Istanbul: Urban History Research Seminar

Istanbul’s aggressive neo-liberal urban transformations since the mid 1990s has lent urgency to studies of urban history and collective memory. Supported by the Mellon Initiative on Urbanism and the Humanities, this research seminar intends to contribute to ongoing efforts to better integrate humanities into urban studies and to use Istanbul’s modern urban history as the research site to explore the emerging possibilities of new research methods and digital tools in re-conceptualizing the urban. While still framed by the historical content of the previous GSD lecture course “Istanbul: from Imperial Capital to Global City”, this seminar has a specific research agenda informed by a three-layered understanding of the city through: 1) representations (maps, photographs, literary texts, novels, films etc.); 2) transformations (rebuilding after fires, new projects, infrastructural interventions and master plans) and 3) experiences (how ordinary people use the city in their everyday lives: major events, spatial practices, public spaces and urban memory). Presentations by the instructor and by seminar guests will frame the field of research by outlining the major urban, architectural, cultural and political developments of the last two centuries in Istanbul and will introduce the range of existing studies, visual and textual sources and archival, institutional and digital resources that are available to seminar participants who will be expected to contribute original research papers and/or projects, individually or in small teams. Experimentations with new digital techniques of mapping, text analysis, data mining and data visualization will be particularly welcome as ways of exploring the potentials of the collaborative, interactive and interdisciplinary agendas of “Digital Humanities” at large.

Requirements for seminar participation are strong commitment to urban history research and an interest in Istanbul as a unique city with complex historical, cultural and geographical layers. Some prior knowledge of the city and/or the Turkish language is helpful but not absolutely essential. The seminar is recommended for PhD, DDes, MDes and MAUD students, as well as students in FAS. Interested students can e-mail/meet with the instructor to explain their interest and credentials but should utilize the limited-enrollment course lottery to enroll.