CfP: Narrating Exile in and between Europe and the Ottoman Empire/modern Turkey (Amsterdam, November 11-12, 2021)

Call for Papers

Narrating Exile in and between Europe and the Ottoman Empire/modern Turkey


University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands | November 11-12, 2021

Keynote speakers:

Edhem Eldem (Collège de France/Boğaziçi University)

Christine Philliou (UC Berkeley)

The Turkey Studies Network in the Low Countries (TSN) is seeking original paper proposals that unsettle traditional narratives on exilic experiences in and between Europe and the later Ottoman Empire/modern Turkey as part of a two-day interdisciplinary conference held at the University of Amsterdam and hosted in collaboration with the Amsterdam Centre for European Studies (ACES) on 11-12 November 2021.

Deadline for abstracts: July 31, 2021.

Exile and flight, forced or voluntary, recurrently and perennially affects societies and peoples across Europe and the Middle East. Through the window of exile, however, we can also recognize the shared, if painful histories that connect these different but contiguous geographies. From Sephardim fleeing Christian purges in their Iberian homelands to settle in Salonika, over Young Turks escaping imprisonment and travelling to Paris and London, to Armenian refugees fleeing sectarian violence and genocide, exile has been a defining thread of modern history. The aftermaths of historical refugee flows continue to influence international politics and domestic debates up to this day, while Europe’s modern-day ‘refugee crisis’ cannot be understood in isolation from the colonial division of the post-Ottoman lands after WWI. Exile, indeed, remains endemic to modern-day geopolitics. Traumatic and deadly, exile can also mean reinvention: of means and worldviews in new societies. Refugees, in addition, influence the societies of their host countries in ways that are still not fully appreciated in the scholarship.

This two-day conference seeks original contributions that unsettle traditional narratives on exilic experiences: how to narrate refugee flows, which stories do we tell, which voices remain unheard? Our focus is on exile between Europe and (in) the (post)Ottoman lands. We welcome papers by historians, art historians, political scientists, ethnomusicologists, sociologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and literary scholars that fit in at least one of the three panels below:

I. Subversives and Radicals between Europe and the Ottoman Empire, 1700-1923

Since early modern times renegades, rebels and heretics traversed the frontiers allegedly separating Ottoman subjects from their European neighbours. They sought refuge from persecution, hoped to further their revolutionary or religious gospel, or organize new bases for resistance. In the ‘long’ 18th and 19th centuries, cities such as London, Geneva, Paris and Amsterdam functioned as cherished free havens for Ottoman subversives of different feathers, while the Ottoman Empire continued to attract various European refugees and ‘dissenters’. These Ottoman and European exiles represented a motley group, including religious militants, converts, nationalists, freedom fighters, rebels, criminals and convicts, political radicals, republicans, constitutionalists, avant-garde artists, socialists, anarchists, and communists. Some settled temporarily before moving onward, others stayed permanently. How to read the itineraries, experiences, and self-identifications of these women and men? How to tie their stories to larger historical transformations and processes? This panel encourages contributions on lesser studied (groups of) émigrés that foreground the exilic dynamic between home and host society, reciprocal influences, and their possible after-effects.

II. Cultural Landscapes of the (Post-)Ottoman World

Migration in and to the Ottoman world, from South-eastern Europe to the Middle East and North Africa, has been a powerful stimulant for the articulation of cultural diversities. The import and export of tangible and intangible cultural heritage – architecture, visual arts, music, literature, theatre, film, oral culture, folkloric traditions, and gastronomy – created cultural synergies within the Late Ottoman Empire that confirmed and challenged existing social, political and economic boundaries within and between Europe, the Mediterranean or the Middle East. The twentieth century introduced new national realities, novel European (and other) imperialisms, tensions and ruptures between capitalism and collectivism, war and social engineering, labour migration and diaspora formation, which in turn fostered new and equally diverse cultural synergies in post-Ottoman lands. This panel will look at the cultural experiences and expressions that were triggered by migration, exile and diaspora in the late Ottoman and post-Ottoman world, investigating how diverse people negotiated, merged and performed their cultural biographies and group identities in and with their new environments. 

III. Exile Turkey/Europe: A Multidirectional History

The founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal, is rarely remembered as a refugee. Yet he was: born and raised in Ottoman Selânik, he never returned to that city when it became Thessaloniki and he became Atatürk. Together with him, a generation of South-eastern Europeans were exiled to a rump Ottoman society in Asia during the massive transformations during the Ottoman end of days. Indeed, expulsion, flight, and exile are among the founding phenomena of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the post-imperial order. From the Balkans to Anatolia into the Caucasus, a century of transfer and dislocation of populations has characterized the collective experiences of millions of people: Circassians, Macedonians, Armenians, Syrians, and many others. Whereas solid research has so far offered important insights into the separate episodes of flight and exile, the interlinkages and comparisons between the different periods remain understudied. This panel will take a long-term perspective on (post-)Ottoman exile and examine how these events were shaped by both continuities and changes. How did Turkey become a receptacle, a catalyst, and a conduit for exile and refugees?


Selected speakers will be provided with accommodation and meals and – in case they cannot dispose of any institutional funding – reimbursed for their travel costs.

Applicants are invited to submit a 250-word abstract before July 31, 2021. Please note that selected speakers will be asked to pre-circulate their papers four weeks prior to the conference, so as to provide other panellists, discussants and chairs to prepare their comments and responses. Panellists also commit to revise their papers for later inclusion in a special journal issue.

Submissions for papers should include: name, main affiliation, paper title, abstract (max. 250 words) and a short bio (max. 50 words). Applicants must clearly indicate to which of the three panels their paper aims to contribute.

Deadlines and dates

Deadline for submissions31 July 2021
Notifications of acceptance14 August 2021
Deadline for conference papers14 October 2021
Conference11-12 November 2021

Covid-19 disclaimer

The dates of this conference are subject to change in accordance with the developments regarding the global pandemic. Our preference is to organize the conference on site, unless new international travel restrictions and pressing reasons concerning public health require us to revert to hybrid options or postponing the conference to the Spring semester of 2021-2022.

Abstracts may be submitted via

By muratdevres

Academic Coordinator of the project Rememberings

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