The Ottoman Empire ruled vast areas of the world for almost six centuries, and though it dissolved in the aftermath of World War I, its impact lives on in the geopolitical realities of modern Turkey, the Balkans and the Middle Eastern states. The importance of this area of the world has sparked Cornell’s new Ottoman and Turkish Studies Initiative (OTSI), a project of the Cornell Institute for European Studies.
The OTSI will provide a multidisciplinary platform to discuss, share and promote the academic study of the Ottoman Empire and its successor nation-states.
“The long-term vision is to make Cornell University a regional hub for the study of the history, politics and cultures of this increasingly important part of the world,” says Mostafa Minawi, project director and assistant professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences.
This year’s theme for OTSI is “The Vast Ottoman and Turkic World.” Minawi explains that the goal is to introduce the wide range of peoples that the program will cover, from western China’s Uygurs to Kurds, to Ottoman Jewish merchants and more.
Next year, OTSI’s theme will be World War I in the Ottoman Empire, in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the Great War. Numerous events are planned to engage the Cornell campus and regional academic communities.
“The experience of the people of the Middle East and the Balkans is rarely examined in studies of World War I,” says Minawi. “But it’s very important to understand the lasting impact of the war on this area of the world.”
OTSI’s inaugural events begin March 14 with a 7:30 p.m. screening of the documentary “The Silk Road of Pop” in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. The film will be introduced by Minawi; a question-and-answer session with director Sameer Farooq and Cornell government professor Allan Carlson will follow.
A multidisciplinary roundtable discussion with academics from Turkey, the U.S. and Canada on “Kurds in the Age of Middle Eastern Revolutions” will be held March 21 at 2:30 pm, 186 Myron Taylor Hall, followed by a reception.
The final event for March will be a lecture by historian Julia P. Cohen, “Oriental by Design: Ottoman Jews and the Stuff of Empire,” a follow-up project to her book “Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era.” The lecture will be held March 26 at 4:30 p.m. in 110 White Hall.
The events are sponsored by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Berger International and Comparative Legal Studies Program, Department of Near Eastern Studies, Jewish Studies Program, East Asian Studies Program and the Comparative Muslim Societies Program.
Linda B. Glaser is staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.