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Turkish Studies from an Interdisciplinary Perspective

May 7, 2014 from 9:00am-4:30pm EST
Mortara Center for International Studies,
 Georgetown University, Washington, DC

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Event: "Turkish Studies from an Interdisciplinary Perspective"


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Interest in Turkish Studies has increased significantly over the last several decades. A field which was mainly dominated by studies in Ottoman history is now increasingly represented by most of the major disciplines in the social sciences and humanities: Political Science, International Relations, Anthropology, Literature, Cultural Studies, and Archeology. In October 2002, a number of established scholars whose research focused on different academic disciplines related to Turkey convened a one-day conference at Georgetown University, the proceedings of which appeared in the form of a book titled Turkish Studies in the United States. The focus of the conference, and ultimately the book was to answer several important questions:

"What have been the main trends in Turkish Studies during the past two decades? What particular and substantive issues have scholars working in various disciplines addressed? Have the books and articles published in recent years on the Ottoman Empire and contemporary Turkey made a significant contribution to the mainstream scholarly literature?" and finally "What are the likely areas of new research and conceptual development in the near future?"

- Quataert & Sayari, 2003

A full decade after the publication of this volume, the Institute of Turkish Studies at Georgetown University (ITS), and the Institute for Turkish Studies at Stockholm University (SUITS) have decided to come together and take this debate two steps further. The Quataert & Sayari volume surveyed the state of the field and the different chapters assessed the contributions from research in Turkish studies to their respective disciplines in American academia. The current project, however, expands the geographic scope to include European scholarship as well. Moreover, rather than survey the field of Turkish studies and assess its contributions to broader scholarship, it asks contributing authors to demonstrate the vitality and relevance of the field through original empirical research.

Studies on Turkey from an Interdisciplinary US and European Perspective

As directors of the two institutions mentioned above, we are interested in achieving two important goals: To facilitate a process which will allow both established and emerging scholars, whose research is focused on Turkey,

  1. To emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of the research they conduct, and
  2. To demonstrate its relevance to disciplinary debates of interest to colleagues outside the field of Turkish studies as well.

One of the frequent criticisms made against the field of Turkish Studies is to highlight the idea that it is not a field, and that its practitioners are too narrowly focused on Turkey as a singular country. Consequently, criticisms declare that the nature of research that appears is too narrow, with little to no generalizable conclusions being generated in published material, relating to the particular discipline in question. Whilst such criticisms are valid to a point, both Ciddi and Levin contend that Turkish Studies is a field - having its own journals, academic programs, and institutions - and indeed a field that is thriving and growing, as evidenced by the recent establishment of the younger of the two institutes behind this initiative. Moreover, the "cross-sectional" nature of an area studies field such as ours encourages interdisciplinary scholarship and cross-pollination and as such holds great potential for theoretical innovation. Hence, it is unsurprising that in the last decade since the publication of Turkish Studies in the United States, a considerable amount of interdisciplinary research has begun to flourish that is focused on Turkey but which also speaks to a wider audience and asks broader questions.

In our capacity as Turkish Studies center directors and guest editors of a special December 2014 edition of Turkish Studies journal, we have invited leading scholars from the major disciplines in the social sciences and humanities to contribute newly authored articles that not only focus on furthering our knowledge on Turkey itself, but articles which derive conclusions that add to existing knowledge about a particular aspect of one or several disciplines. In addition, a selection committee has invited six Ph.D. students, whose research is at an advanced stage (ABD), and focused on Turkey to present articles alongside their senior peers. Selected articles presented at the conference will be published in the mentioned volume of Turkish Studies journal in December 2014.

The common themes intended to draw all articles together in the volume and the conference is the interdisciplinary nature of the research presented by each author/authors, and the self-conscious demonstration of and reflection on how it advances not only our understanding of Turkey but also scholarship beyond the field of Turkish studies.

Conference Program

Time Topic / Event
9:00am-9:15am Welcoming Remarks
Paul Levin, Director, Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies (SUITS)

Sinan Ciddi, Executive Director, Institute of Turkish Studies (ITS) & Visiting Assistant Professor, Georgetown University
9:30am-11:15am Panel 1
Moderator: Erika Gilson, Princeton University
Discussant: Brian Silverstein, University of Arizona

"Disciplining Knowledge: Politics of Memory and Framing Turkish Studies"
- Asli Igsiz, Assistant Professor, Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, NYU

"Nationalist Science: Turkish Genetic Research in Regional and Global Perspectives"
- Elise Burton, Ph.D. Candidate, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University

"The Gülen Movement's School Opening in Sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges of a 21st Century Transnational Network"
- Gabrielle Angey, Ph.D. Candidate, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris
11:15am-11:30am Coffee/Tea Break
11:30am-13:15am Panel 2
Moderator: Sylvia Onder, Georgetown University
Discussant: Onur Isci, Georgetown University

"Comparative Criminal Justice in the Era of Modernity: The Ottomans and their European Counterparts"
- Kent Schull, Associate Professor, Department of History, SUNY Binghamton

"Twice Refugees: Circassian Immigration from the Balkans in Ottoman Syria, 1878-1880"
- Vladimir Troyansky, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, Stanford University

"Art, Democracy, and Diplomacy: Bülent Ecevit and the Making of Turkish Modernity"
- Nicholas Danforth Ph.D. Candidate, Georgetown University & Sarah-Neel Smith
1:15pm-2:15pm Lunch Break
2:15pm-4:00pm Panel 3
Moderator: Kent Schull, SUNY Binghamton
Discussant: Asli Igsiz, New York University

"Culture and Power in Contemporary Turkey: Anthropological Perspectives"
- Brian Silverstein, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona

"Nation-Building, State-Capacity, and Regime Consolidation: Kemalism in Comparative Perspective"
- Berk Esen, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Government, Cornell University

"Secular after State-Breakdown: Political Struggles and Institution-Building in France 1789-1906, Mexico 1910-1940, Turkey 1920-1938"
- Doga Kerestecioglu, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
4:00pm-4:30pm General Discussion and Closing Remarks

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