The Istanbul Research Institute Blog has published the congress impressions of early career researchers working on Istanbul’s Byzantine past with a series of articles: Of Venice and the 24th Byzantine Congress. Six opinion pieces by early career researchers from Turkey are accompanied by one photo essay and a reflection on the shared extraordinary conditions of the eighteenth and the twenty-fourth congress.
Emir Alışık discusses how the opening speeches of the congress were influenced by the postponement and relocation of the congress, from its planned date and location of Istanbul 2021 to Venice-Padua 2022, the traces of Istanbul and Byzantium in Venice, and the coinciding of the congress with the 59th Venice Biennale.
“Coming together in this particularly marginal region—amplified by both the function (slaughterhouse) and the social status (Jewish quarter)—for the Byzantine studies congress could also be considered suitable because of Byzantium’s somewhat outcast status in historiography.”
Pırıl Us-MacLennan describes her effort against all odds to find her way amidst languages, disciplines, and streets at the congress, which she calls the Olympics of Byzantine studies.
“As I headed to the inaugural session of the congress with a group of colleagues from my university in the relatively empty but soon-to-be buzzing streets of the labyrinth called Venice, I kept thinking how lucky we were to be a part of this congress with the financial support of our funding body.”
Gizem Dörter takes the readers on a journey of exploration, from traces of Byzantium in Venice and current exhibitions in the city to the candle-lit mosaics of St. Mark’s Basilica.
“With its magnificent architecture and details, St. Mark’s Basilica, located in the center of Venice, is one of the places that draws the attention of all tourists visiting Venice where long queues must be expected to enter the monument. Moreover, with the traces of Byzantine art and culture visible in its architecture, decoration and collections. St. Mark’s attracts all academics working in fields related to Byzantium.”
Elif Demirtiken observes that although the relocation of the congress from Istanbul to Venice compelled early career researchers from Turkey to cope with the problems that were amplified by the relocation, such as the pandemic anxiety, the economic crisis, and visa restrictions, the grants provided by various institutions and the efficiency of the organizing committee in Venice partially came to the rescue.
“When Hagia Sophia was suddenly converted into a mosque overnight in 2020, the 24th International Congress of Byzantine Studies was suddenly taken from Istanbul. After a few months of back and forth discussions as to whether Cyprus or Italy should host the congress, it was decided that Venice-Padua would provide the backdrop.”
Canan Arıkan-Caba invites the readers to a journey that explores new trends in Byzantine studies while examining ways to make the Congress more green and democratic.
“The 80-page congress program itself is a small reference source for gaining information about current research topics and learning about who is working on which topic. When I looked at the program where Byzantine studies met with different disciplines and perspectives, I wondered how many of these studies were able to find financial support.”
H. Sercan Sağlam notes that in the more manageable post-vaccine pandemic era, for the first time Byzantine historians gathered at such a large organization. He remarks that they needed such intellectual exchange to drive the field’s progress while reminding the deep-rooted and expansive history of the discipline in Turkey.
“I guess, Byzantine researchers, who were separated from one another due to the Covid-19 pandemic, chose to avoid heated discussions, and focused on the joy of reunion and the value of being together.”
Contributing to the contemporary documentation of Byzantine material culture with his Byzantine Legacy project, David Hendrix displays the links between Venice, which was once called the “second Constantinople,” and Istanbul in his photo essay.
In the last article of the series, Brigitte Pitarakis describes the experience of the then students, now faculty members at Turkish universities, during whose attendance at the Eighteenth International Congress of Byzantine Studies in Moscow in 1991, the short-lived August coup took place just before the collapse of the USSR.
“Kyiv was our next stop. Upon our arrival, we learned that there had been a coup and that Mikhail Gorbachev had been taken hostage. The government official who opened the congress was one of the coup plotters. He was in prison by the time we left.”
All articles are accessible here: https://blog.iae.org.tr/en/