Bio


Serkan Yolaçan is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research combines broad space and deep history empirically, and history and anthropology methodologically, to generate geo-historical frames that speak to questions of human mobility, international order, and state expansionism, past and present. He received his PhD degree in cultural anthropology from Duke University and was a research fellow at the National University of Singapore before his appointment at Stanford. He has an active media profile in Southeast Asia through regular contributions to Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post and Singapore-based Channel NewsAsia.

Academic Appointments


  • Assistant Professor, Anthropology

Professional Education


  • PhD, Duke University, Cultural Anthropology (2017)
  • MA, Central European University, Sociology and Social Anthropology (2008)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests


Serkan Yolaçan’s research broadly focuses on the interplay of past and present in the lives of individuals, diasporas, and states. In all his projects, Yolaçan combines broad space and deep history empirically, and history and anthropology methodologically, to generate geo-historical frames that speak to questions of human mobility, international order, and state expansionism, past and present.

His book project, Time Travelers of Baku: Conversion and Revolution in West Asia, weaves the modern experiences of Turkey, Iran, and Russia through the lens of a mobile, diasporic people from the region of Azerbaijan. In this work, Yolaçan reveals the Azeris’ deep historical roots within each country and shows how shared pasts allow for the cross-pollination of ideas among neighboring realms, languages, and even religions, especially in times of opening or crisis. By placing mobile Azeris at the center of three major states, he ties together their near-synchronous transformations from constitutional revolutions at the beginning of the twentieth century to expansionist agendas in the twenty-first.

Yolaçan’s second project is a comparative study of cults and messianic movements. It explores how embodied authority, eschatological beliefs, and textual traditions interact to create invisible forms of sovereignty.

A side project he works on opens a new inquiry in political anthropology by studying two ubiquitous figures of the 21st-century: strongman and informal diplomat. Populists at home and maverick dealmakers abroad, strongman leaders are side-lining official career diplomats by using informal diplomats, drawn from transnational networks of diasporas, religious communities, and merchants. By shifting the basis of understanding their partnership from bureaucracies to networks, law to trust, and protocols to rituals, he renders these opaque figures legible to ethnographic and historical inquiry while offering new methodological approaches to the study of populism, authoritarianism, diplomacy, and internationalism.

2020-21 Courses


All Publications


  • Azeri networks through thick and thin: West Asian politics from a diasporic eye Journal of Eurasian Studies Yolaçan, S. 2019; 10 (1): 36-47

    View details for DOI 10.1177/1879366518814936

  • The Idea of the Northern Tier: A New Order in the Middle East? edited by Yolaçan, S. NUS Middle East Institute. 2019