Middle East studies in the News
Cornell Grows as Hub for Ottoman and Turkish Studies
by Linda B. Glaser
Turkish election posters show candidates dressed in Ottoman Empire clothes. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declares that Ottoman Turkish study should be mandatory for all schoolchildren.
"The Turkish government is trying to reclaim the Ottoman past as a way to exert power well beyond the borders of Turkey," says Mostafa Minawi, assistant professor of history and director of Cornell'sOttoman and Turkish Studies Initiative (OTSI) in the College of Arts and Sciences. "Turkey is trying to become a regional power in part by drawing on the complicated Ottoman histories of the region, and thus a deep understanding of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire is essential in order to put this into context."
As a growing hub for Ottoman and Turkish studies, OTSI – a part of the Cornell Institute for European Studies – has hosted a wide range of educational events this year, with more to come this spring. OTSI's goal is to engage students, faculty and the community at large in discussion of the region's political, cultural, economic and historic dimensions, says Minawi, a Himan Brown Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow. The Ottoman Empire covered three continents for around 600 years (1922 is its official end date) and its former sphere of influence is at the center of many of the world's most difficult current conflicts.
"I'm delighted to see OTSI taking shape here at Cornell. The initiative concerns a part of the world that is of growing importance in geopolitical terms," says Fredrik Logevall, vice provost for international affairs. "We have real and expanding strengths in Ottoman and Turkish studies on campus, and OTSI helps to harness that in a powerful way."
This year's OTSI theme is World War I in the Ottoman Empire, and in addition to a course on the topic, OTSI has sponsored and co-sponsored events across campus, including movie screenings and lectures. Two more events are scheduled this spring: Fatma Müge Göçek (University of Michigan) will speak on "Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present, and Collective Violence against the Armenians" on April 7; Eugene Rogan (Oxford University) will speak on "The Arab Experience of the Ottoman Great War" by focusing on Beirut on April 21. Both lectures will be held in 110 White Hall at 5 pm and are co-sponsored by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and the Department of Near Eastern Studies.
Turkish studies and language have long been a priority of the Near Eastern studies department, notes Lauren Monroe, chair and associate professor of Near Eastern studies. "We are delighted that OTSI is providing a multidisciplinary platform to discuss, share and promote the academic study of the Ottoman Empire and its successor nation-states, and we are enthusiastic about and eager to support OTSI's rich and diverse programming."
OTSI has also partnered with the Law School's Clarke Initiative for Law and Development in the Middle East and the Einaudi Center on a project to help sponsor Law School students' volunteer work with Syrian, Iraqi and Sudanese refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. OTSI will again collaborate with the Clarke Initiative, and with Weill Cornell Medical College in an October conference in New York City that will examine the catastrophic refugee crisis in the Middle East. While the focus will be mostly on Syrian refugees, panels are also planned on topics such as Palestinians as protracted refugees and the "rarely mentioned" refugees from east Africa.
"The conference will tackle real issues on the practical, as well as the academic levels with experts on a number of dimensions of this complex problem, including nationality, history, health, economics and gender," says Minawi.
Linda B. Glaser is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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