Past Summer Schools and Workshops that took place in Istanbul:

2017 – Recreating Pluralism Socio-Religious Continuity in Post-Ottoman Societies

Inaugural Workshop Swedish Research Institute Istanbul

June 2017 Focused on the General Theme & Shrines 

Places of Inter-Communal Connection & Contention 

The current Syria crisis as well as refugee crisis, the current turmoil in Turkey, and the wars in the Balkans and Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s, have a common denominator in the burden of a shared past. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1908-22 marked the culmination of a fragmentation process that had begun a century before, the consequences of which continue to reverberate today. From the ruins of the empire that encompassed the entire Eastern Mediterranean area, some fifteen nation states have emerged which from their very outset confronted the challenge of religious, ethnic, and other forms of social pluralism that remained but could not match the new, often nationalist forms of modern self- perception. 

However, beneath the surface of inter-communal enmities, ethnic cleansings and even genocides, many local forms of coexistence and contact have persisted, communal cohabitation that eludes modern interpretations of societal bonds and fissures, and show us the outline of a pluralism that might tentatively tell us something about the future. Is it in fact possible to talk about an Ottoman social legacy in the post-Ottoman era, and if so, will it serve as a common framework for countering the prevalent discourses of violence and fragmentation? What can (re-)current intercommunal dynamics tell and teach us about newly emerging pluralist forms of co-existence? How do old and new forms of pluralism relate? 

This research program aimed to create a platform of research and engagement that takes the continuity of pluralism in the geographical area that once was the Ottoman Empire – today’s Turkey, Levant and Balkans primarily – as its focal point of academic interest. Through interactively studying the empirical manifestations of continuity of pluralism in the past and present, we hope to provide powerful alternative perspectives on how these societies work socially throughout time. We planned to turn the prism from the dominant historical and social scientific perspectives which perceive these societies over the last century through a singular lens of a modern and often national break since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and instead see these societies in the multi-coloured light of continued pluralism. 

One way of turning the prism back and focusing our research is on interaction at so-called ‘contact interfaces’, originally perceived as cities (Eldem; 1999), and by us more broadly perceived as organic pluralist alternatives to the prescriptive modern nation state. As such we start with a conference in Istanbul on Shrines as Places of Inter-Communal Connection & Contestation. In 2018 we plan to hold a second conference in Lebanon on Cities as Nuclear Interfaces. Following conferences will be held in Sarajevo and other cities in post-ottoman societies. 

In a region that is generally seen as just troubled by fragmentation and conflict, focusing on the actual positive continuation of pluralist interaction and recreation of interaction patterns, in new forms and shapes, we think might be the start of an important antidote. 

From the Initiators, 

Prof. Dr. Dick Douwes – Dean, Erasmus School for History, Communication and Culture (ESHCC), Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) 

Dr. Olof Heilo – Deputy Director, Swedish Research Institute Istanbul 

Ruben Elsinga – Program Manager Recreating Pluralism / PhD Candidate Erasmus University Rotterdam 

Prof. Dr. Leif Stenberg – Director, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, Aga Khan University / Former Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University 

The Program 

Recreating Pluralism; Socio-Religious Continuity in Post-Ottoman Societies 

Shrines as places of Inter-communal connection and contestation 

The Schedule 

Schedule 18-23 June Overview

Schedule Sunday 18 – Tuesday 20 June

Schedule Wednesday 21 June

Schedule Thursday 22 June – Friday 23 June


Venue: Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (SRII) İstiklal Cad. 247 Beyoğlu, TR-34433 Istanbul Tel.: +90 212 252 41 19 E-mail: ( 

Accommodation: Hotel Richmond İstiklal St. No:227

2018- Human Rights, A Recurrent History

18 June

Introduction: Andrea Karlsson

Lecture 1: Olof Heilo: Empires and notions of humanity

Afternoon seminar with source texts

19 June

Excursion to the Neve Shalom Synagogue and the Greek School in Fener

20 June

NGO presentation:

Lecture 2:  Dror Zeevi (Ben Gurion University, Negev): Rights between Elites and Subalterns in the Ottoman Empire

Lecture 3: Dror Zeevi (Ben Gurion University, Negev): Slaves, Women and Minorities in the Reform Period

21 June

NGO presentation:

Lecture 4: Isa Blumi (SUITS, Stockholm): The late Ottoman era and the rise of Nationalism

Lecture 5: Isa Blumi (SUITS, Stockholm): After the Ottomans: nation-building, population exchanges and minorities 

22 June

NGO presentation:

Lecture 6: Linde Lindqvist

Lecture 7: Lind Lindqvist

Introduction to NGO projects

25 June

NGO presentation

Lecture 8: Elena Mamani (Cultural Heritage without Borders): Cultural heritage and human rights

Lecture 9: (still unclear)

26 June

Lecture 10: Aysegül Altinay (Sabanci University): Feminist challenges to Life, Politics and Historiography in Late Ottoman and Republican Turkey

Excursion: Curious steps

27-28 June

NGO visits

29 June