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Cities of the Middle East

The Destinies of Istanbul

Debates and projections





Along with Athens and Rome, Istanbul is one of the three great historic and cultural centres of the Mediterranean. Substituted by Ankara as the Turkish capital since the beginning of the kemalist period, in recent decades has undergone major transformations. On one hand, a great interest in the earlier Christian and Ottoman pasts, and in the diverse cultures and peoples that have come together in the city, has came up. Likewise, the collapse of the USSR and the Balkan communist regimes has brought new commercial and migratory links to the Black Sea and beyond. Yet at the same time, while parts of the Turkish intelligentsia have sought to restore Istanbul as a model of cosmopolitanism and tolerance, mass migration from rural Anatolia has changed the character of much of the city and made it a base for new Islamist forces.

This seminar (the fifth in the series on the Middle East) will explore a set of visions of the role played by Istanbul in modern Turkey and Europe. Speakers will include leading contemporary Turkish and Armenian academics and writers, and the debates will be accompanied by the showing of films and documentaries about Istanbul. The aim of this conference is to create a forum for debate to question the stereotypes of the past and to analyse the challenges of the contemporary city.

Fred Halliday

Saturday 3rd November

7 pm FILMS

Hrant Dink: A Video of Conversations, Nouritza Matossian, 2007, 14'.
With the presence of the director, who will introduce the film and answer the audience's questions.
Hrant Dink was a Turkish journalist of Armenian origin, and was also an activist in favour of the reconciliation between the two countries. In January 2007 he was murdered while on his way home. This piece was prepared by the writer Nouritza Matossian as a posthumous tribute.

Crossing the Bridge, Fatih Akin, 2005, 90'.
Whoever does not know the music of a place, does not actually know that place. Upon this premise, the German bass guitarist Alexander Hacke takes a trip through the musical diversity of Istanbul under the close eye of the camera of Fatih Akin, the director of the film.

Sunday 4th November

7 pm FILM

Mozart in Turkey, Mick Csáky, 2003, 88'.
The British film maker Mick Csáky shoots Mozart's work The Abduction from the Seraglio in Istanbul's Topkapi palace. Written from the point of view of a westerner who had never been to Turkey, the opera is performed in its original location for the first time, in a film that also shows the filming process itself.

Monday 5th November

7 pm DEBATE: "Istanbul: Cosmopolitism and New Social Challenges".

Presentation: Josep Ramoneda, Director of the CCCB.

Ayhan Aktar, Professor of Sociology at Istanbul Bilgi University.
"Transformation of Istanbul: 1870-1970. From a Cosmopolitan Port-City to a Giant Metropolis".

Soli Ozel, Professor of International Relations at Istanbul Bilgi University and director of the Turkish edition of Foreign Policy.
"The Strategic Position of Istanbul after the Collapse of the Soviet Union".

Umut Ozkirimli, political scientist and Director of Turkish-Greek Studies at Istanbul Bilgi University.
"Istanbul: A Tale of Two Cities. The White Turks and the Black Turks".

Moderator: Fred Halliday, Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Visiting Professor at the Barcelona Institute of International Studies.

9.30 pm FILM

Uzak, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2002, 110'.
The film tells the story of Yusuf, a youth who leaves the countryside to look for a better life in Istanbul, where he will live together with his cousin Mahmut. Awarded the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival 2003.

Tuesday 6th November

7 p.m. DEBATE: "Urban and Cultural Explosion of a Kaleidoscope City".

Murat Belge, Professor of Comparative Literature at Istanbul Bilgi University and human rights activist
"Istanbul, Capital of Three Empires".

Nouritza Matossian, Armenian writer
"The Role of the Armenian Community in Istanbul".

Moderator: Francisco Veiga, Professor of Contemporary History at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and author of El turco (Debate, 2006).

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