Leslie P. Peirce
Fellow: Awarded 2009
Field of Study: Near Eastern Studies
Competition: US & Canada
Leslie Peirce is the Silver Professor at New York University, holding appointments in both the departments of history and of Middle Eastern studies. Recognized internationally as one of the world’s leading Ottomanists, Ms. Peirce has written over two dozen articles and book chapters and two award-winning monographs on the Ottoman Empire: The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire (Oxford UP, 1993), which garnered the biennial M. F. Köprülü Prize of the Turkish Studies Association and was translated into Turkish and Arabic; and Morality Tales: Law and Gender in the Ottoman Court of Aintab (U of California Press, 2003), which was translated into Turkish and won for her a second Köprülü Prize as well as the Middle East Studies Association’s Albert Hourani Prize.
After earning her B.A. in history from Harvard College in 1964, Ms. Peirce spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Turkey, which led to her lifelong interest in the region. She returned to the United States in 1966, earned an M.A. (1968) from Harvard’s Center for Middle East Studies, and began working as an examiner for Educational Testing Services in Princeton. But in 1971 she returned to Turkey, teaching English as a second language at Bosphorus University in Istanbul for about five years.
When she again returned to the States and her position at ETS, she also began taking occasional courses at Princeton University. That led to her enrolling in Princeton’s doctoral program; she received her Ph.D. in 1988 and immediately accepted a position as assistant professor in Cornell University’s Near Eastern Studies Department. During her ten years there, she received a year-long research Fellowship in the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School (1995-96) and in 1997 was a visiting professor in the history department at UCLA. Grants from the ACLS and American Philosophical Society in 1990 helped support her work on The Imperial Harem, and work on Morality Tales was facilitated by a grant from the SSRC and a Fulbright Scholar grant.
She moved to the University of California, Berkeley, in 1998, with a joint appointment in the departments of history and Near Eastern Studies, and was promoted to full professor two years later. She joined the NYU history faculty in 2006.
During her Guggenheim Fellowship term, Ms. Peirce will be again travelling to Turkey to conduct research for a book on abduction and the politics of sexuality in the Ottoman world.