Now, two recently founded German research initiatives -- the independent Network Turkey and the TurkeyEuropeCenter, located at Hamburg University -- have started tackling the issue and organized a workshop on “Turkish Studies in Germany -- Topics, Fields of Research and Perspectives,” which took place between Feb. 25-26 in Hamburg.
For two days, the workshop offered scholars the unique opportunity to have scientific exchanges and jointly develop innovative future perspectives for the field of Turkish studies in Germany.
In six working groups -- covering a range of research fields, from Turkish domestic and foreign policy to economics to migration and culture studies -- participants had the chance to present own research projects and papers and to critically discuss those issues currently dominating the public and scientific debate on Turkey in Germany.
Indeed, the workshop filled a long-standing gap in the German academic landscape. Compared to Turkey’s continuously increasing importance as an economically rising and politically developing partner of Europe, the level of sustainable research activity established at German institutions and universities is still surprisingly low. Turkish area studies in terms of autonomous interdisciplinary courses of study are not yet established at German universities and thus scholars concerned with Turkey in scientific terms are often “lone fighters,” widely dispersed across a multitude of disciplines of the social sciences and humanities.
Two initiatives working on filling the research gap
The rising demand for better coordination and cooperation in the field has been articulated by a new generation of young scholars interested in Turkey. This demand is mirrored by the recent foundation of two young initiatives, Network Turkey and the TurkeyEuropeCenter, which organized the workshop.
“There is a growing academic interest in Turkey in Western Europe. Nevertheless, Turkish studies are institutionalized only at some universities, and it is very hard to find other scholars to debate or exchange ideas with. Here is where we come in,” explains Daniel Grütjen, a founding member of Network Turkey, in an interview.
The network aims to bring together everyone interested in an open-minded and critical debate on current developments in Turkey. It is built on the ideas and contribution of its members, which are basically connected by the network’s Web site. Here they can circulate information and opinions, and people with common interests and fields of research can interlink and communicate.
“Accordingly, it’s our greatest success that we have connected more than 100 young scholars from all over Europe and the United States. It is great to see that individual members use Network Turkey as a platform to realize their own projects,” says Grütjen, underlining that the network is doing its best to support them.
By organizing events the network aims to contribute to the discussion on topics related to Turkey on a more sophisticated level. Free from prejudice and misunderstanding, dialogue between Turkish and European researchers will be carried out on equal terms.
“Our workshop in Hamburg attracted young scholars from all over Germany and showed that there is a great enthusiasm among the scientific community. Furthermore, it was a pleasure to work with the newly founded TurkeyEuropeCenter at Hamburg University. We are really looking forward to upcoming cooperation,” Grütjen emphasizes.
Indeed, the TurkeyEuropeCenter, physically located at the Faculty for Africa and Asian Studies at the University of Hamburg, was opened for the same reasons. Complementary to the loose network character of Network Turkey, the TurkeyEuropeCenter serves individuals and institutions as a more institutionalized focus point to carry out innovative research projects and dialogue together with Turkish partners.
The center’s cooperation partners in Turkey include, for instance, the Istanbul Policy Center (IPC), located at Sabanci University, the Orient-Institute Istanbul (DGIA) and Akdeniz University in Antalya. A first project, to be carried out jointly by Turkish and German researchers in the following years, addresses exchange and interaction processes between Turkey and Western Europe. Processes and developments resulting from such mutual influence will eventually fill the long-standing gap concerning Turkish studies in Germany.