Jeevan S. Panesar (Leiden University)
“Routine being the source of all happiness, its guarantee, and its death.”
During the month of January 2019, I was fortunate enough to be selected as a Research Fellow at the Dutch Institute in Turkey. I spent the month staying at the Institute in Istanbul, and I was able to compliment my research with on site experiences, museum visits, and discussions with fellow academics in and out of the Institute.
My time at the Institute was nothing short of enlightening. Though remaining fairly unclear as to the direction of my research (a rough reality that is still true today) the Institute’s library and colleagues helped me really nail down a direction and a set of concrete research questions.
As for the Institute itself, it is difficult to overstate how useful it was to my research. The guest rooms were spectacular, with an unfair amount of cleanliness provided by the staff on site. With 24 hour access to the library, less than 30 seconds outside my room’s door, all shades of sleeping schedules can be accommodated to exist alongside study and research (complimented with at least three late night kebab restaurants within a five minute walk from the Institute itself).
What has my stay at the Institute provided me upon my return to the Netherlands? Other than a number of great books brought back with me, a number of excellent museum visits to use for my museum studies courses, and a number of fun stories to tell my colleagues, the feeling of archaeological scholarship was brought back to me; rekindling the scholarly fire of curiosity and research-driven answers.
Istanbul is a beautiful city, with both blatant and deep hidden histories. Orhan Pamuk’s quote at the beginning of this short reflection highlights the general feeling of the “East meets West” lifestyle of modern Istanbul: though the city beats on, no two days will be the same. Studying, reading, and writing in such an atmosphere brings an explicitly different result than similar actions in other capital cities.
So what is my research area specifically? Well, though a lot of mental back and forth for a direction and even region, my area of research – and therefore the topic of my thesis – focuses on Illicit Antiquities from the Eastern Mediterranean. My time in Istanbul allowed me to witness provenence research undergone by Turkish museums, hear stories of what the culture is of Turkish archaeological excavations, and even allowed a much firmer grasp on late Ottoman and contemporary Turkish history. Though still finalizing my explicit case studies, I will be following three separate artifacts from the region and trace their acquisitions to museums in three differing countries (the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, as well as Turkey).
Though my research is far from complete – theoretically speaking, it never will be – my time in Turkey was nothing short of a blessing towards my research, my mindset, and it made for a great experience.