Murat Cem Mengüç was born in Turkey where he studied cinema and television at the Anatolian University, Eskişehir. In 1990 he moved to New York where, for several years, he worked at odd jobs and pursued a career in amateur cinema, theater, arts and writing. In 1996 he enrolled at the Hunter College of the City University of New York, where he completed a degree in comparative religion in 2000. He received his MA from the Institute of Islamic Studies of McGill University, Montreal in 2003, and his PhD from the Faculty of Oriental Studies, at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge in 2008. His academic work focused on Ottoman historiography, collective memory and identity.
He worked as an adjunct and assistant professor for over a decade, trying to be a voice against academic conservatism and promoting a radical approach to at least Ottoman historiography. Despite his best efforts, and his love for the field, he had to give up academia in 2017 due to personal, political and economic reasons. Since then he has strictly focused on making and writing about art.