Awarded for the eighth time on 28 November 2023, the Koç University Rahmi M. Koç Medal of Science was presented in the fields of “Administrative Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities and Law” to Professor Ayşe Zarakol for her research at the intersection of historical sociology and international relations, focusing on East-West relations in the international system, the history and future of world order(s), conceptualizations of modernity and sovereignty, rising and declining powers, and Turkish politics in a comparative perspective.

Ayşe Zarakol grew up in Istanbul, Turkey and moved to the USA to attend Middlebury College, Vermont, earning a BA in Political Science and Classical Studies. Her graduate degrees are from University of Wisconsin – Madison (MA and PhD in Political Science). She has been at the University of Cambridge since 2013, where she is currently a Professor of International Relations and a Politics Fellow at Emmanuel College. Zarakol works at the intersection of historical sociology and IR, focusing on East-West relations in the international system, history and future of world order(s), conceptualisations of modernity and sovereignty, rising and declining powers, and Turkish politics in a comparative perspective. She is a multiple prize-winning author. Her research has been recognised and supported by numerous funding bodies around the world.

Zarakol is the author of After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West (Cambridge University Press, 2011), which deals with international stigmatisation and the integration of defeated non-Western powers (Turkey after WWI, Japan after WWII and Russia after the Cold War) into the international system. This book was also published in Turkish as Yenilgiden Sonra: Doğu Batı ile Yaşamayı Nasıl Öğrendi from Koç University Press (2012). A second Turkish edition was published in 2019. Between 2013 and 2017, Zarakol oversaw an international collaboration which produced Hierarchies in World Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2017), the runner-up for 2019 ISA Theory section best edited book prize. Zarakol also has published more than sixty articles, many of them in the top journals of International Relations and Political Science, such as American Political Science Review, International Organization and International Affairs.

Zarakol’s most recent book, Before the West: the Rise and Fall of Eastern World Orders, which advances an alternative global history for IR focused on (Eur)asia, was published in March 2022 by Cambridge University Press. In this book she re-theorises sovereignty, order and decline from a more global perspective, focusing on Eurasia. Before the West has already won the 2023 Allan Sharlin best book prize from the Social Science History Association, the 2023 Yale Ferguson best book prize from the International Studies Association North East section, and the Guicciardini best book prize from the International Studies Association HISTORY section. It has also a received an Honourable Mention (second place) from the 2023 book prize committee of the ISA THEORY section, as well as an Honourable Mention from the American Political Science Association Jervis-Schroeder book prize.

Zarakol was recently awarded a two year Knowledge Frontiers Grant by the British Academy to oversee a collaboration of IR scholars and historians to study historical periods of disorder in comparison with the present. This project is called ‘Pathways from Disorder to Order: Where History Meets Theory’. In addition to the British Academy, her research has been recognised by a number of other funding institutions and professional associations: among others, she has held fellowships funded by the Council on Foreign Affairs (USA), the Norwegian Nobel Institute and European Research Council. She has held visiting positions at the US Congressional Research Service, the University of Copenhagen, Australian National University, University of Queensland, College of Europe (Natolin), Tel Aviv University, Washington & Lee University and Free University Berlin. Zarakol sits on the editorial boards of numerous journals and advisory committees of various internationally funded projects and centres. She is currently one of the two Associate Editors at International Organization, the leading journal in International Relations.

Zarakol is also a member of the Carnegie funded PONARS Eurasia international academic network which advances new policy approaches to research and security in Russia and Eurasia. In addition to her academic writing, she also authors policy memos, edited book chapters, book reviews and short pieces for more general audiences (e.g. for the London Review of Books or Foreign Policy). She also frequently provides commentary to international news organisations such as Financial Timesor CNN.

Selection Committee

Chaired by Professor Metin Sitti, the Selection Committee included individuals from very prominent institutions around the globe; Professor Reşat Kasaba (Washington University), Professor Filiz Garip (Princeton University), Professor Nebi Sümer (Sabancı University) and Professor Seyla Benhabib (Yale University).