Erdal Kaynar is an historian of the 19th century and a specialist of Ottoman transformation. He studied history and sociology in Berlin and Paris and holds a PhD in history from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, 2012). Before joining the Polonsky Academy, he was fellow at the Institut français d’études anatoliennes (IFEA, Istanbul), the Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften (IFK, Vienna), and the Orient Institut Istanbul. He is an associate member of the Centre d’études turques, ottomanes, balkaniques et centrasiatiques (Cetobac, Paris).
His research defines Ottoman transformation as a dynamic process mediated between the general and abstract project of societal reform and the often-neglected human component, marked by the construction of the modern self in a world of radical transformation. During his doctoral research on the Young Turk and Parisian positivist Ahmed Rıza (1858-1930) he concentrated primarily on the political interpretation of Ottoman reform, inquiring into the epistemological foundations of modernist political philosophy. He has worked on a wide array of subjects, including the emergence of democratic notions, the history of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, the development of modern authoritarian principles, the question of nationalism, and the way of relating to the West in a world marked by European geopolitical and economic dominance. More lately, he has started exploring the development of political economy as a means of inscribing the Ottoman Empire in the modern world. The overall aim of his research is to define the emergence of modernity in the 19th century as a shared global experience and inquire into its legacies today.