About Our Course

Questioning Istanbul

Winter Term 2013


Michael Carignan, Associate Professor of History/ Associate Director of the Honors Program

Lynn Huber, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Istanbul has been a cultural crossroads for millennia.  In light of this, this course uses the city of Istanbul itself as a classroom, encouraging students to explore the city as a site of historical and religious significance and to investigate the contemporary relevance of this city to East and West.  This course is designed to introduce first-year fellows to trajectories in academic inquiry by exploring the city as a rich site of cultural and historical significance.  In this iteration of the course (Winter 2013), the tools of historical inquiry and religious studies will be used to explore select aspects of the city, including the monuments, historical sites, cultural groups, business and political movements.  These will provide entry ways for academic interrogation about how a city shapes communal and individual identities.  In particular, students will be asked to focus upon “city as religious center” and “city as cultural and political crossroads.”  While we will address these three aspect as unique areas of inquiry, we also anticipate that these foci will overlap as we explore particular periods of Turkish history and as we explore different areas of Istanbul and parts of Turkey (i.e. Ephesus).

Learning Goals
Students will gain a basic understanding of . . . 
  • the history of Istanbul specifically and Turkey more generally as a cultural and political crossroads;
  • Istanbul and, to some extent, Turkey as a religious center and as a locus of religious diversity;
  • the complex relationship between Istanbul’s people and the city’s past(s);
  • the utilities and limitations of conceptual boundaries related to the study of culture and history (e.g. East/ West, political/ religious).
Student Objectives
  • Students will demonstrate an ability to interpret aspects of Istanbul using tools appropriate to the fields of history and religious studies;
  • Students will practice “reading” sites for their historical and religious meanings;
  • Students will develop a research question based upon their study in Turkey.
Among the Places/ Sites We Will Be Visiting
  • Hagia Sophia
  • Topkapi Palace
  • Basilica Cistern
  • Theodosian Walls
  • Blue Mosque
  • St. Savior in Chora
  • Izmir
  • Ephesus
  • Laodicea
  • Hierapolis
  • Istanbul Archeological Museum
  • Istanbul Modern Art Museum
  • Sakirin Mosque