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Oya Topçuoğlu

Associate Professor of Instruction, Turkish

PhD, University of Chicago

Oya Topçuoğlu is an Associate Professor of Instruction in the Middle East and North African Languages Program at Northwestern University. Dr.  Topçuoğlu teaches on a range of subjects, including modern Turkish language and culture, and the history and archaeology of the Middle East. Her first-year seminar, We Are What We Eat: Turkish Food Culture and Cuisine and her 200-level seminar "Foodways of Turkey: A Multi-ethnic Look at Food, Culture and Identity" (MENA 290-6-1) explore the complex relationships between food, culture and society through the lens of Turkish food from the Middle Ages to the present. Taking advantage of the unique resources of the university and of the city of Chicago, the seminar introduces students to global issues such as identity, immigration, climate change, international relations and religion. Dr. Topçuoğlu also teaches an upper-level undergraduate seminar on the relationship of archaeology and politics in the modern Middle East, touching upon issues of nation-building, nationalism, identity-formation, colonialism, and education.

In 2018-19, Dr. Topçuoğlu was selected to the Associated Student Government Faculty & Administrator Honor Roll for her Freshmen Seminar. In 2020, she received the prestigious Alumnae of Northwestern Grant for Curriculum Innovation to develop a capstone course in Turkish about the city of Istanbul. Between 2020-2023, Dr. Topçuoğlu served as Chair of the Council on Language Instruction. She is also a Faculty Fellow at the International Studies Residential College (ISRC); and as a Faculty Board Member of the Keyman Modern Turkish Studies Program at the Buffett Institute. 

Dr. Topçuoğlu holds a PhD in the Art and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, and a BA in Ottoman History from Boğaziçi University in Istanbul. Dr. Topçuoğlu is an archaeologist by training, who specializes in the art, archaeology, and history of ancient Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Her research addresses issues of social identity and cultural exchange, and the effects of political change and ideology on the material record of the ancient Middle East. In addition to her work on iconography and symbolism, Dr. Topçuoğlu studies the looting and illegal trafficking of antiquities from Iraq and Syria, the political uses of the ancient past, and its role in the formation of national identities in the modern Middle East. She is particularly interested in the history of archaeology and museums, and cultural heritage preservation in her native Turkey.