Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Turkish Tuesdays......on a Wednesday

Turkish Studies: Profile and News
Welcome to another entry from the Center for European Studies in beautiful, albeit slightly humid Gainesville, Florida.  We have many exciting projects underway, including a new grant proposal for the European Union Delegation that deals with privacy, security, and the effects that the cyber revolution has had upon each of these issues in an increasingly interconnected world.  This proposal has indeed been so time consuming that “Turkish Tuesdays” is actually being published on Wednesday, and sadly, “Turkish Wednesdays” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  So please forgive our delay.  For now, we would like to take a moment to introduce another essential member of the CES team – our Professor of Turkish Studies, Emrah Sahin.  Here is what Professor Sahin has to say about his teaching philosophy, current research, and his exciting new courses that will be sure to attract students from a broad variety of disciplines:
            I received degrees in History and International Relations from Middle East Technical University (B.A.), Bilkent University (M.A.) in Ankara, Turkey, and my PhD from McGill University, in Montreal, Canada. I was fortunate to work with a number of wonderful scholars at these institutions to whom the shape of my intellectual pursuits is greatly indebted.
            I begin this year with two research projects. The first is a manuscript focusing on Ottoman authority and society through the prism of foreign missionary activity in the region during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The existing literature often depicts Ottoman authorities as rigid bureaucrats and missionaries as idealistic reformers. My research moves beyond these stereotypes by emphasizing the complexity of Ottoman imperial statecraft and by revealing the variety of stakeholders. It posits that the Ottoman government was an evolving administrative body rather than the staid, monolithic entity that previous works have described. The manuscript seeks to provide an historical context for the contemporary debate over missionary activity in Turkey and the Middle East. The second project is a volume on Turkish relations with the Wider World (Europe and the United States). This volume, which I am editing and writing with several other international scholars in the field, introduces themes in socio-cultural encounters as well as diplomatic relations between Turkey and the West.  We also hope to present a more nuanced approach to the transformation of the Turkish image in the Old World and New.
            This semester I am teaching beginning and intermediate Turkish language and culture courses and co-teaching “European Experience from a Social Science Perspective” with Edit Nagy, the CES lecturer in Hungarian Studies.  Those of you who are familiar with European history can no doubt appreciate the irony, at least in a historical context, of a Turk and a Hungarian working together on a course on the “European Experience.”  Next semester I will teach a course entitled “Money and the Bible in Turkey,” which will focus on the work of merchants and Christian missionaries in Turkey and the Ottoman Empire.
Teaching is a passion of mine and I relish the opportunity to work with both graduate and undergraduate students. The challenge of teaching Turkish Studies is overcoming outdated stereotypes about Turkey and the Middle East. This challenge requires that students be equipped with historical imagination, textual literacy, and interdisciplinary thinking; the skills necessary to explore the interplay between history and memory. I design my classes to have four main objectives: to generate interest in the material; make my students aware of the available sources; to teach them how this information relates to other contexts; and to teach them to think critically about these sources. I might add that these skills are incredibly useful in all disciplines and need not be resigned to only history classes. 
I know from personal experience that a teacher’s personality and rapport with students can make or break their enthusiasm for the subject being taught. I strive to be enthusiastic and energetic: enthusiastic about the subject and about how students explore it, and energetic in the teaching process. I aim for an open and interactive teaching style designed to encourage debate on the day’s subject. When possible, I devote time to discussing primary source texts and encourage students to analyse rhetorical twists and historical contexts of these texts. Ultimately my goal is to lead students through discussions wherein they acquire the analytical and critical thinking skills necessary to assess the validity of historical evidence.        

My major aim in teaching Turkish Studies at UF is to open my students’ eyes to the personal enrichment of studying Europe and Turkey, which I see as a unique opportunity for them to connect with the greater world through the experiences of Turks across space and time.
Along with Turkish Tuesdays on this blog, two additions will enrich our Turkish Studies menu: Aegean Movie Nights and the Florida Journal of Turkey and Turkish Studies. This semester, Aegean Movie Nights, the product of our collaboration with the Classics Department, will show 12 Turkish and Greek movies that we have hand picked based on variety, fluency, and quality. All are subtitled and open to the public (for more visit, The Florida Journal of Turkey and Turkish Studies will publish news, research and events related to Turkish Studies twice a year. It aims to create a platform for UF scholars and students, along with Florida’s Turkish community to interact and promote an informed understanding of the Turkish World. More information will be available here in coming weeks.