Courses on Turkish Studies and Languages


Spring 2022 History GR8907

Zeynep Çelik


Centering on cities, this seminar will examine topics in colonialism in a comparative perspective. The chronological bracket is from the 1830s to the end of World War I, the time of “the connected world of empires.” Situating urban forms, “the tangible substance, the stuff” of cities, as the theater where political, social, cultural, and economic struggles of power were exercised, we will open multiple windows to colonialism. In addition to urbanism, our weekly analyses will include, but are not limited to, museology, painting, photography, cartography, infrastructure projects (railways, ports), and tourism. Complementing various European colonial practices, we will study the idiosyncratic Ottoman ones, thereby gaining insights into the specificities of each, but also drawing a wide canvas and revealing unlikely webs of interactions. The cities will range from Algiers to Hanoi (under French rule), Calcutta and Lahore (under British rule), Tripoli (under Italian rule), and Damascus and Jerusalem (under Ottoman rule). We will also turn to the dynamics of colonization experienced in European urban centers, for example, in London, Liverpool, Brussels, and Paris. Please note that the seminar does not offer a comprehensive survey, but selected themes and case studies.

The interdisciplinary approach will capitalize on the surge of recent scholarly literature, but also make use of the wealth of primary sources—visual and textual. These include archival documents, reports, articles in periodicals of the time, literature, and diaries, as well as visual materials (such as photographs, paintings, sketches, posters, urban plans, and architectural drawings). Triangulation between various types of sources is a delicate affair in interdisciplinary work. One of the goals of this seminar is to develop the students’ skills to engage in interdisciplinary research.

Spring 2022 History GU4711

Tunç Şen

This seminar is designed to explore the rich but sorely understudied occult scientific lore in the pre-modern Islamic world. For over a millennium, from the seventh through even the twenty-first century, and spanning a broad geographical spectrum from the Nile to Oxus, different forms and praxis of occult scientific knowledge marked intellectual and political endeavors, everyday lives and customs, and faith-based matters of individuals constituting the so-called Islamicate world. However, despite the impressive array of textual, material, and visual sources coming down to us from the Muslim past, the topic has been severely marginalized under the post-Enlightenment definitions of scientific knowledge, which also shaped how the history of sciences in the Islamicate world was written in the last century. One of this seminar’s main objectives is to rehabilitate such biased perspectives through a grand tour of occult knowledge and practice appealed in the pre-modern Muslim world.

Over the semester, by relying on a set of secondary studies and translated primary sources, we will revisit the question of the marginalization of Islamicate occult sciences, explore the actors’ definitions and discussions about the epistemic value of these sciences, trace their social and political implications in everyday life and imperial politics, and examine the key textual, technical, and material aspects of the occult tradition. In several of our sessions, we will have hands-on practice to better familiarize ourselves with the instructed techniques and methods in different branches of occult sciences. We will also regularly visit the Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library to view texts and materials available in our collection.

Spring 2022 History GU4723

Zeynep Çelik

“Who owns antiquities?” “Who owns culture?” These questions that appear frequently today in both popular and scholarly discourse are deeply embedded in political issues and have a long history, going back to the nineteenth century. The seminar will investigate the origins of the battles over antiquities and their links empire building, colonialism, Orientalism, modernity, power, identity construction, racial hierarchies, and money. The chronological frame is from the 1850s to1914 and the geographical focus in the Ottoman Middle East, which was the major theater of contestations. We will look closely into two areas: archaeological excavations and museums. If objects were unearthed (“discovered”) in the first, they were displayed in the second; the Middle East was crowded with the first, while the major museums were in the West, with the exception of the Museum of Antiquities in Istanbul. We will also consider the vast and complex human landscape around the antiquities. In addition to archaeologists, this community included emperors, sultans, diplomats, spies, artists, inspectors, bureaucrats, technocrats, and workers, hence a cohort of individuals from many nationalities, economic strata, ethnic groups, and religions.

Spring 2022 History UN2701

Tunç Şen

This course will cover the seven-century long history of the Ottoman Empire, which spanned Europe, Asia, and Africa as well as the medieval, early modern, and modern period. The many levels of continuity and change will be the focus, as will issues of identities and mentalities, confessional diversity, cultural and linguistic pluralism, and imperial governance and political belonging of the empire within larger regional and global perspectives over the centuries. The course also seeks to cultivate appreciation of the human experience through the multifarious experiences culled from the Ottoman past.


Fall 2021 History GR8731 

Zeynep Çelik

The publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism in 1978 heralded heated debates that centered on the question of the representation of the other, more specifically, European constructions of the “Orient.” Extending over many academic disciplines and covering ideological, political, social, cultural, and artistic realms, Said’s book led to the emergence of a wide literature. As testified by scores of recent books and articles, the discussions continue to maintain their fervor. Nevertheless, one perspective remains neglected: the ways in which the othered subjects evaluated the European discourse. Our seminar will address this lacuna and study how “Orientals” read the Orientalist discourse. Examining the work of Middle Eastern authors (and in a few cases, artists), we will gain insights into their reactions, anger, and appropriations, as well as the broader parameters of their own intellectual searches and struggles. Capitalizing on original texts (made accessible in English in my Europe Knows Nothing about the Orient, 2021), we will listen to late Ottoman and early Turkish Republican intellectuals, who produced a significant discourse of their own. In accord with the European texts, these come from different disciplines and range from philosophical essays to journalistic editorials, academic articles on art and architectural history, and literary works (novels, short stories, poems). We will expand the Ottoman/Turkish perspective by including voices from other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, while also considering European critical writing. The chronological bracket is from the 1870s to the 1930s, corresponding to the peak of Orientalism.

Fall 2021 History UN2719 

Rashid Khalidi

This course will cover the history of the Middle East from the 18th century until the present, examining the region ranging from Morocco to Iran and including the Ottoman Empire. It will focus on transformations in the states of the region, external intervention, and the emergence of modern nation-states, as well as aspects of social, economic, cultural and intellectual history of the region.

Fall 2021 History UN3753

Zeynep Çelik

The Seminar will open several perspectives onto the Ottoman capital Istanbul, following a cross-disciplinary approach. The premise is that Istanbul’s multi-layered, socially complicated, and culturally rich historic fabric can be understood well in focused episodes. Selected episodes will hence constitute the weekly discussion topics. Ranging from the representation of the city in artistic productions to the construction of the skyline, the impact of modernizing reforms on urban forms, everyday life in public and private spaces, and the decisive role played by new educational and cultural institutions, these fragments will complement each other, coalescing into a complex overall picture. While the chronological frame is defined by the long nineteenth century, critical earlier phases will be covered as well and parallels will be drawn to present-day. The nineteenth century marks a dynamic and radical era of urban transformations, intertwined with key political, economic, social, and cultural turns that redefined the Ottoman Empire in many ways. It also corresponds to an intense period of international communication and transaction, resulting in a “connected world of empires.” Istanbul served as a major stage for these developments.

The main readings will draw from recent literature in the field. Research papers will make use of primary sources, which will be introduced and discussed in class. These will include archival documents, articles in periodicals of the time, travel literature, and novels, in addition to visual documents (photographs, paintings, postcards, posters, urban plans, architectural drawings, caricatures, and films).  The students will develop skills to triangulate between various types of sources--a delicate affair and becomes especially tricky in the use of visual data.


Call number: 78646
Zuleyha Colak

An introduction to the written and spoken language of Turkey. No P/D/F or R credit is allowed for this class.

Call number: 13629

Zuleyha Colak

A continuation of the study of the written and spoken language of Turkey, with readings of literary, historical, and other texts. No P/D/F or R credit is allowed for this class.

Call number: 13629

Zuleyha Colak

Advanced Turkish I & II is designed to use authentic Turkish materials around projects that are chosen by the student in a research seminar format where students conduct their own research and share it in class in a friendly atmosphere. No P/D/F or R credit is allowed for this class.

Call number: 12144

Dilek Öztoprak

Prerequisites: Elementary Ottoman Turkish. Intermediate Otttoman deals with authentic Ottoman texts from the early 18th and 19th centuries. The class uses Turkish as the primary language for instruction, and students are expected to translate assigned texts into Turkish or English. A reading packet will include various authentic archival materials in rika, talik and divani styles. Whenever possible, students will be given texts that are related to their areas of interest. Various writing styles will be dealt with on Ottoman literature, history, and archival documents. No P/D/F or R credit is allowed for this class.