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This two-day conference organized in collaboration with the Turkey Studies Network seeks to unsettle traditional narratives on exilic experiences: how to narrate refugee flows, which stories do we tell, which voices remain unheard? Focus lies on exile between Europe and (in) the (post)Ottoman lands.

Event details of Narrating Exile in and Between Europe and the Ottoman Empire/Modern Turkey
Start date 11 November 2021
End date 12 November 2021
Time 09:00

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.

Keynote Lecture with Edhem Eldem: The Ottoman Empire and Turkey: A Great Place to Visit, a Hard Place to Live

Spui25 | 11 November 2021 | 17:30-18:30 

Recent surveys suggest that at least two thirds of the Turkish youth dream of leaving Turkey and settling abroad, preferably in the “West,” defined in broad civilizational terms. This may be the ultimate point reached in a long and painful process, which has plagued the Ottoman Empire and Turkey for at least two centuries, causing the departure, flight, exile, expulsion, deportation of individuals, groups, or entire communities from their native lands. On the other hand, it is also true that the same period was witness to a constant flow of men of women who sought temporary or permanent residence in “Turkey,” for reasons ranging from curiosity and business to political asylum and outright survival. The present conference on “Narrating Exile” is an occasion to draw an assessment, however tentative and impressionistic, of this constant and often dramatic human ebb and flow between these two worlds.

Edhem Eldem is Professor of History at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul and has been appointed as Professor to the International Chair in Turkish and Ottoman History at the Collège de France since 2017.

About the Turkey Studies Network

The Turkey Studies Network (TSN) is an independent, non-partisan, multi-disciplinary academic platform where researchers interested in the study of Turkey gather and share thoughts, especially in the Low Countries.