The symposium on “Cultural Interaction in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey” organised by the International Hrant Dink Foundation took place on June 12-13 at Istanbul Bilgi University Dolapdere Campus. The symposium focused on several thematic clusters such as performing and visual arts, architecture and decorative arts, cultural politics, language and literature, everyday life etc. with the participation of numerous academicians and researchers from Turkey and abroad.
Symposium questioned the mutual influences, cultural and artistic exchanges in the works and achievements of the Anatolian masters, artists and craftsmen of the Ottoman and modern era and aimed to facilitate discussions on the existence, form and continuity of this interaction.
Cengiz Aktar, speaking at the opening in the name of the Foundation, defining cultural interaction and looking for its traces in this soil is at an early phase. At the keynote address, Boğos Levon Zekiyan, attending the meeting from Italy, made a historical analysis of the millet system in the Ottoman Empire and within that context he talked about the current social problems. The first panel of the day moderated by Fırat Güllü was about performing and visual arts. Kevork Bardakjian from Michigan University talked about the interaction between Armenian and other languages and the Turkish-Armenian relation within the context of the literature in the late Ottoman period. In the same panel, Boğos Çalgıcı presented a period from the life of theatre player Mardiros Mınakyan. Tayfun Serttaş with examples of early photography, discussed the modern identity and cultural transformation. Caricaturist Metin Üstündağ talked about Sarkis Paçacı’s character Zarolar. Zhenya Khachatryan and Emma Petrosyan from Yerevan National Academy of Sciences talked about the Armenian version of Karagöz and the rise of the shadow play Karagöz-Petruşka.
The second panel of the symposium was about architecture and decorative arts, and the spatial and temporal fluidity in this field. Afife Batur focused on architectural continuity models by giving examples from Ancient Karia to present day Milas and Bodrum. Gönül Özey mentioned the cultural interaction in the Seljuk palace. Zakarya Mildanoğlu drew attention to the lack of discussion about interaction in the architecture education. After Aykut Köksal talking about the way historiography of architecture looks at interaction, Ömür Harmanşah explained the multicultural aspects of the masonry applied by the Assyrian, Maturi, Melkit, Armenian, Arab and Kurdish artisans in Mardin.
In the last panel of the first day, moderated by Hülya Adak, comparative approaches to cultural politics on the basis of language and politics is discussed. Mehmet Fatih Uslu, based on the works of the writers that wrote in Armenian and Turkish, questioned what could be said about the Turkish-Armenian relations. Murat Cankara analysed the cultural fluidity in the Turkish novels written with Armenian and Arabic alphabets. Nanor Kebranian questioned how the Armenian literature reflected the nature of the Turkish and Armenian relations and finally Marc Nichanian gave a speech explaining how the ‘national’ identity had become the definition of cultural identity and how this situation called ‘synthetic nationalism’ left interaction excluded.
The second day of the symposium started with the film of Özcan Alper ‘Momİ2 about the people of Hemşin and in the first panel of the day, in the light of the paper presented by Sevan Nişanyan, the Anatolian regional names whose names had changed, was discussed. In the second panel moderated by Meltem Türköz and in which rapture, continuity and interaction in everyday life is discussed, Silva Kuyumcuyan gave examples of everyday examples of interaction from the works of Hagop Mıntzuri. Rachel Goshgarian, using the Armenian minutes explained the interaction among the Armenians in Erzincan. Takuhi Tovmasyan and Zafer Yenal talked about the identity politics and nationalism via food culture.
The final part of symposium was about music. Nikiforos Metaxas talked about the importance of the Greek composers in the Ottoman music whereas Maureen Jackson talked about the cultural fluidity between the street and synagogue in Istanbul. Aram Kerovpyan explained the interaction and the limits between the Armenian religious music and classical Ottoman music. Burcu Yıldız told the cultural traces in the music of Onnik Dinkjian.
The last panel organised by Melissa Bilal was dedicated to the famous Armenian musicologist and compiler Mihran Tumacan, one of the students of Gomidas. Zaven Tagakchyan and the nephew of Tumacan, Dickran Toumajan talked about Mihran Tumacan. The symposium ended with the performances of ‘Knar’ and ‘Harazad’ groups which presented songs from Gomidas and Tumacan.