Graduate Students Onayli and Fields dovetail work in Hellenic and Near Eastern Studies

Feb. 21, 2019

Julie Clack

For over thirty years, Hellenic Studies and Near Eastern Studies (NES) have collaborated on numerous initiatives, including cross-listed courses, conferences, library acquisitions and publications. These close ties have also enabled and cultivated the research of Princeton graduate students.


Dan Fields focuses on the cultural history of the late Ottoman Empire and early Turkish Republic. For the last three summers, Fields has received Stanley J. Seeger Fellowships, which have allowed him to study Modern Greek in Thessaloniki and Ioannina, Greece.

For Fields, the opportunity to research in Athens at the Center for Asia Minor Studies was imperative for his research, as it forms the basis of one of his dissertation chapters.

“The center is a valuable repository for information about the Ottoman Empire’s Greek Orthodox communities in Anatolia, and the primary sources I found there have allowed me to get a sense of how ordinary women, men and children experienced the waves of forced migration and violence that marked the final years of the Ottoman Empire,” said Fields.

Kutay Onayli, a third-year graduate student in NES, is focusing on the cultural and intellectual history of the Greek Orthodox minority in the late Ottoman Empire and early Republican Turkey.

“I have a growing interest in how artists and intellectuals of the same period understood and reconstructed what it means to inherit an Ottoman history or ‘legacy,’ and the many afterlives the Ottoman Empire thus came to enjoy,” said Onayli. “In more technical terms, I am exploring how we can apply classical reception studies increasingly critical to the study of Modern Greece to the Ottoman-Turkish case.”

Like Fields, Onayli received a Stanley J. Seeger Fellowship, which allowed him to further his study of Modern Greek and conduct primary source research last summer.

“My study of — and love affair with — Modern Greek is now entering its second half-decade; but getting to spend time in Athens as a student at the University of Athens was crucial in developing further alacrity with the language and its literature,” said Onayli. “Further exploring the depth of the oft-overlooked Ottoman Greek legacy in the cultural and intellectual life in Athens proved an inspiration in and of itself.”

Another highlight of Onayli’s summer was spending some time at Eptalofos, a little-known library tucked away in Kallithea that focuses on Ottoman, Byzantine and Greek-Turkish matters. Onayli ended the summer working with the archives of the Library of the Hellenic Parliament for a research project on how Istanbul's Greek press negotiated some of the drastic Kemalist reforms of the 1920s.

Since 2007, Hellenic Studies has sponsored a graduate conference on “The Greek Experience Under Ottoman Rule,” which has attracted many Princeton students and their counterparts from Greece and Turkey for intensive sessions held at different locations in Greece. This semester, the Program in Hellenic Studies’ director, Molly Greene, is teaching a course on “The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1800.”

“We value greatly our close intellectual ties with our colleagues in Near Eastern Studies,” said Dimitri Gondicas, the Center’s director. “The Princeton Athens Center provides a new space for this collaboration to flourish, as we experienced during the recent visit of Sukru Hanioglu, who gave an exciting lecture on ‘The Cretan Young Turks: the Committee of Progress and Union and Branches in Crete,’ which engaged our distinguished audience of Greek scholars.”