Laura Brouwers (Maastricht University)
How does Turkey’s imperial legacy live on in contemporary Turkish politics and society? A complex question which I decided to zoom in on by focusing on one specific event in Turkey’s sizable Ottoman history: the First World War Battle of Çanakkale. One particular interpretation of this Ottoman WWI victory at Çanakkale, namely the notion that it had been a shared ‘fighting spirit’ encompassing a set of beliefs, values, and attitudes that enabled Ottoman soldiers to obtain a victory against all odds over the Allied forces, drew my attention. The absence of works elucidating the use and understanding of this ‘Çanakkale Spirit’ in modern-day Turkey despite its presence in political speech and demonstrable centrality in recent commemorative activities, led me to dive into this subject for my master’ thesis. I did so through a mixed-method content analysis of articles from four establish Turkish online newspapers, collected over a 2-year period.
After graduating with a master’s degree in Arts and Heritage from Maastricht University, the fellowship with the Netherlands Institute in Turkey provided me with a fantastic working environment to convert my master’s thesis into a journal article.
The opportunities that my one-month stay with the NIT in March 2019 offered me reached far beyond desk-top research. I received valuable advice from an audience of NIT staff, Turkish Studies students of Leiden University, and other researchers to whom I presented my work during a seminar organized by the NIT. It was a great experience to be part of the institute’s larger academic network, and establish new connections. The constructive discussions I had with peers during my stay helped me to concretize a topic for my Ph.D. proposal.
Moreover, staying at the NIT in March made it possible for me to finally witness a commemoration of the Çanakkale Naval Battle and Martyrs Day in person. A ‘memory walk’ organized by Turkish NGO Karakutu together with the NIT disclosed a variety of other narratives of the past woven into Istanbul’s urban fabric. The game-like approach in combination with the openness and professionality of the volunteer-narrators made it an engaging, educational experience (and enjoyable/fun without compromising the content). Staying at the NIT residence also allowed me to improve my Turkish language skills by following an intensive, B2-level Turkish course, which I could directly test in practice during every-day interactions.
Hence, I am more than grateful to Fokke Gerritsen and Ülker Sözer - whose door was always open when I wanted to discuss an idea or sought advice - for granting me this wonderful starting point for a career in academic research.