Melissa Bilal

Visiting Scholar


B.A. Sociology, Boğaziçi University
M.A. Sociology, Boğaziçi University
Ph.D. Music, University of Chicago

Melissa Bilal is a Visiting Scholar of History at MIT. She is collaborating with Lerna Ekmekçioğlu on a volume titled Feminism in Armenian: An Interpretive Anthology, an English-language critical anthology of the history of Western Armenian feminism.  The book focuses on twelve Istanbul-born feminists who were active in various parts of the world from 1860s to 1960s. The digital humanities component of the project archives published and unpublished work documenting their lives and work. Melissa received her BA and MA in Sociology at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University. She holds a Ph.D. in Music from the University of Chicago. At Columbia University, she was the 2013-2015 Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Music and the Spring 2010 and Spring 2016 Ordjanian Visiting Professor in MESAAS. She taught in Boğaziçi’s History Department in Summer 2015 and 2016. Commissioned by the Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv in partnership with the Orient-Institut Istanbul and Lautarchiv of Humboldt University, she prepared the CD and booklet of Voice Signatures: Recordings of Russian Armenian POWs in German Camps, 1916-1918 (forthcoming, 2017), a project of working through the colonialist and racist violent past of musicological "research." 

Melissa is the co-author of the books Bir Adalet Feryadı, Osmanlı’dan Cumhuriyet’e Beş Ermeni Feminist Yazar (1862–1933) [A cry for justice: Five Armenian feminist writers from the Ottomans to the Republic (1862–1933)] (with Lerna Ekmekçioğlu, 2006) and Gomidas Vartabed: Mektuplar, Tanıklıklar, Müzikolojik Metinler [Gomidas Vartabed: Letters, Memoirs, Musicological Texts] (with Burcu Yıldız, forthcoming 2017). Her research and publication areas include politics of remembrance in Turkey and the critique of neoliberal memory politics in relation to the 1915-1922 Genocide; affective formation and transmission of historical knowledge among Armenians in Turkey; gender, song, and sensual memory within the present-day Armenian community of Istanbul; politics of music, silencing, and the survival of the Armenian song in Republican Turkey; a genealogy of the Armenian lullaby as a gendered genre in early Armenian music ethnography and the revolutionary song repertoire. Some of her related publications are: “The Lost Lullaby and other Stories about being an Armenian in Turkey,” New Perspectives on Turkey 34 (2006): 67-92;  “Longing for Home at Home: Armenians in Istanbul,” Diaspora and Memory. Figures of Displacement in Contemporary Literature, Arts and Politics, Thamyris/Intersecting Diaspora & Memory 13 (2006): 55-66; “Türkiyeli Ermenileri Hatırlamak [Remembering the Armenians of Turkey],” Birikim Aylık Sosyalist Kültür Dergisi [Birikim Monthly Journal of Socialist Culture] 193-194 (2005): 122-125; “Direnişin Şarkısı: Ondokuzuncu Yüzyılda Ermeni Ninnileri [Song of Resistance: Armenian Lullabies in the Nineteenth Century].” In Utanç ve Onur: 1915-2015 Ermeni Soykırımı’nın 100. Yılı [Shame and Pride: 100. Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide], Evrensel Basım Yayın, 2015: 219-235. “Ben De Şimdi Yanıyorum: İstanbullu Ermeni Kadınların Geçmiş Anlatıları ve Ninnileri [And now, I am burning: Lullabies and Narratives of the Past by Armenian Women of Istanbul],” Kültür ve Siyasette Feminist Yaklasımlar [Feminist Approaches in Culture and Politics] October 2015. Melissa is currently working on her monograph tentatively titled The Wake Up Lullaby: The Gender and the Song of the Armenian Revolution which examines the interrelated discourses on gender, sexuality, emotion, culture, music, history, nation, modernity, and land in the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Armenian liberation struggles.