Summer Institute 2019: The Ottoman Greeks

Jan. 16, 2020

Julie Clack

The Princeton Athens Center’s second annual Summer Institute brought together a diverse group of graduate students for an intensive two-week seminar on “The Ottoman Greeks: 1821-1922,” led by M. Şükrü Hanioğlu, professor of Near Eastern Studies and Garrett Professor in Foreign Affairs at Princeton.

The seminar examined aspects of the late Ottoman Greek experience ranging from the Greek War of Independence to literary and material culture in late Ottoman Constantinople.

According to Hanioğlu, “The Institute’s syllabus strove to address the full range of Ottoman Greek political, intellectual and cultural activity during the Empire’s last century, combining a survey of the latest historiographical interventions in the field with close readings of primary sources produced by Ottoman Greeks themselves.”

He added: “[The seminar] emphasized historical trends and processes more than single events, facts, and personalities, placing them within an analytical framework focusing on the transformation of the Greek community in one century.”

The group was comprised of graduate students from American, Greek and French universities, all of whom were selected from a competitive pool of applicants. For the students, the seminar was an opportunity to explore a topic close to their research interests and learn from other like-minded scholars. 

Kutay Onali, a graduate student in Near Eastern studies at Princeton, participated in the Institute and also served as Hanioğlu’s teaching assistant. He said, “[The Institute] solidified my knowledge of a period in history critical to my own research interests and introduced me to a number of fellow PhD students from Greece, Europe and the U.S. whose research interests align directly with my own.”

“It was a really amazing experience,” said Dimitrios Stergiopoulos, a graduate student in the University of California San Diego’s Department of History. “Through my daily interaction with the professors and the rest of participants I was able to re-conceptualize my doctoral research.”

Maria Arvaniti, a graduate student at the University of Athens, agreed: “Attending the Summer Institute was a wonderful experience for me. I got the opportunity to gain a lot of knowledge in a very short period and also participated in a high-quality academic environment that was at the same time very warm and inspiring. The highlight for me were the lectures of Professor Hanioğlu and our discussions with him.”

Professor Hanioğlu was equally impressed by the caliber of the student participants. “Students engaged with each other and the demanding curriculum until the very last day of the seminar. I have not met with such a knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and engaging group of students for a long time,” he said.

“In addition to their enthusiasm, hard work and engagement, students discussed sensitive cultural issues and historical cases in a very civil and professional way. Taking a seminar on a period of Greek history generally viewed as a period of unrelieved awfulness from a Turkish-American professor would have been quite problematic. All of the students, however, approached issues in an extremely professional way and handled them as historical facts to be discussed and analyzed but not judged.” 

More Summer Institutes will be held at the Princeton Athens Center in Summer 2020.