Spotlight on... | 26/09/2023

"Spotlight on..." New Doctoral Researcher Mira Demirdirek

Mira Demirdirek officially joined the GIGA Doctoral Programme in August 2023, working on her dissertation “(Dis)continuities in Turkey’s Africa Policy”. She holds a Master’s degree in African Studies from Leiden University. She is also a research fellow at the GIGA Institute for Middle East Studies. Learn more about Mira in this interview.


  • What made you choose to do a PhD? My research visit to Dar es Salaam as part of a larger research consortium for my master's thesis profoundly impacted my academic pursuits and desire to pursue a Ph.D. The three month research stay afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with exceptional colleagues, which extended beyond the scope of my thesis and was an immensely rewarding experience. As I approached the end of my studies, I realized that I was not ready to conclude my academic journey but rather yearned to delve deeper into a subject through a more extended period of research

    What is your motivation to address the topic of your PhD?

    Most of the research on Turkey's dealings with African countries typically tends to zoom in on the past two decades, which is when Turkey became particularly active in its relations with the continent. However, I am also interested in examining earlier periods like the 1960s and 1970s as I aspire to examine the continuities in Turkey’s Africa policy despite major transformations of its domestic and foreign policies. On a more personal level, I am very excited to blend my African Studies background with my political and sociological interest in Turkey.

    What are you looking most forward to during your PhD studies?

    Turkey's policy towards Africa is often cited as a prime example of the changes and transformations in its domestic and foreign policies. While this is certainly true, I argue that relationships with African states, even if they were limited or brief in earlier periods, also provide insights into the continuities and similarities in Turkey's foreign policy (discourse) towards Africa and its perception of its own global role. Regarding my grandmother, she has, in fact, already taken a keen interest in my research and has read some of the memoirs of former Turkish Foreign Ministers and diplomats that I am using for my research. Honestly, I have already benefited greatly from my grandmother's excellent memory and knowledge of Turkey's political history.

    Big conference of small workshop? Small workshop. The opportunity of intensive exchange coupled with a more intimate atmosphere creates an excellent environment for learning from each other and exchanging thoughts (most likely beyond mere academic themes).

    Paperback book or eBook? Definitely paperback book. I enjoy taking handwritten notes or adding sticky notes, but I must admit for academic readings, I am increasingly working digital as I find it to be more efficient.

    GIGA Doctoral Programme

    The GIGA has a long tradition of integrating young researchers into its research structure. This tradition culminated in the establishment of the GIGA Doctoral Programme. This programme seeks to provide a platform for young, international, and German academics, from which they can pursue their research and professional development, particularly in the field of comparative area studies (CAS).

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