The summer holiday is over and a new academic year has just started. At SRII we are back on duty finalizing the conference and lecture programs for this fall semester. Some of the programs are already, others will very soon be, announced on our website.
Istanbul is still hot and humid but as buzzing and challenging as always – a world of its own, as many of us know. It is a large and multitudinous world with a population equaling that of Sweden and Norway combined. The territory of the two Scandinavian countries measures about 750,000 square kilometers, while the mega city of Istanbul covers an area of less than 5,500 square kilometers. Istanbul occupies one percent of the territory of Turkey but accommodates 15-20 percent of the country’s population.
It is also worth noting that present-day bicontinental Istanbul is a city with its Asian and European parts balancing each other in many respects. For example, of the approximately 15 universities that I have been invited to as Director of SRII during the last two years, half of them are situated on the Asian side – or, as it is called in Turkish, Anadolu tarafinda, on the Anatolian side. Now, these are just a smaller proportion of all of the universities in the city – at the moment numbering around 55 – and the majority of them, in fact, have their main campuses on the European side. However, the socioeconomic and sociocultural gap between the two parts of the city is decreasing. This can be felt even more strongly with regard to more general economic trends. In terms of housing, commerce and cultural events, for instance, Anatolian Istanbul is presently developing at an especially swift pace.
These circumstances are relevant for work at SRII as well. We need to place even greater efforts into keeping ourselves up to date on the rapid advancements in Turkish higher education together with regional development in order to spot the most interesting and promising research environments for cooperation. This holds, of course, for all of Turkey, and we are also following academic trends in other countries included in our research activities. However, Istanbul is the most proximate environment for the Institute, and thus universities in this city are naturally of special significance for our investments in academic cooperation.
I will have more to say on this topic in future posts. For the time being, let me just give you an example of what has been achieved this year as regards cooperation and joint activities between SRII and universities in Istanbul.
One recently inaugurated academic network at SRII is MICS for studies in the fields of Migration, Identity, Communication, and Security. Our co-founders were colleagues from Malmö University, Sweden, Roskilde University Center, Denmark, and the Danish Institute for International Studies. One of the main objectives of the MICS network is to find and support environments enabling research training for young scholars and students. For this purpose and for the promotion of the network itself, a grant has been obtained from the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (Riksbankens Jubileumsfond). The MICS web address is www.srii.se/mics
Within this framework, cooperation has been initiated with the Department of Sociology at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, where our joint activities thus far have been devoted to migration. Last January, a workshop on migration from Central Asia to Turkey and Russia was co-organized at this university together with other institutes in Istanbul and abroad. In June, a MICS workshop on National Identity versus Transnationalism was held at SRII with the participation of, among others, colleagues from the Boğaziçi workshop. This will be followed by a new workshop in November at Malmö University entitled Labor Migration, Mobility and the Identity-Security Nexus.