Melissa Bilal is the Associate Director of the Armenian Music Program and Lecturer in the Department of Ethnomusicology. Previously a Distinguished Research Fellow at CNES, before UCLA, she was an Assistant Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the American University of Armenia, where she continues serving as a core team member developing the Gender Studies minor program. Dr. Bilal studied Sociology (BA and MA) at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul and received her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Chicago. She taught at the University of Chicago’s Departments of Music and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Boğaziçi University’s History Department, and the Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies Department at Columbia University, where she also held a two-year Mellon postdoctoral teaching fellowship in the Department of Music.
Bilal’s research focus on the Armenian experience in relation to Turkey’s minority and memory politics; historical and ethnographic study of Armenian musical practices; and the gender history of the late Ottoman Armenian intellectual life. Her recent publications include “Lullabies and the Memory of Pain: Armenian Women’s Remembrance of the Past in Turkey” in Dialectical Anthropology, an article that reads Armenian women’s lullabies and narratives of the past as reserves of an affective memory and discusses their potential to critique the neoliberal memory politics in Turkey; Voice Imprints: Recordings of Russian Armenian POWs in German Camps, 1916-1918, a CD project that aims to bring Armenian experience in relation to musicology’s colonial past into public audibility; and My Heart is like those Ruined Houses: Gomidas Vartabed’s Musical Legacy (with Burcu Yıldız), a volume in Turkish on one of the founders of modern (ethno)musicology.
In 2017, while a visiting scholar of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, together with Dr. Lerna Ekmekcioglu of MIT, Bilal co-launched the annual meeting series Feminist Armenian Studies Workshop and the Feminist Armenian Research Collective. Ekmekcioglu and Bilal are the co-editors of the book A Cry for Justice: Five Armenian Feminist Writers from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Turkey (1862–1933) in Turkish and are now collaborating on the book and digital humanities project Feminism in Armenian: A History in Documents (Stanford University Press, Forthcoming 2023) which focuses on the lives and works of twelve Armenian feminist writer-activists in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman contexts.
Dr. Bilal is currently working on her monograph tentatively titled Wake-up Lullaby: Gendered Politics of Indigeneity, Music, and Memory in the late Ottoman Armenian Revolutionary Imagination and the ethnographic research project Injuries of Reconciliation: Being Armenian in Turkey.
Ph.D. Music (Ethnomusicology), University of Chicago; M.A. Sociology, Boğaziçi University; B.A. Sociology, Boğaziçi University, Istanbul.