble collection of coffee machines and tools.

Scholarly Activities

Conference Papers

  • The 11th Western Ottomanists’ Workshop in California State University, Sacramento April 10-11, 2020 (postponed due to Covid-19)
    “Rifa‘a Rafi al-Tahtawi’s  Travel to Paris and His Ideas’ Travel to İstanbul” 
  • The 12th Annual Middle East and Islamic Studies Consortium of British Columbia Student Conference, University of Victoria, Victoria April 4, 2020 (postponed due to Covid-19)
    “Towards an Entangled Intellectual History of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th Century”
  • The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) European Summer School in Bosnia 29 July- 8 August, 2019
    “Ahmet Cevdet Pasha’s notes on Bosnia: Portraying the Empire as a decent place for Muslims and non-Muslims”
  • Ibn Haldun University, Graduate Conference, İstanbul May 2019
    “Kadim: An Ambigious Concept for Change but Working Legitimization Tool”
  • Princeton University, Near Eastern Studies, March 2019
    “Availability of a Conservative Approach to Modernity? Mecelle Case in the Late Ottoman Empire,”
  • European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) General Conference in Hamburg 2018 
    “The Three Dimensions For Understanding the Conservative Attitude Toward Change: nature of change, nature of challenge and nature of current constraints”


  • Comparative Politics (MSc) dissertation at London School of Economics (LSE)
    “Confederalism As An Appetiser: A Genuine Change From Socialist Kurdistan To Confederalism? An Intrinsic Case Study on Ideology and Pragmatism in Changing PKK Goals Since Its Foundation”
  • History (MA) in Sabancı University
    Ahmet Cevdet Pasha and Change: A Three-Tiered Approach

Book Review

  • "Democracy, Identity, and Foreign Policy in Turkey: Hegemony Through Transformation by Fuat Keyman." Review of International Law & Politics, January 2015.


Simon Fraser University

  • Graduate Fellowships (2019-2024)
  • Douglas Cole Memorial Graduate Entrance Scholarship in Cultural History 
  • Travel and Minor Research Award 
  • Muslim Studies Graduate Student Travel Award 
  • Cook Conference Scholarship 
  • William & Jane Saywell Graduate Scholarship

Sabancı University, Full Scholarship, 2016-2018
Jean Monnet Scholarship of European Union, 2015-2016
Bilkent University, Full Scholarship, 2010-2015

Teaching Assistantships

Simon Fraser University 2019-2021

  • Hist 225 20th Century Europe (Prof. Ilya Vinkovetsky) 2021 Spring 
  • Hist 151 The Modern Middle East (Prof. Paul Sedra) 2020 Fall
  • Hist 151 The Modern Middle East (Prof. Thomas Kuehn) 2019 Spring                                            
  • Hist 151 The Modern Middle East (Prof. Paul Sedra) 2019 Fall

Sabancı University 2016-2018

  • Social and Political Science 101 in Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Summer 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, and Summer 2018