ARIT newsletter-Spring 2014Written by American Research Institute in Turkey
July 15, 2014
Letter from the President
ARIT’s most notable event in 2014 was a special meeting for delegates on January 20. With the anthropologist Brian Spooner acting as major domo and chief interlocutor, the Board of Directors, a number of delegates, and a few other interested friends participated in a lively and too-short discussion concerning ARIT’s future. There was a great deal of satisfaction expressed at the growth of ARIT from a shaky conviction in the minds of its founders to the well-established and well-respected institution it is today, comprised of two hostels, libraries, and offices, and two permanent field directors as well as a permanent executive director in Philadelphia. As for our discussions of ARIT’s future, the result was, it seems to me, mostly more questions, albeit excellent ones. Perhaps this is the right starting place for thinking about the future.
It was generally agreed that ARIT needs to continue some of the activities it has long supported. It is hard to imagine a situation in which the expertise of Turkey’s field directors will not be an essential requirement for North American scholars coming to Turkey. It is equally hard to imagine a time when our program in Advanced Turkish will not be essential for scholars. Indeed, given the fall-off in US language instruction, it may be that we will need to augment further our language offerings if there are to be masters of Turkish among North American scholars – and also diplomats, researchers, and business people.
There was additional agreement that Turkey has changed so much in the past 50 years, that research on and in Turkey has so altered, and indeed that the craft of research itself has been so transformed, that ARIT is also bound to change. This understanding raised a host of important questions. What kinds of libraries are appropriate when books, journals, and primary sources are increasingly online? What kinds of hostel facilities are appropriate when more and more humanities and social science scholars can visit Turkey only for short stays, and archeologists no longer visit Ankara regularly for conferences or research? Will Ankara see an increase in historians and political scientists as more and more archives open up in the capital? Turkish scholars are more and more internationally-oriented, and are more and more interested in collaboration. Should we more actively sponsor and facilitate such collaborations, including fund-raising for them?
On another level, the end of the Cold War has meant a decline in funding for what some dismissively call “Area Studies” (meaning actual expertise in the language, culture and history of a country). It has also meant that Turkey is no longer isolated as it was in the 1960s, from its neighbors in Russia and the former Soviet Union, from Eastern Europe, the Arab World, and even Iran. Consequently, national boundaries no longer constrain research or the topics of research, as they once did – or Turks or for North Americans. On the other hand, various developments have made countries once receptive to research, such as Syria or Egypt, much more difficult to access than was the case only a few years ago. Will this result in increased numbers of Arabists coming to use the manuscript and printed resources of the National Library, University Libraries, the Süleymaniye, and even ISAM?
We have defined ourselves as facilitators of scholarship: we help others get grants, get archeology permits and ikâmets, and so on. But should we be more active in sponsoring conferences, finding grants for projects, initiating projects? These are some of the questions that were asked in Philadelphia that Monday. Some of the questions imply an answer. Some are genuinely interrogatory. Readers of the Newsletter are encouraged to send their observations about changes and suggestions for ARIT’s course over the next 50 years here.
A. Kevin Reinhart
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