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Summary of First MEDIT Student Research Group Colloquium

 

Summary of First MEDIT Student Research Group Colloquium

 

The MEDIT Students Research Group is a pioneer initiative to connect students to their peers and faculty at the Alliance of Civilizations Institute, to create an exchange of ideas and build a strong community of scholars. The first colloquium yielded an astounding number of around 25 students. We started with a short introduction from one of the organizers of the group, Jeroen Vlug, before Director Recep Senturk began his lecture. One purpose of the research group is to clarify what the goal of Civilization Studies is, and to bring our students together to further this goal. Jeroen introduced the lecture by posing a dilemma. Alternative programs at institutions for the study of civilization tend to use a historical methodology to analyze only classical civilizations. Our institute, on the other hand, takes a unique approach and studies civilizations from all periods using interdisciplinary methods. However, the nature of inquiry within the field of Civilization Studies, for MA and Ph.D students at ACI, remains undefined. Thus the first colloquium lecture, entitled "Towards a Vision for Civilization Studies: The Aims, Goals, and Contributions of the Alliance of Civilizations Institute" focused on defining Civilization and Civilization Studies according to Ibn Khaldun. Recep Hoca started off with three questions: what are we doing here? Why are we doing this? What is our purpose? According to Ibn Khaldun, as long as people come together as a society, they become a civilization. There is no society that is uncivilized. Moreover, it is impossible for one civilization to conquer the world. There will always be a multitude of colorful civilizations. Many theorists argue that Ibn Khaldun is the precursor to positivism. However, the institute rejects this idea, instead adopting the practice of "applied Ibn Khaldunism." Applied Ibn Khaldunism necessarily takes from multiple disciplines because civilization has multiple dimensions. The institute utilizes question-based research, which attempts to answer one question by taking from any discipline, rather than discipline-based research, which stays strictly within the bounds of one discipline. The institute also encourages students to be able to research several different civilizations on a deeper level, and thus exposes students to different languages. Recep Hoca concluded by defining a term he coined, "selfing," which stands in opposition to othering. To "self" is to include everyone in an open civilization. Thus we students are here to participate in this open dialogue.

 

A fruitful question-and-answer session followed Recep Hoca's lecture, which led into the student presentations. The goal of these presentations is to give the presenter feedback on an idea for their thesis or dissertation. This idea could be quite developed already, or just an idea. The first two students to present were Lorelei Trammell of the MA Program, and Erol Firtin of the Ph.D program. Combining two students at different levels showed diversity in methodology and discipline, which is a core principle for Civilization Studies. The two were encouraged to submit a piece of writing to the group describing their idea. Lorelei presented on a topic from a paper she submitted at her alma mater, Bard College entitled, "The Corporeal-Monistic Composite Individual and Contemporary Islamic Medical-Juridical Opinion." The paper is multi-disciplinary, juxtaposing an anthropological text on the death of a person to the Qur'anic concept of nafs as personhood. For her presentation, she explained how for the next iteration of the paper she wants to juxtapose the Qur'anic concept of nafs with the Biblical concept of nefesh, its linguistic predecessor. Erol submitted a piece, entitled, "A Comparative Analysis of the Meaning of Surveillance in Nizam al-Mulk's Siyasetname and Understanding of Modern Security State as the Main Source of Moral Agency in Turkey." The paper centered on Turkey as a contemporary security state, the role of surveillance in the security state, and the security state's function in determining the moral limits of human agency. He explained that he wanted to use Nizamul Mülk’s 11th-century text Siyasetname to examine the concept of security state. Both student presentations were followed by question-and-answer sessions. 

 

Overall, the first colloquium was a great success and a rewarding experience towards the purpose of uniting students in their academic explorations as scholars of Civilization Studies. Further colloquium lectures will focus on academic skill sets, including how to read a text and how to publish academic work. The ultimate goal of this initiative is to to bring together students and to provide a safe, engaging, and fruitful environment for them to share their work, learn from their peers, and develop necessary skills to effectively engage with the global academic community. The next meeting will include another student presentation, as well as a lecture and workshop from Professor Nagihan Haliloglu entitled, "How to Read a Text: A Literary Approach."


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