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Review of and Prospects for Studies on Turkish History

On the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Turkey, the Institute of Area Studies, Peking University (PKUIAS) and PKU’s Turkish Studies Center jointly held a doctoral academic forum on the theme of “Review of and Prospects for Studies on Turkish History” on October 22. Over a dozen doctoral students from PKU, Tsinghua University, University of Cambridge, Princeton University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Xiamen University and Shanghai University gathered together both online and offline for academic discussions. They talked about the domestic and international research traditions and accomplishments in Turkish studies, expressed their views on the prospects for the new trends, paradigms and results in the academic field, and engaged in in-depth discussions and exchanges on hot spot issues.

Zan Tao, tenured associate professor with PKU’s Department of History, deputy director of PKUIAS, and director of PKU’s Turkish Studies Center, said that Turkish studies had developed rapidly in China during recent years. With the improving language and academic abilities of research fellows, the studies had spread into many fields, including history, language, economy, international relations, politics, religion, and society, he said.

A lot of young Chinese students who were interested in Turkish studies are pursuing higher education both at home and abroad, Zan said, calling them a new force for Turkish studies in China. They had shouldered the responsibility to improve the quality, capability and reputation of Turkish studies in the world. PKU’s Turkish Studies Center was committed to building a platform for doctoral student academic exchanges and helping young students establish an academic network and understand each other’s academic aspirations and interests, so as to support the growth of the young generation, Ren said.

The participating doctoral students spent the entire day in academic discussion. In the morning, Chen Gong, from the Department of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University, and Wu Nier, from the Department of History, Peking University, focused their presentation mainly on the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Chen reviewed the history of studies by Western academic circles, while Wu talked about the historical influence of the British Foreign Office’s “Bandson Report.”

Liang Yingying, from the Department of History at Shanghai University, and Zhang Nan, from PKUIAS, both focused on Turkish society in the first half of the 20th century. Liang explored the formation of modern populism in Turkey between 1908 and 1960, while Zhang reviewed the rise and fall of religious education in Turkey between 1923 and 1950.

Zhao Xinyu, from PKUIAS, took language reform as a starting point to discuss the role of Ottoman factors in contemporary Turkish cultural policy and politics of identity. Wu Qijun, from PKU’s Department of History, focused on Alevism, the second largest religious sect in Turkey, and reviewed its past and present.

In the afternoon, Zhu Jiayi, from the Institute for International and Area Studies (IIAS) of Tsinghua University, gave a review of and expressed his views on the prospects of Turkey’s left-wing ideology and socialism history. Wang Yake, from the Institute of Education at Xiamen University, mainly introduced the internationalization strategy of Turkey’s higher education in the 21st century, and analyzed Turkey’s policies to build a stronger country through enhancing its higher education.

Xin Sisi, from the Department of History, Shanghai University, studied the Diyanet (the Presidency of Religious Affairs) and offered a review of related domestic and international studies. Ding Yuting, from PKU’s Department of History, focused on feminism in Turkey and made a presentation titled “Kemalist Women’s Liberation in Different Narrative Paradigms of Women’s History in Turkey.”

Cai Yuxuan, from the Faculty of History, Cambridge University, introduced Turkish historian Fatma Aliye Hanım’s Tarih-i Osmaninin Bir Devre-i Mühimmesi: Kosova Zaferi-Ankara Hezimeti. Wang Yihan, from the School of Asian Studies of Beijing Foreign Studies University, explored the identity issue of contemporary Turkish people with a presentation titled “Where is My Hometown: Anatolia Homeland Narrative and Cultural Identity in Turkey”. Xiao Jing, from the Department of Philosophy at PKU, gave a presentation titled “Overcoming Orientalism: Turkey in Hume’s Political Vision.”

Doctoral students Lu Yujia, Ah Di and Qin Yanyang, postgraduate student Ru Shiyao and others also attended the forum and participated in the academic discussion.

Dong Yu, a Boya Postdoctoral Fellow with PKU’s Department of History, gave concluding remarks. According to Dong, this workshop, the first doctoral forum on Turkish studies at PKU, came at a good time since this year marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Turkey. During the day-long forum, doctoral students from well-known universities spoke enthusiastically, which both reflected the latest academic achievements of Turkish studies home and abroad and showed the vitality of the young generation who were engaged in Turkish studies in China. Reminding us that “a bosom friend afar brings a distant land near,” Dong expressed her hope that the forum be an opportunity to further enhance exchanges and mutual learning among doctoral students of Turkish studies.