Workshop: Migrant Biographies – The Changing Waves of Migration from Iran to the Ottoman Empire and Turkey (16/17 July 2021)

Workshop arranged by the students of the Master’s Program Cultural Studies of the Middle East under the supervision of Prof. Dr Abdulhamit Kırmızı

At the crossroad of Europe and Asia, the Ottoman Empire and its primary successor state Turkey, has been the destination and transition point of multiple immigration waves during the last few centuries. Merchants crossed the border for better profits, scholars and bureaucrats settled in the Ottoman realms for brighter career opportunities, and many others fled persecution. In many ways today’s Turkey continues to share these waves of migration even today.

While there is much study on the Arab migration due to the so-called Arab Spring, what is less documented is the large migration of peoples from Iran, both regarding today’s Turkey and during the Ottoman period.

Besides cultural characteristics, Turkey today shares a land border of 560 kilometres with Iran and offers Iranians an extendable 90-day visa-free entry. Almost seventy-thousand Iranians now reside in Turkey. The number has steadily risen due to the political crisis of 2009 in Iran with the US deciding to impose harsher economic sanctions on Iran in 2018. Iranians were ranked the highest regarding foreign nationals who are granted Turkish nationality through property purchases in 2020 with more than seven thousand purchases.

The last few decades have witnessed an exploding academic interest in both migration studies and biography. While migration is often studied from the perspective of critical mass, it is often the works and ideas of individuals in the form of the memoirs, letters, autobiographies and diaries that provide us with the most detailed insight into the lives of migrant communities.

As students of the Master’s Program Cultural Studies of the Middle East, jointly hosted by University of Bamberg and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, we plan to combine these two fields of interest in a hybrid (online and on-site) workshop under Migrant Biographies: The Changing Waves of Migration from Iran to the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. The workshop will look at biographies of various individuals migrating from Iran into the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey from pre-modern and modern times. By focusing on the perspective of the migrants, the aim is to connect the personal motivations and backgrounds with the overall historical developments and consequences of these migrations.

How did they relate their expectations and experiences to the push factors in Iran and Turkey's pull factors for migration? How did they manage with a possible mismatch between their expectations and the realities of their new life? Did they regret migration? What about individual relations to elite networks, exchange and transfer of culture and knowledge? How did they deal with integration, identity and language issues?

These and other questions regarding biographies mirroring complexities of migrant experiences will be debated on 16 and 17 July 2021 in the workshop arranged by the students of the Master’s Program Cultural Studies of the Middle East, sponsored by the Elite Network of Bavaria. Prof. Dr Abdulhamit Kırmızı, visiting professor for Cultural Studies of the Middle East, will supervise the organization and inaugurate the workshop. The workshop is open to researchers, authors, and field workers interested and associated with migration studies from any academic background. The language of the workshop will be English.