#Selimgate & the Global Morality Play

Helen Pfeifer – Cambridge University

The​ defeat of the Mamluk Empire in 1516-17 is the most significant conquest most people have never heard of. In the space of six months, Ottoman armies marched from Aleppo to Cairo, routed the Muslim Mamluk dynasty and seized territory that is now Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Egypt and (parts of) Saudi Arabia. One moment the Ottomans were a regional power, the next they had an empire with intercontinental reach. Previously on the margins of the Islamic world, now they occupied its most prized religious and cultural centres. But the victory was just as important for the gateways it opened to other parts of the world: North Africa and the western Mediterranean, where the Spanish were expanding their influence; the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, where the Portuguese were elbowing in on local trade; and Iran and Iraq, where the Shiite Safavid dynasty was establishing its rule. The Ottomans would push forward on all these fronts in the following decades, joining a global contest for power that ranged from Mexico to Manila.

From a miniature of Selim I by Nakkaş Osman (c.1580).

This is the story that Alan Mikhail, a professor of history at Yale, recounts in God’s Shadow. While the history of global competition isn’t new – to scholars at least – Mikhail places the Ottomans and their fellow Muslims at its centre, drawing on recent research to show that Ottoman, Mamluk and Persian domination of East-West trade routes necessitated European oceanic exploration, as did the fantasy of forging a global anti-Muslim alliance with the Great Khan of China. The threat of Ottoman military expansion helped ensure the success of the Reformation, since it forced the Catholic Habsburgs to call on Protestant military and financial support. And although Muslim states never established a formal foothold in the Americas, the culture and institutions they created did.

Before Columbus began his search for India, he had led an expedition to Tunis to recover a vessel seized by Muslim corsairs; he had also worked for a Genoese trading house in Chios, in the Ottoman-controlled Aegean. In the years that preceded the founding of Jamestown in Virginia, John Smith had fought Ottoman armies in Eastern Europe and spent time as an Ottoman captive. It’s no surprise, then, that many of the conceptual frameworks that European colonisers applied to the Americas derived from their encounters with Muslims at home: they compared Native American religious sites to mezquitas (mosques), called the nomads of Central Mexico alarabs, and referred to the offspring of Portuguese fathers and indigenous mothers as mamelucos. The infamous Requirement (Requerimiento), a Spanish legal document offering indigenous populations the choice between conversion and conquest, was based on jihad as practised by Muslims in medieval Iberia. The tribute (tributo) the crown collected overseas emulated the Islamic poll tax (jizya), also adapted by the Spanish from their Muslim predecessors on the peninsula.

Mikhail’s narrative focuses on an unlikely hero: the Ottoman sultan Selim I (1512-20), who is usually overshadowed by his grandfather Mehmed II, conqueror of Constantinople, and by his son, Süleyman I, known in the West as Süleyman the Magnificent. Selim undoubtedly deserves greater recognition: he led the Syrian and Egyptian campaigns of 1516-17; he contained the Iranian Safavids, who presented an existential threat to the empire; and he crafted the clever alliances with Muslim corsairs that won him territory in North Africa at very little cost. All of this he achieved in the space of eight years, before his premature death from a boil in 1520.

Modern Western historians have sometimes overlooked Selim, but their Ottoman predecessors did not. Selim has a whole genre devoted to him, the Selimnames, or ‘tales of Selim’. Although these are mostly hagiographic, they originated in attempts to justify the sultan’s controversial path to power. Before Selim’s accession in 1512, the Ottomans followed a system that has been referred to as ‘succession of the fittest’. When a ruling sultan died, his sons had to fight one another for the throne. Although this could cause instability in the short term, in the long term it helped to ensure that the most skilled candidate, and the one with the largest support base, prevailed. Sensing that his ageing father, Bayezid II, favoured another son, Selim acted pre-emptively, and without precedent: he marched his troops on the sultan and escorted him to an early retirement in northern Greece. Bayezid died mysteriously along the way.

If 16th-century commentators were uncomfortable about the methods used to secure the throne, later historians have denounced Selim’s belligerent, even murderous legacy. He justified deposing his father on the grounds that Bayezid, a Sunni, was too soft on the Safavids. Selim had proved his military muscle against the Safavids as a young man, fending off repeated incursions and launching his own raids into Georgia, reportedly taking more than ten thousand captives in 1508 alone. His first war as sultan was against the Safavids, culminating at the Battle of Chaldiran in north-western Iran. But it is less Selim’s warmongering that unsettles contemporary historians than his actions at home: before marching east, he instructed his officials to undertake a census of people thought to be Safavid sympathisers. Many of those registered were promptly arrested, and many were massacred – forty thousand of them, according to one contemporary source. (Turkey’s Alevi community traces itself back to these persecuted groups.)

Mikhail does mention these outrages, but there is little room for Ottoman violence in his tale of Ottoman glory. He downplays the more unsavoury aspects of Selim’s character to portray him instead as the enlightened defender of secular, pluralistic rule. In doing so, he is addressing an American popular audience, attempting to counterbalance post-9/11 perceptions of Muslims as reactionary and fanatical. It is certainly true that the Ottomans have not always received due recognition for their impact on the modern world. They boasted modern Europe’s first standing army. They introduced the world not only to coffee, but to the distinctly Ottoman institution of the coffeehouse. They taught Europeans how to inoculate against smallpox. If anything, Mikhail insists, it was Europeans who were driven by a ‘culture of fire-breathing religious loathing’, what with their succession of Holy Leagues and incessant calls for crusades. To be fair, the Ottomans also made liberal use of anti-Christian rhetoric in their domestic and foreign policy, and Selim’s epithet, ‘God’s Shadow’, clearly signals his religious aspirations. Nevertheless, Mikhail is right to stress that the Ottomans did not eschew the Atlantic out of a lack of curiosity or economic savvy, as has sometimes been claimed. As masters of the Black and Red Seas, they already possessed what the Europeans had to leave the Continent to acquire.

Mikhail’s traditional, expository narrative mode and great-man accounts of battles and high politics may seem uncontroversial. But in September last year, shortly after its release in hardback, God’s Shadow became the subject of a Twitter storm. Three academics – Cornell Fleischer and Cemal Kafadar, both Ottomanists, and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, a global historian – wrote a spectacular takedown of the book titled ‘How to Write Fake Global History’. ‘Why a historian in a respectable university has been possessed to concoct this tissue of falsehoods, half-truths and absurd speculations remains a mystery to us,’ they wrote. As the tweets proliferated, the review penetrated ever deeper into historians’ circles. For some, it was a much needed dose of honesty; others saw it as ‘scurrilous and territorial’. In October, two scholars published a rebuttal, subtitled ‘God’s Shadow and Academia’s Self-Appointed Sultans’. A few days later, the original trio published a response to the rebuttal. By this time, the controversy had spawned its own hashtag (#Selimgate), numerous blog posts and an online poll asking how Mikhail ought to respond (a plurality advised he ‘accept flaws and revise’). Mikhail, perhaps wisely, stayed silent.

Why would scholars of the Ottoman past reject a book that places the empire they study at the centre of global modernity? To those who follow Turkish politics, the book seems to echo the nationalist rhetoric of Recep Erdoğan and his Justice and Development (AKP) party, who are all too eager to cite the historical role of Muslims in global politics, not least to justify their own geopolitical ambitions. In 2014, Erdoğan declared that Muslims had preceded Columbus in the Americas, adducing mezquita sightings as evidence. ‘As the president of my country, I cannot accept that our civilisation is inferior to other civilisations,’ he explained to an audience of Muslim leaders from Latin America. Though Mikhail, in a coda, clearly condemns this brand of AKP politics, his disavowal counts for little; this is a 400-page book that casts Muslims as heroes and European Christians as villains in a global morality play. The problem is not unique to Mikhail – scholars challenging popular misconceptions of Islam often earn the approval of Islamists – but Mikhail’s propensity for hyperbole does exacerbate the risk that his book will be deployed in support of bad causes.

Most Ottoman historians, I suspect, are broadly sympathetic to Mikhail’s goals: they regularly teach their students that the Ottoman Empire was a key player in Eurasian politics, that the European Renaissance developed in dialogue with the East, and that Islam was a flexible and ever-changing set of traditions. God’s Shadow, however, has a tendency to overstate these claims: it’s a stretch to say that in 1500 the Ottoman Empire ‘shaped the known world’ from China to Mexico. The humanists of Renaissance Europe did not view Islam as ‘a more compelling obsession than the classics of antiquity, art or personal salvation’. And it’s difficult to see how Selim can be credited with leading an ‘Islamic Reformation’: the law book Mikhail cites as evidence of this claim built on, rather than overturned, features of the existing sharia court system. The tone of ‘How to Write Fake Global History’ betrays an anxiety about ‘relevance’ – relevance of the sort understandable to commercial publishers and university administrators – and the fear that meticulous scholarship is being crowded out. It’s not that historians haven’t always been keen to address contemporary concerns, but most have also insisted on the complexity of historical processes.

Selimgate also played into ongoing debates about the project of global history. The field developed in the 1990s out of precisely the kind of presentist concerns that shape Mikhail’s book, as historians sought to understand the origins of their own globalised world. Yet after nearly thirty years, the project has diversified in its goals and increased in sophistication. In some ways, God’s Shadow is a product of these developments, in that it finds connections between seemingly disparate geographic regions and centres a non-European perspective (most early practitioners were scholars of Europe). But in other respects, the book falls short of modern standards. Though many global historians, like Mikhail, still rely mostly on secondary literature, others have done brilliant and careful work with primary sources. Many have focused not on elite men, but on women, enslaved people or indigenous groups. Many have made ambitious claims, but have grounded them in precise empirical detail. A few have even managed to be both scholarly and accessible.

It is this balance that God’s Shadow fails to strike. As the number of positive reviews in the mainstream press has suggested, the book has penetrated a wider market for Ottoman history dominated by military historians and non-specialists. Surely it is welcome that an Ottoman historian with expertise in Middle Eastern languages would add his voice to this chorus. That doing so comes at the expense of historical accuracy is not inevitable. What a pity it would be if young scholars of non-European history concluded from Selimgate that writing global history, or making historical work accessible, are projects best left to others.

Source: (accessed 21.02.2022)


Neither Just, Nor Legal: The Case of Osman Kavala

Osman Kavala. Photo: Courtesy of Anadolu Kültür.

It’s been more than four years since Osman Kavala’s detention. On October 18, 2017, the day he was taken into custody, we all thought that “they probably won’t arrest him” and on November 1, when he was arrested we said to each other “they probably won’t keep him for long.” Today, 10 December 2021, marks the 1501st day of Osman Kavala’s detention and exactly the second year since ECtHR has ruled it a human rights violation. The ECtHR gave its verdict two years ago on Human Rights Day.

Osman Kavala has long been a target due to his solidarity with the politicians, journalists and academics whom the government tries to silence; and his support for the nongovernmental organizations working in the field of human and civil rights; and the projects he carried out through Anadolu Kültür, which he founded with the aim of increasing the production and sharing of culture and art works, emphasizing cultural diversity and cultural rights, supporting local initiatives and strengthening regional and international collaborations; and for spearheading the projects that establish dialogue with Armenia and create spaces for the Kurdish language and culture. He was a target because what he did demonstrated that all these could still be done. He symbolized the belief that there could still be law in this country. And exactly for this reason, his detention and arrest signify the criminalization of all these civilian and democratic activities and the persons and institutions that partake in them. By arresting him, the government wants to browbeat everyone who claims their rights and particularly those who work in the field of civil society and culture and arts.

Following his detention Osman Kavala was accused of various crimes by Erdoğan himself as well as by media outlets close to him. It took 16 months for the official indictment to emerge. It seems that the ruling power could not decide how to frame him for a long while. In the end, he was accused of allegedly planning, financing and organizing the Gezi Park protests. A 657-page long indictment seeking an aggravated life imprisonment for 16 defendants including Kavala was accepted on March 4, 2019 by the Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court. The indictment was scandalous and did not make any attempt to establish a causal link between the alleged evidence cited and the heavy charges against him. 

The first hearing took place on June 24, 2019, 18 months after his arrest. Six hearings were held between June 2019 and February 2020. All the hearings were like battles where the lawyers had to teach the basic principles of law and justice to a panel of judges and a public prosecutor. Throughout the process, the judiciary itself has been violating the laws at different levels, ranging from listening to a witness without the lawyers’ presence to not applying the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights. 

The ECtHR announced its verdict on December 10, 2019 and demanded the immediate release of Osman Kavala. To delay the process the local court dismissed the decision by saying it should be finalized after the application to the Ministry of Justice and used this unlawful excuse in two hearings. 

In the final hearing on February 18, 2020, the court ordered the acquittal of Osman Kavala and the other defendants. We were not expecting this verdict since all of the demands submitted by the lawyers were rejected by the panel of judges and the atmosphere was quite tense. We were shocked but at the same time extremely happy! Family, friends and colleagues of Osman, as well as a group of journalists, went off to wait for him at a recreational facility on the road to Silivri Prison; others waited in town for his return. After several hours, we learned that there was a new arrest warrant for Osman Kavala regarding the same investigation. The vehicle which was going to bring him to his loved ones went directly to Police Headquarters and the day after he was arrested again and sent back to Silivri. This was a total frustration. However, we were not so surprised as President Erdoğan targeted not only Osman Kavala and Gezi in the party group meeting but also the judges who acquitted him. 

At the very beginning of his predicament, on November 1, 2017 Osman Kavala was arrested based on accusations of violating both article 312 (that is the use of force and violence, to abolish the government of the Republic of Turkey or to prevent it, in part or in full, from fulfilling its duties / Gezi) and article 309 (attempting to abolish, replace or prevent the implementation of, through force and violence, the constitutional order of the republic of Turkey / 15 July coup attempt). The judicial process concerning the article 312 is as summarized above. For the case on 309, he was given a release order in October 2019. Based on recent legal changes, which limit the maximum pretrial detention period to two years, they could not extend his imprisonment from 309 and released him again on March 20, 2020. Besides, the verdict of the ECtHR was covering both articles 309 and 312. So, in order to circumvent the national law and the verdict of the ECtHR, he had to be arrested once again on the basis of a new accusation, and this time with the more absurd charge of “espionage,” from article 328. Notably, Osman Kavala has never been questioned by a public prosecutor in connection to any of the allegations made against him.

Osman Kavala had to wait for another 7.5 months for the new indictment covering both articles 309 and 328. None of the charges in this indictment were based on any facts, evidence, or objective evaluation of any concrete criminal act. The indictment recycles unsubstantiated accusations, which previously circulated in the pro-government Turkish media, that Osman Kavala and Henri Barkey were involved in espionage and in the 2016 attempted military coup. The indictment provides no credible evidence linking them with any criminal activities.

A thorough reading of the whole indictment reveals that the intention of the Istanbul Deputy Public Prosecutor – who was appointed as Deputy Minister of Justice one week after the release of the indictment to the public –  is to discredit civil society organizations and to present their work as dangerous and divisive. In the indictment Osman Kavala was accused of managing activities which trigger social disintegration by supposedly funding divisive projects directed at citizens, particularly those from Kurdish, Armenian, Greek, Christian, Jewish, Assyrian or Yezidi backgrounds. 

The first hearing of this new case took place on December 18, 2020, and in his defense, Osman Kavala criticized the conspiracy theories surrounding his civil society engagements. The second hearing of this new case took place on February 5, 2021, and the court ruled the continuation of Osman Kavala’s detention and accepted the merging of two cases (Gezi and espionage). As there was not much to do with this absurd “espionage” accusation, the judiciary could continue with the Gezi case as the acquittal decision was sent back by the First Degree Appeals Court. It became obvious that the “espionage” case was used as a “bridge” just to be able to keep him in prison.

In the following hearing on May 21, the Court ruled that the detention of Kavala on the charges of “espionage” shall continue. The Court also requested the Gezi file regarding the Çarşı group be sent to the Court and returned upon review regarding the consideration of the merger of the case files. The next hearing of the trial was scheduled to be held in Çağlayan Courthouse on 6 August 2021. 

Even though the next hearing by the Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court had been scheduled on 6 August, the Court scheduled a hearing on August 2 and decided by a majority of votes to merge the case with the ongoing case at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court and to continue the detention of Osman Kavala. The next hearing was on October 8. The case became much more complicated combining three separate lawsuits with 52 suspects. Combining lawsuits related to different acts is a convenient method to create a perception of conspiracy in political cases. The Çarşı law suit, which previously ended in acquittal, was reversed by the Court of Cassation, in order to keep Osman Kavala in detention. In his statement at the hearing on May 21, Osman Kavala says: “Charges against me keep altering … as if a baton handed over in a relay race, various judges and courts have been carrying over my arrest, refraining from dropping it to the ground.” 

In the hearings of the combined Çarşı and Gezi trials held on October 8 and November 26, the court decided to continue the detention and the question “Where is the evidence of espionage?” that was asked persistently by the lawyers remained unanswered. 

The European Court of Human Rights rejected Turkey’s objection to its decision on Osman Kavala on 12 May 2020. Therefore, the decision became effective, and Osman Kavala’s lawyers applied for their client’s release, stating that he was being kept in prison on the same grounds as in the ECtHR’s decision, which was deemed a violation. In the finalized ECtHR decision, it was stated that the fact used in the last arrest “does not constitute a reasonable doubt showing that he has committed a crime.”

Although Turkey constantly objected to this, claiming that “the applicant is kept in detention under article 328, not article 309 and 312,” the decision also included detention for the espionage charge, which in a situation where there was a violation of article 18, such maneuvers were of no value. Therefore, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the ECtHR decisions, has so far made seven decisions and two interim decisions for Turkey to immediately release Osman Kavala. The second interim decision taken at the meeting of 30 November – 2 December was that a “violation procedure” would be initiated against Turkey on the grounds that it did not comply with the ECtHR decision on Osman Kavala. Ankara has been granted a delay until 19 January to indicate how the ECtHR decision will be implemented. The next court hearing is on January 17.

Ten days after the hearing on 8 October, the ambassadors of ten countries, seven European Union members, including Germany and France, and the USA, Canada and New Zealand, in a joint statement called for Osman Kavala to be “released” and immediately prompted the government’s reaction followed by Erdoğan’s insulting expressions against Osman Kavala. Erdoğan had previously targeted him on various occasions, and those statements were among the reasons for the violation of Article 18 in the ECtHR decision. Osman Kavala stated that it was not possible to hold a fair trial under these circumstances and announced that he would no longer attend the hearings and would not make a defense.

On 29 December 2020, the Constitutional Court of Turkey ruled that Kavala’s detention does not violate his right to liberty and security guaranteed under the Article 19 of the Constitution by 8 to 7 votes. The President of the Constitutional Court as well as 6 Court justices clearly put forward that the charges and the detention are incompatible with our Constitution and the norms of ECtHR. Chief Justice Zühtü Arslan said: “Let alone the strong indication of the existence of a charge of political or military espionage on which the applicant was arrested, not even a simple suspicion could be presented.”

The story of Osman Kavala’s detention is a remarkable example of the politicization of the judiciary and its use for political purposes. It is an example of the attempts to create crimes according to the person who is sought to be punished. It clearly shows how conspiracy theories can be used instead of evidence, ignoring not only legal norms but also the rule of reason.

Despite all sorts of injustice and adversity against him, Osman Kavala never gives up on his kindness or prioritizes his own situation, but keeps on drawing attention to the importance of judicial independence and rule of law. Although he has been held hostage for exactly four years for baseless, unjust and absurd reasons, he continues to fight wholeheartedly for the ideas he believes in. Even from the prison, he stays engaged and works together with us and keeps on doing good deeds. 

I truly wish that he will soon be free and this injustice will come to an end. 

Asena Günal – Anadolu Kültür, executive director



CFA – The place of cultural pluralism in Sarajevo

Unspoken memories, unwritten histories:

Eastern Mediterranean pluralism in oral history and memory studies

A series of workshops devoted to theory and practice in academia and civil society

Less than a hundred years ago, most Eastern Mediterranean cities were marked by a high degree of cultural pluralism. Whereas the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of modern nation-states heralded its end, some cities retained their cosmopolitan nature well until the Second World War. Oral histories and communicative memories of ethnoreligious groups that constituted vital parts of these cities are still living, often wound up with unhealed and suppressed historical. At the same time, simplified and nostalgic visions of a pluralist past are sometimes held up as role models for present-day Eastern Mediterranean societies without questioning, or without regard for the challenges that they entail. Local academics and civil society organizations alike play vital roles in researching, highlighting and supporting pluralism and pluralist heritage, sometimes in defiance of nationalist historiographies and policies.

The series Unspoken memories, unwritten histories, arranged by the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (SRII), operates at a cross-section of academic research and civil society activism. It aims to bring together young scholars of history, minorities and human rights with representatives of academia and civil society in a number of Eastern Mediterranean cities outside of Turkey. The fifth workshop of the series is entitled The place of cultural pluralism in Sarajevoand will take place via Zoom.

Speakers of the panel, March 11 at 18:00 (UTC+3):

Dženeta Karabegović, Sociology and Human Geography, University of Salzburg

Bayram Şen, researcher at the Orijentalni Institut, Sarajevo University.

Tatjana Milovanović, program director at the Post-Conflict Research Center.

Eligible for participation are advanced students with a background in Bosnian, Serbian, and Ottoman culture and history, cultural and minority studies, or political, social and Human Rights studies. They should send their CV, together with a letter of interest outlining their interest in the topic and the ways in which it connects with their own research, no later than February 28, 2022,to Participants will be notified by March 4, 2022.


Şimdiki Zamanda Çoğulculuk

Genç akademisyenler için İstanbul ve Kavala’da Türkçe/İngilizce yazı çalıştayı

18-22 Mayıs 2022

İstanbul İsveç Araştırma Enstitüsü (İİAE) Türkiyeli genç akademisyenleri eşsiz bir çift dilli (İNG/TR) yazı ve mentorluk programına katılmaya çağırıyor. 5-günlük çalıştay hakemli dergilerde yayınlanmaya uygun bir makaleyi tamamlama fırsatını sunuyor. Aşağıdaki alanlarla ilgili araştırma yapanlara duyurulur:

  • Doğu Akdeniz veya Levanten mirası
  • Kültürel ve dilsel çoğulluğa yönelik çağdaş ve tarihi yaklaşımlar
  • Kültürel ve iletişimsel hafıza
  • Tarihsel travma ve geçmiş ile yüzleşmek
  • İnsan Hakları ve tarihsel adalet

Bu alanlarda çalışan önde gelen akademisyenler her bir katılımcıya akıl danışmanı ve okur olarak bireysel geri bildirim temin edecektir.  Çalıştayın ilk iki günü İstanbul’da İİAE’de geçirilecek, bunun akabinde Yunanistan, Kavala’ya bir eğitim gezisi düzenlenerek, tartışılan konular ve elde edinilen perspektifler tarihi mekan ziyaretleri ve önde gelen akademisyenlerin verdiği söyleşiler ile pekiştirilecektir.

Tüm masraflar (yol, vize, konaklama ve yemek dahil olmal üzere) İİAE tarafından karşılanacaktır.

Kim başvurabilir:

  • Doktora Öğrencileri
  • Post-doktora yapanlar
  • İlgili alanlarda makale veya başka akademik üretim üstüne çalışan genç bağımsız akademisyenler
  • Temel düzeyde İngilizce ve İleri seviyede Türkçe dil becerisi şarttır.

Başvurmak için lütfen aşağıdaki belgeleri adresine gönderiniz:

  • En azından 3,000 kelimelik bir makale taslağı
  • Niyet mektubu
  • Özgeçmişiniz

Başvurunun son tarihi: 28 Şubat’tır. Seçilmiş adaylar Mart ortasında bilgilendirileceklerdir.

Bu çalıştay Hatırlamalar: İnsan Hakları, Tarihsel Travma ve Türkiye ile Doğu Akdeniz’de çoğulculuğun geleceği adlı projenin bir parçasıdır. Projenin hedefi Balkanlar’dan Orta-Doğu’ya kadar olan eski Osmanlı coğrafyasındaki insan hakları, kültürel miras ve tarihsel adalet hakkında çalışan Türkiyeli ve uluslararası akademisyenler için yenilikçi eğitim yöntemleri ve uluslararası ağlar geliştirmektir. Proje faaliyetleri Türkiye ve diğer Doğu Akdeniz ülkelerinden gelen akademisyenleri bir araya getiren çalıştaylar ve yaz okulları, ile Türkiye kamuoyuna yönelik enformel “sohbetler” düzenlemekten ibarettir.


Pluralism in the Present – CFP

An English/Turkish writing workshop for young scholars in Istanbul and Kavala

18-22 May 2022

The Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (SRII) invites young scholars from Turkey to apply for a unique bilingual (ENG/TR) workshop and mentorship program. The 5-day workshop offers the opportunity to finalize an article suitable for peer reviewed publication relevant to the fields of:

  • Eastern Mediterranean or Levantine heritage
  • Contemporary and historical approaches to cultural and linguistic pluralism
  • Cultural and communicative memory
  • Historical trauma and dealing with the past
  • Human rights and historical justice

Leading academics in these fields will act as mentors and readers that provide individual feedback to each participant. The first two days are spent in Istanbul at the SRII, followed by a study trip to Kavala, Greece, where discussions and perspectives are deepened with visits to historical sites and lectures by leading scholars.

All expenses (travel, visa, accommodation, meals) will be covered by the SRII.

Who can apply:

  • Doctoral Students
  • Post-docs
  • Young independent scholars working on articles or other academic products in relevant fields
  • Applicants with a basic knowledge of English and advanced Turkish language skills

To apply, please send an email to including:

  • A draft paper of at least 3,000 words
  • A letter of interest
  • Your CV

Deadline for application: 28 February. Selected candidates will be notified by mid-March.

This workshop is part of the project Rememberings: Human Rights, Historical Trauma, and the Future of Pluralism in Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean. The project aims to develop international networks and innovative educational methods for Turkish and international academics focusing on human rights, cultural heritage and historical justice in former Ottoman lands from the Balkans to the Middle East. The activities consist of workshops and summer schools that bring together academics in Turkey and other countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as informal “sohbets” for the Turkish audience.


CEST Summer School 2022

Call for Applications

The Summer School Cultural Exchange and Heritage is a two-week-long program at the University of Vienna. Part of the Consortium for European Symposia on Turkey (CEST), it is designed to support participants’ individual research projects, provide training in specific research areas, encourage the participants to present their work in a transdisciplinary framework, and enhance their career-building skills such as academic writing and grant writing.

The theme of the Summer School, which will be held in Vienna, is Cultural Exchange and Heritage. Vienna is an ideal place to think about methods and theories related to cultural exchange and heritage. The city is full of places, sites, objects that illustrate the complex and entangled history with the Ottoman Empire that goes back to the 16th century and which up to the present plays an important role in the “Erinnerungskultur” (“collective memory”) of the Austrians. Generally, this legacy is often labelled and remembered as “Turkish”. However, this rich cultural heritage is the result of a much more complex configuration and included the agency of more diverse groups than the label “Turk” suggests. Ottomans of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, such as Apostolic or Catholic Armenians, Orthodox Greeks or Sephardic Jews, are gathered under this term.

The residential summer school – through a program of lectures, workshops and cultural visits – will offer participants the opportunity to explore the concepts of “cultural exchange” and “cultural heritage”, to discuss them with internationally renowned scholars. In addition to the theoretical aspects, concrete places of cultural exchange and cultural heritage will be visited with experts.

Lectures on theory and methods
  • Readings and discussions
  • Exercises
Presentation and discussions
  • Presenting ongoing work
  • Meeting and discussion with local PhD candidates
  • Writing/Publication
  • Third party funding proposals
Excursions with experts
  • Museums
  • Archives, Institutions

The second CEST Summer School will be held from 11 July to 22 July 2022. It includes lectures, readings, exercises, excursions and social exchange with instructors and members of CEST. Participants will have the opportunity to present and discuss their own work, receive feedback, as well as to revise, and expand it.

Participants are expected to attend and actively participate in all events during the two-week period. While the first week is dedicated to research methodologies in the field of cultural exchange and heritage, the second week develops the participants’ individual research and career-building skills. Successful participants will receive a certificate from CEST.

The CEST Summer School is open to graduate students (enrolled in advanced MA and PhD programs) and early career scholars (within four years of receiving their PhD) in Turkey and Europe whose research interest is relevant to cultural exchange and heritage in the context of Turkey.

The teaching language is English. All participants must be proficient in English on an academic level.

Application process

Applicants should submit a CV, proof of IELTS level 7 or comparable English language proficiency, and a statement of no more than 1,000 words describing their current work and why attending the summer school with the given theme would be beneficial for their work and career. The statement should include the applicant’s key research question(s) and information about data/empirical material, methodology and expected/preliminary findings.

Please send your applications in one single pdf document titled “name_surname_brief project title” by the deadline February 25, 2022 to

Incomplete applications will not be accepted.

Selected participants will be invited by mid-March. There is no application fee, intra-European travel and accommodation as well as lunches will be covered. Please do not hesitate to contact us via with any questions you may have.

Call for applications Summer School 2022

Important dates

Deadline for submission: 25 February 2022
Decisions announced: 15 March 2022
Summer School: 11-22 July 2022

What is CEST?

The Consortium for European Symposia on Turkey (CEST) works to advance research on Turkey and provide opportunities for early career scholars and graduate students in Turkey and Europe by organizing academic events and promoting the exchange of ideas and networking among scholars.

CEST is delighted to announce its second Summer School. Starting in 2021, CEST will offer a series of summer programs to support graduate students and postdoctoral scholars pursuing research related to Turkey in the humanities and the social sciences introducing them to critical research methodologies and networking skills.


Yavuz Köse, CEST Member, Chair of Ottoman and Turkish Studies, University of Vienna
Julia Fröhlich, PhD-Candidate, Ottoman and Turkish Studies, University of Vienna

CEST Members

Kerem Öktem, CEST Chair, Professor, Department of Linguistics and Comparative Cultural Studies, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice
Paul T Levin, CEST Director, Director, Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies
Jenny White, CEST Vice Director, Professor Emerita, Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies
Lea Nocera, CEST Member, Professor, University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’
Kader Konuk, CEST Member, Professor, Institute for Turkish Studies, University of Duisburg-Essen
Elise Massicard, CEST Member, Research Professor, CNRS/CERI Sciences Po


CFP: Levantines of the Ottoman World

Book Project
Levantines of the Ottoman World: Communities, Identities, and Cultures

The wide geographic expanse of the Ottoman Empire, and length of its political existence, presents historians with the challenge of describing a vast, complex and evolving mosaic of communal formations, many of which were unstable and ambiguously defined. Understanding the relationship of these communities to the formulation of individual subjectivity and self-identity during this period remains an even more difficult historiographic puzzle. Alongside major ethnic, religious and linguistic groupings such as Turks, Arabs, Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians and Jews, one of the most historically prominent communities of the Empire – and yet, at the same time, among the most amorphous and understudied – are the Levantines. Originating from populations of merchants, diplomats, and other travelers and migrants who settled in the port cities of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires from the lands of Western, Southern, and Central Europe, the Levantines emerged as a multifarious but distinct social grouping with a pivotal role in the history of the Ottoman state. Research into the cosmopolitan world of the Levantines remains inadequate, however, and much remains to be said about their particular modes of living, social interaction, and cultural inheritance.

This book project aims to go beyond the borders of formalistic narratives and to juxtapose a multiplicity of approaches, methodologies, and perspectives in the study of Levantine lives in the Ottoman Empire. We welcome chapters that engage in the current body of scholarship on topics such as Levantine cosmopolitanism, hybridity, marginality, ambiguity, and transnationalism, but we also encourage submissions which critique the centrality of such terminology and theoretical frames in historical scholarship. Ultimately, it is hoped that these chapters will contribute to a deeper understanding of processes of communal and identity-formation in the Ottoman world, and highlight the possibilities of Levantine studies in challenging entrenched disciplinary boundaries.

Proposed chapters might pursue, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • panoramic approaches to Levantine communities or publications
  • Levantine families, households, and domestic culture; labor, intimacy and consumption
  • Levantine institutions, clubs, schools, and churches, and other social organizations
  • Levantine publications, companies, and commercial enterprises; engaging with port-cities studies and the questions of class formation in the Ottoman Mediterranean
  • Cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, and internationalism as a Levantine analytic
  • Levantine religious spaces and architecture; Levantine life in urban space and traces/hauntings in the built environment of contemporary cities
  • Levantine social and cultural interactions with other communities of the Ottoman world; ambiguities, exchanges, passings and crossings

Submission instruction

The initial request is an abstract submission which describes the applicant’s interest in the project. These should be between 200-250 words and outline the intended area of investigation and any relationship to the mentioned topics.  Those interested should email these with the title in the subject line by the abstract submission deadline of midnight, 15/02/22. Final manuscripts are strongly encouraged to be limited to 10000 words. Articles in English and Turkish are accepted.


Style and Citation Guidelines

Notes should appear as footnotes (not endnotes) and be 12 pt, Times New Roman font, double-spaced, and formatted according to The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition.

Important Deadlines

Expression of interest deadline: February 15th, 2022 at midnight.
Notification of acceptance: March 4th, 2022.
Manuscript submission deadline: September 30th, 2022.

Revised manuscript submission deadline: February 20th, 2023.

Publication: June 2023.

The book will be published by an internationally-recognized publishing house, Libra Kitap, ( based in Istanbul. For contact information see,



Erik Blackthorne-O’Barr (Columbia University)

​Burhan Çağlar (Sakarya University)


CFP: Assessing the Ethnic Groups of the Late Ottoman Empire through a Decolonial Lens

From September 13 to September 17 of 1922, a holocaust engulfed the Ottoman city of Izmir. Almost one hundred years to the day, on September 9 of 2022, the Center for Greek Studies, the Center for European Studies, the Center for Jewish Studies and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program are organizing a two-day symposium that focuses on the political and social events which culminated in the destruction of the city through a decolonial lens. The symposium will take place at the Reitz Student Union over two days with a three-night stay at the Reitz Union Hotel beginning with registration for the presenters on Friday, September 9, 2022, at 6:30 pm and ending on Sunday, September 11, 2022, at 4:00 pm.

The symposium will bring together junior and senior scholars whose research reexamines the political and social atmosphere leading up to and inclusive of political events that impacted ethnic groups of the Ottoman Empire through a decolonial lens. Furthermore, the symposium will feature research that navigates away from recapitulations of modernist frameworks. Research that will be selected for the symposium will view these events through the vantage points of the individuals and ethnic groups within the Ottoman Empire that influenced and impacted their fruition. In this vein, research presentations that focus on the Empire’s Albanians, Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Jews, Kurds, Laz, Levantines, Pomaks, Roma, Rum, Serbians, Turks, Vlachs, Yoruks and their respective diasporas through a decolonial lens will be featured. The goal of the symposium is to marshal decolonial theory in order to understand how the dynamics between the Ottoman Empire’s ethnic groups can provide insights for contemporary knowledge production for Armenia, Greece, Cyprus, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Turkey and the United States. The papers selected for the symposium will be featured in a commemorative tome. Researchers are kindly asked to submit their 250-word abstract by January 31, 2022.

Panayotis League (he/him/his)

Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology

Director, Center for Music of the Americas

The Florida State University

College of Music


Ottoman worlds: Spaces and boundaries of intercommunal encounters

The Turkey Europe Center (TEZ)
Would like to invite you to the next event in the lecture series organized in cooperation with the State Center for Political Education in Hamburg.

The lecture by Andreas Guidi (Constance)
Italian Fascism in Rhodes as a Post-Ottoman Empire: Confessional Diversity, Politics of Difference, and Ideologies in the Modern Mediterranean
will be held on Wednesday 19 January 2022 at 6pm ct.
held via zoom .

Access link (zoom):  Meeting ID: 688 8384 0814
Identification code: 63153867

Please see their website for updates on the event: .

Austrian National Library – AKON

Lecture :
Italian Fascism in Rhodes as a Post-Ottoman Empire: Confessional Diversity, Politics of Difference, and Ideologies in the Modern Mediterranean
by Andreas Guidi

Rhodes was occupied by Italian troops in 1912 as part of the war against the Ottoman Empire over what is now Libya. Centuries of Ottoman rule over this multi-denominational provincial capital ended with an Italian military occupation that lasted until the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which in turn transitioned to internationally recognized Italian sovereignty. Just a year before Lausanne, Italy experienced a political earthquake when Benito Mussolini came to power with the “March on Rome”. The official fall of the Ottoman Empire thus coincides with the rise of the Fascist Empire in Rhodes. What did it mean for Italian colonialism to rule over a former Ottoman society? Conversely, how did the population of a former Ottoman provincial town adapt to colonial rule?

The lecture aims to think these questions together. First, an alternative to the Empire-into-Nation narrative is outlined. Second, the transformation of the imperial politics of difference – which began already in the last years of Ottoman rule – is offered through an insight into denominational communities. Finally, it will be examined how colonial fascism tried to create a “new generation” of young loyal subjects, which, however, was limited by the perception of alternative ideologies such as Kemalism and Zionism among the youth.

short bio

Andreas Guidi is a research associate in the Modern and Contemporary History working group at the University of Konstanz and is currently a Visiting Fellow at the DHI Washington.
His research interests include the history of the modern Mediterranean, Italian-Ottoman ties, the history of youth and generations, and the history of maritime smuggling. His first monograph Generations of Empire: Youth from Ottoman to Italian Rule in the Mediterranean will be published by University of Toronto Press in 2022. He has published articles in English, French, German and Italian, including in the International Journal of Middle East Studies. Andreas Guidi is the founder and editor of The Southeast Passage podcast and host on several episodes of Ottoman History Podcast.

Publications (selection)
Generations of Empire: Youth from Ottoman to Italian Rule in the Mediterranean , University of Toronto Press, forthcoming Fall 2022. 

“School protests and the making of the post-Ottoman Mediterranean: Pupils’ politicization in Rhodes as a challenge to Italian colonialism, 1915-1937,” in International Journal of Middle East Studies , published as FirstView. “Démarcation générationnelle et divergence mémorielle: Sur l’émigration des juifs et des Grecs de Rhodes vers les États-Unis au long du XXe siècle”, in Slavica Occitania 52, pp. 233-260.

“Who made fascism in Zadar? Activist trajectories as an interpretative key for post-imperial politics”, in Ante Bralić and Branko Kasalo (eds.), The Eastern Adriatic between the Collapse of the Habsburg Monarchy and the Creation of New States , Zadar: University of Zadar, p. 243 -272.


Altıncı Türkçe Sohbetimiz “Maraş ve Tarihsel Travma”

Psikiyatri uzmanı ve yazar Cemal Dindar ile Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği üyesi avukat Seyit Sönmez’i “Maraş ve Tarihsel Travma” konusunu tartışmaya davet ettik.

YouTube kanalımızdan canlı yayında: