To examine the US in the world, Perin Gürel puts diplomatic policy documents in conversation with cultural products

Author: Jon Hendricks

Perin Gürel examines the United States’ perception of the world and, in return, the world’s perception of the United States, with a particular focus on U.S.-Middle East relations after World War I.

To do so, the associate professor of American studies puts diplomatic policy documents in conversation with cultural products.

“I might look at how a movie depicts Iran and how that movie is then interpreted in Turkey and how that relates to foreign policy, both Turkish foreign policy but also U.S. foreign policy and Iranian foreign policy,” she said.

In Gürel’s in-progress book, America's Wife, America's Concubine: Turkey, Iran, and the Politics of Comparison, she analyzes comparisons of Turkey and Iran by U.S. scholars and policymakers, as well as Turkish and Iranian leaders, from the Cold War to the War on Terror.

“I look at who has compared these countries, with what goals, under what conditions,” she said. “My research is very qualitative. A qualitative approach will have us take a step back and look at the category of democratization and what we mean by that.”

In 2022, the concurrent associate professor of gender studies won a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for Research in Turkey to work on her book. Its title was inspired by Iranian leader Mohammad Reza Shah’s remark during a 1962 meeting with U.S. President John F. Kennedy that “America treats Turkey as a wife, and Iran as a concubine.”

Gürel said Notre Dame’s support for internationalization on campus and for international research make it an excellent place to engage in interdisciplinary research.

Plus, she said, “I find that the students are very interested in views of the United States from outside the United States.”