ELIT Seminar: “Strangers in a Strange Land: Jewish Memories of Istanbul”, Dr. Esra Almas, 5:30PM September 28 (EN)

You are cordially invited to the first instalment of the new Humanities Faculty Seminar Series.

Speaker: Dr Esra Almas (Bilkent)
Date: Wednesday 28 September 2022
Time: 17:30 – 18:30
Place: G-160 (humanities building)

Title: Strangers in a Strange Land: Jewish Memories of Istanbul

Abstract: Modern Istanbul has long been associated with exile. As a millennial metropolis, and a city at the crossroads for Jewish communities from east and west, north and south, Istanbul accommodated the nexus of the Jewish heimatlos in the twentieth century. The capital of the former empire and the demoted metropolis, chaotic yet still retaining part of its cosmopolitanism, served as the locus of alliances that went beyond commonplace cultural divisions, and inspired multiple forms of belonging. Notwithstanding its consistently diminishing numbers, the small Jewish community is increasingly active in the cultural sphere, invoking the city’s cosmopolitan past and cultural capital. Recent work on the Jewish experience in modern Turkey place emphasis on memory writing as a collective process with political and practical implications. Jewish memory writing conjoins the contrasting experiences associated with the minority position, ranging from inclusion to exclusion, from belonging to alienation. Through recent accounts including Lizi Behmoaras (1997, 2005) and Roni Margulies (2006, 2018) among others, this talk provides a kaleidoscopic perspective to the city, to cultural identity, and to the practice of writing from the periphery.

Biographical note: Esra Almas is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature in the program of Turkish Literature at Bilkent University. Her research focuses on the intersections of memory studies and urban imaginary, in particular diaspora narratives, modern Turkish literature, urban imaginary, and women’s intergenerational writing. She has published on Istanbul’s modernist literary cityscape, melancholy and exile.