Finding Refuge: Istanbul Berlin

9am-2pm, Center for European Studies, 27 Kirkland St, Cambridge MA


Saturday April 8 2017

Please register for the event here

This event will bring together scholars who have been working on the historical and theoretical dimensions of the refugee phenomenon, particularly as it relates to the urban cultures of Istanbul and Berlin. Turkey hosted a significant number of exiles after the rise of National Socialism in Germany, who received important posts in universities and the country’s building programs during the early republican period. A large number of refugees sought for asylum in Germany due to the coup d’etat of 1980 and the subsequent violence in Turkey, thereby joining the guest workers who had been arriving since 1961. As we are witnessing the world’s biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War, even more asylum seekers are expected to arrive in Turkey and Germany due to the war in Syria. Additionally, many exiled academics have recently been seeking positions in Berlin with the support of Scholars at Risk and similar programs due the violation of academic freedoms in Istanbul in particular, and Turkey in general. The “refugee phenomenon” is selected for this conference as an umbrella term to refer to different forms of noncitizenship and statelessness, and as a limit condition that exposes the crises of citizenship categories in national and international laws (in a similar way that it has been discussed in recent scholarship such as Giorgio Agamben’s conceptualization via Hannah Arendt’s article “We Refugees”): Nothing exposes the contradictions of globalization and the limits of the contemporary human rights regime as effectively as the refugee. This conference will present an opportunity to rethink the relation between statelessness and the city throughout the twentieth century with the most qualified scholars working on immigration, mobility, human rights, and the German-Turkish interactions in the urban humanities fields such as architecture, visual arts, political theory and literature. The event will be composed of two panels, with three speakers and a moderator, where each speaker will make a 30-minute presentation on a related topic.


Panel 1—“Refugee” Architects


This panel will exemplify the work of exiled architects, artists and academics in Istanbul and Berlin throughout the twentieth century. Scholars will present both on the exiles in Istanbul (and Turkey) due the rise of Nazism in Germany after 1933(such as Bruno Taut, Martin Wagner, Erich Auerbach, Ernst Reuter), and exiled scholars currently in Berlin (and Germany)due to the recent violations of academic freedom in Turkey.

Moderator: Sibel Bozdoğan

Kader Konuk, Prof. Dr.Universität Duisburg-Essen, Director of Institut für Turkistik

Bernd Nicolai:  Prof. Dr.  Universität Bern. Institut für Kunstgeschichte



Panel 2—Architects for “Refugees”

This panel will concentrate on the urban imaginaries produced for the refugees who came to Berlin due to the coup d’etatand subsequent violence in Turkey after 1980, by also comparing their experiences to those arriving as guest workers since 1961. It will also take a look on some of the current refugee settlements in Berlin (and Turkey).

Moderator: Berna Turam

Esra Akcan:Assoc. Prof., Cornell University, Department of Architecture

Bilgin Ayata: Prof.Dr. University of Basel, Department of Social Sciences

Phillip Misselwitz: Prof.Dr.-Ing. Technische Universität Berlin, Department of Architecture

Please register for the event here


“Finding Refuge: Istanbul, Berlin”, is jointly sponsored by the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative, along with Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University, Özyeğin Forum on Modern Turkey, and John F. Kennedy Memorial Policy Fellowship

Center for European Studies, 27 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA Map