Kristen Biehl DPhil Social Anthropology

Kristen is a PhD candidate under the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford. She is a doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (MPI MMG) in Gottingen, and currently visiting researcher at the Istanbul Urban Observatory of the French Institute for Anatolian Research in Istanbul (IFEA OUI). She holds a BA in Social Anthropology and Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London (2005), and an MA in Sociology from Bogazici University in Istanbul (2008). Her research interests are in migration, urban and diversity studies, with an emphasis on space and place making, housing and home, informality, illegality, governmentality, multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism, Istanbul and Turkey.

Kristen’s doctoral research addresses two core questions: How are urban contexts of intense migration led diversification socially and spatially experienced? How do changing conceptions and intensifying mixtures of difference relate to particular uses of space and senses of place? The context in which she has examined these questions is a locality of Istanbul known as Kumkapi that is intricately laden with distinct migration, diversity and informality histories, both historical and recent. During her fieldwork in Kumkapi, she applied a combination of ethnographic methods including spatial mapping, extensive informal discussions, life story interviews and participant observation, focusing in particular on the scales of housing and neighbourhood. In her PhD thesis, Kristen is analysing the intersections between narratives and practices of difference, informality, space and place. Through the lens of migration and diversity, her overall goal is to highlight critical transformations in contemporary urban spatiality and governance.

Before embarking on doctoral studies, Kristen was both academically and professionally involved in intensive research within the migration and asylum field in Turkey, working with a number of different migrant and refugee communities, as well as NGO’s and public institutions. Kristen has variously acted as lead researcher, coordinator and assistant for a number of international and national research projects run by the Migration Research Center at Koc University (MiReKoC), the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS) at the American University in Cairo, the Anthropology Department of Cambridge University and the Social Policy Forum at Bogazici University. In addition, she worked as Project Specialist for the Mother Child Education Foundation (2010), as Advocacy Research and Program Assistant for the Refugee Advocacy Support Program, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (2008-2009), and as Cultural Orientation Trainer for the International Catholic Migration Commission (2006-2007), all based in Istanbul.


Biehl, K. (2015). “Spatializing diversities, diversifying spaces: housing experiences in a migration hub of Istanbul.” Ethnic and Racial Studies (38)4.

Biehl, K. (2015). “Governing through Uncertainty: Experiences of being a refugee in Turkey as a transit country for asylum”. Social Analysis 59(1).

Biehl, K. (2014). “Exploring migration, diversification and urban transformation in contemporary Istanbul: The case of Kumkapi.” MMG Working Paper 14-11.

Yasin, Y., Biehl K. and Erol M. (2015). “Infection of the Invisible: Impressions of a Tuberculosis Intervention Program for Migrants in Istanbul.” Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. DOI: 10.1007/s10903-014-0115-7.

Biehl, K. (2013). “New Diversities in Istanbul: Setting a Research Agenda for Studying Migration and the City”. SSIIM UNESCO Chair Paper Series, Universita IUAV di Venezia.

Icduygu, A. and Biehl, K. (2013). “The Changing Trajectory of Migration to Turkey”. In M. Balbo, A. Icduygu and J. Perez (Eds.), Countries of Migrants, Cities of Migrants: Italy, Spain, Turkey, Istanbul: Isis Press.

Biehl, K. (2013). “New Migrations to Istanbul and Emerging Local Practices”. In M. Balbo, A. Icduygu and J. Perez (Eds.), Countries of Migrants, Cities of Migrants: Italy, Spain, Turkey, Istanbul: Isis Press.

Biehl, K. (2008). “Migration ‘Securitization’ and its Everyday Implications: an examination of Turkish asylum policy and practice”, CARIM Summer School 2008 – Best Participant Essays Series 2009/01, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, San Domenico di Fiesole (FI).

Icduygu, A. and Biehl, K. (2008). Living Together Program, Migrant Cities Research: Istanbul. British Council, November 2008.