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Teaching and Studying Turkish Politics through Literature

Explore & understand the sociopolitical features of contemporary Turkey and become familiar with internationally-praised Turkish novelists and their work

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CIVIS focus area
Society, culture, heritage
Open to
  • Bachelor's
  • Master's
  • Phd
Field of studies
  • Social Science and humanities
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
12 February - 10 June 2024

Courses on contemporary Turkey or Turkish politics and society are per se a difficult subject to teach and study. Turkey - much more than other countries - is characterized by intense ideological and political conflicts, social and cultural conflicts, phases of economic crises and development, conflicts between the state and its people, between the dominant national identity and other identities.

This BIP course aims to offer students a multi-faceted understanding of Turkey, a country that is difficult to put under a single label, a country and society that demonstrates a plurality of political, ideological, social and cultural identities or differences.

On the one hand, the course addresses key topics and issues of politics, ideology and society in Turkey, while on the other hand it offers students the opportunity to become familiar with internationally-praised Turkish authors and their work. The novels and authors that will be discussed in the course will help the participants understand the main aspects and features of contemporary Turkish politics.

This course aspires to make significant contributions with regard to the study of contemporary Turkey:

  • to serve pedagogical purposes to teach (Turkish) politics more effectively to students;
  • to provide insight into Turkey's political reality;
  • to study aspects of (Turkish) politics that political science methodologies fail to describe;
  • to identify ideological conflicts and bias as well as power structures in Turkish society;
  • to draw attention to "other" and "otherness";
  • to draw attention to the role of the individual in politics.

In this way, we aspire to offer and develop a BIP course that is not taught anywhere else, and which demonstrates a remarkable degree of cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary features. The teaching staff will combine and offer their academic experience and expertise (in the fields of History, Social and Political sciences, Literature, Linguistics and Translation etc.) with the aim to create a solid and innovative new course.

Main topics addressed

  • The formation of state, society and citizen in Turkey
  • Turkish nationhood, nationalism and non-Turkish identities; Ethnic and religious minorities and groups in Turkey
  • The role of the army in state formation, society and politics
  • Modernizing reforms and democracy in Turkey
  • Women and gender issues in Turkey
  • Islam versus secularism; Islam and/ in politics
  • Political ideologies and political movements in Turkey
  • The East-West conflict; the modernization-tradition conflict
  • The European/ Europeanized aspect(s) of Turkey
  • History and trauma in society and literature
  • Trends and themes in contemporary Turkish literature
  • Social identities in Turkish literature
  • The sociopolitical role and impact of authors and intellectuals
  • The politics of language and translation

Learning outcomes

  • Knowledge of the main developments that have shaped modern Turkish politics
  • Knowledge of the main currents and themes of contemporary Turkish literature
  • Critical view and understanding of the causes of political and social transformations in Turkey
  • Critical understanding of the identity conflicts in Turkey
  • Learning to use literature as a method to understand politics
  • Understanding the relevance of the political and cultural contexts in which novels are created and received
  • Enriching intellectual discussions about both the concepts of politics and the practices embodied in Turkish society
Dates: 12 February - 10 June 2024 Total workload: 168 hours
Format: Blended ECTS: 6*
Locations: Athens, Greece Language: English (B2)

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university.

Physical mobility

13 to 17 May 2024
The program of the physical part in Athens is scheduled to comprise 34 teaching hours, with morning, noon and afternoon sessions:

  • Monday: 6 hours
  • Tuesday-Friday: 7 hours/ day

The program will include: paper presentations by students, lectures and seminars by academic instructors /professors, and talks by invited speakers/ experts. A welcome reception and a closing event will be part of the program. The Library of the Host Department will be available for study and bibliography search.

The physical part program will address topics related to politics, identities, literature and intellectuals in Turkey.

The professors will focus on how the assigned novels express and mirror the political, ideological and social realities in/ of Turkey. The topics discussed during the virtual part will be further elaborated, and key themes and novels of significant authors of contemporary Turkey will be discussed. Additional to the assigned novels the program will discuss aspects of the literary work of authors such as Halide Edip Adıvar, Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu, Peyami Safa, Yaşar Kemal, related thematically to the course.

During the program of the physical part, 8 hours will be devoted to workshops of paper presentations by students: each student will have to choose and read two from the four novels listed below. The topics of the assigned essays/ papers will be relevant to these novels as well as to the lectures. Novels for reading (authors in alphabetical order):

  • Emine Sevgi Özdamar, The Bridge of the Golden Horn
  • Orhan Pamuk, Snow
  • Elif Şafak, The Bastard of Istanbul
  • Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, The Time Regulation Institute

Virtual part

Students will attend 12 online sessions (of two teaching hours each - each Monday, 17:00-19:00 CET). Each session/ lecture will be conducted and discussed by one to three professors. The virtual component will additionally have 8 teaching hours devoted to tutorials/ guiding by the professors and oral presentation of papers. Students will have access to supporting material and bibliography, in order to prepare their assignments for the physical part.

Students will form groups of 3 persons (from different universities), communicate and collaborate, in order to prepare their longer assignment/ paper. Each student will have to choose two out of the four novels attributed to the course and read them. The assignments will be related to the novels chosen. Students will have access to the CIVIS Moodle platform.

The hours devoted to virtual tutorials and paper presentation will address topics related to politics, identities and literature in Turkey.

  • 12 February 2024: Introduction to the course, course aims and methodology / Brief outline of the modern and contemporary history of Turkey: 19th century – today
  • 19 February 2024: Literature and politics: What can literature offer to political studies and our political understanding? / Brief outline of Turkish Literature in the 20th and 21st century
  • 26 February 2024: The power of literature in Middle East politics
  • 4 March 2024: Love, Marriage and Family as Political Metaphors in Ottoman and Turkish Novels
  • 11 March 2024: Kemalism
  • 18 March 2024: Leftist identity in literature and politics in Turkey
  • 25 March 2024: Conservative identity in literature and politics in Turkey
  • 1 April 2024: Islam and politics: The dimensions of the Islamic movement in Turkey
  • 8 April 2023: In search for Democracy: Democratization and reforms in Turkey
  • 15 April 2024: Gender issues in contemporary Turkey
  • 22 April 2024: Ethnic Minorities and religious groups in Turkey
  • 29 April 2024: Turkey and Europe (EU-Turkey relations)
  • March & April 2024: 2 tutoring sessions (2 hours/ each) 
  • 10 June 2024: final virtual session (up to 4 hours): late paper presentations and assessment of the course.


This course is open to students enroled in Bachelor's, Master's and PhD programs within Turkish studies, Middle East studies, Southeast European Studies, Social and political sciences, History, World literature, Comparative literature, Linguistics, Translation studies or Philosophy at CIVIS member universities

Participants should have a good level of written and spoken English (B2), team spirit, critical analysis, synthesis and argument skills, oral and written presentation skills and willingness to cooperate and participate in a multinational and multidisciplinary framework.

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

Students from CIVIS’ strategic partner universities in Africa cannot apply for participation in this course..

Application process

Send your application by filling in the online application form by 7 November 2023. Don't forget to also include:

  • CV

  • Motivation Letter

  • Document prooving the level of English (According to CEFR)

All applications will be evaluatedd based on their CV and the quality and clarity of the motivation letter (max. 500 words).

Apply now


Each student will have to choose and read two from the four novels listed below. The topics of the assigned essays will be relevant to these novels as well as to the subjects of the lectures:

  • Emine Sevgi Özdamar, The Bridge of the Golden Horn
  • Orhan Pamuk, Snow
  • Elif Şafak, The Bastard of Istanbul
  • Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, The Time Regulation Institute

The assessment consists of:

  • participation in the virtual classes (10%) and in the physical part (15%)
  • individual assignment/ Short essay: 25%
  • group assignment/ Longer essay: 30% (groups of 3 students from different universities will be responsible for delivering a longer written essay)
  • oral presentation by each group will take place during the physical part (or in the final virtual session): 20%.

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

GDPR Consent

The CIVIS alliance and its member universities will treat the information you provide with respect. Please refer to our privacy policy for more information on our privacy practices. By applying to this course you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

Fulvio Bertuccelli is Adjunct Professor of History of Islamic Countries at the University of Bologna and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in History of Eastern Europe at Sapienza Università di Roma. Silvio holds a PhD from the University of Naples “L’ Orientale”; he successfully defended his dissertation “Kemalism and Socialism in the Turkish Left (1960-1971)” in July 2013. Among his recent publications are: Il movimento socialista in Turchia (1960-1971). Ideologia e politica tra due colpi di Stato, Aracne, Roma 2023; (co-edited with Mihaela Gavrila and Fabio L. Grassi), Minorities and Diasporas in Turkey. Public images and issues in education Sapienza Università Editrice, Roma 2023. 

Konstantinos Gogos is Assistant Professor at the Department of Turkish Studies and Modern Asian Studies, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. He teaches undergraduate courses and postgraduate seminars on the Islamist movement in Turkey, Muslims in Europe, Geopolitics of Turkey and the Middle East, and Turkish-Greek translation. His research interests focus on Turkish Islamist intellectuals, Muslims and Islam in Europe, and the relationship between literature and politics. His latest book is: Reading Turkish Islamist Writers: Kısakürek, Bulaç, Dilipak (Peter Lang, 2020).

Luz Gómez is Professor of Intellectual History of Islam at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Her research is focused on the Islamic discourse on power and ideology. Her latest books are: Salafismo. La mundanidad de la pureza (2021), Diccionario de islam e islamismo (2019), Entre la sharía y la yihad. Una historia intelectual del islamismo (2018). Luz has translated 13 literary books from Arabic and won the Spanish National Translation Award (2012) for her version of Mahmud Darwish’s En presencia de la ausencia (Fi hadrat al-giyab). She is a senior analyst for the Spanish newspaper El País.  

Helena González Vaquerizo is Associate Professor at the Department of Classical Philology at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Helena teaches Ancient and Modern Greek language and Greek literature. Her research focuses on Modern Greek Studies and Classical Reception. She is also academic secretary for the University Institute of Women Studies (UAM). Among her recent publications are the edition with Luis Unceta of the book En los márgenes del mito. Hibridaciones del mito clásico en la cultura de masas contemporánea (Catarata/UAM-Ediciones, 2022), and the paper «Kazantzakis’s Odyssey: A (Post)modernist Sequel», Journal of Modern Greek Studies 39 (2021: 349–377). 

Fabio Grassi is Associate Professor (enabled as full professor) of History of International Relations at Sapienza Università di Roma, Dept. of History, Anthropology, Religions, Art History, Media and Performing Arts. He is also Scientific Counselor of the Turkey Desk Project; Counselor for Iranian and Turkic Countries. He is the author of more than 100 publications. Among them are: Atatürk. Il fondatore della Turchia moderna [Atatürk. The founder of Modern Turkey], Roma, Salerno, 2008, new edition 2020; A New Homeland. The massacre of the Circassians, their Exodus to the Ottoman Empire, their place in modern Turkey, Istanbul Aydın University Publications, 2018. 

Seda Gürkan is Assistant Professor at Leiden University’s Institute of Security and Global Affairs. She is also an Affiliated Fellow and Professor at the Department of Political Science and the Institute for European Studies, at Université Libre de Bruxelles. Her teaching and research interests include EU foreign policy (with a focus on the Eastern neighbourhood, human rights, enlargement, EU-Turkey relations), European integration theories, parliamentary diplomacy (European Parliament) and emotions in international relations. Her latest publications include a co-authored volume Theorising the Crises of the European Union (Routledge, 2021) and a Special Issue on the ‘Emotions in EUropean Foreign Policy’ (Global Affairs, 2021).  

Darina Martykanova is Associate Professor at the Department of Modern History at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. She graduated in Turcology - History and Culture of Islamic Countries of the Charles University, Prague. She worked at the University of Potsdam, Germany, and at the Centre d' études turques, ottomanes, balkaniques et centrasiatiques (CETOBaC) of the EHESS, Paris. Darina is author of Reconstructing Ottoman Engineers. Archaeology of a Profession (1789-1914), Pisa 2010, and several publications on the transnational dimensions of Ottoman history of science and technology.

Carlo Pallard is currently Research Fellow at Sapienza Università di Roma and manages the Sapienza International Office in Istanbul. Carlo is a historian of political thought. His main research interest is political ideologies in modern Turkey. He obtained his PhD in 2021 at the University of Turin with a thesis on the relationship between Islamism and ethnic nationalism in contemporary Turkish conservative thought. 

Silvana Rachieru is Associate Professor at the Faculty of History, University of Bucharest, and Director of the Center for Turkish Studies. She holds a PhD in History (2010, UB); MA in History (1998, Central European University Budapest). She is a Historian of the Ottoman Empire, with expertise in modern social and diplomatic history. Silvana has served at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Istanbul (as project coordinator, deputy director, director / 2006-2015). She is the author of Ottoman Diplomats and Subjects in the Old Kingdom. Ottoman-Romanian Relations between 1878-1908 (Romanian, Iasi, 2018), and has published articles on Romanian-Ottoman diplomatic relations after 1878, the Ottoman perspective on the modernization of Romania and modern gender history.

Carmen Rodríguez López is Associate Professor at the Department of Arab and Islamic Studies, and Delegate for Internationalization of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. She holds a degree in Political Science and Sociology from the Complutense University of Madrid and a PhD from the UAM. She has conducted predoctoral and postdoctoral research stays at Boğazici University (Istanbul) and has taught at Istanbul Technical University on the formation of the Republic of Turkey. Her research interests are focused on Turkey´s domestic and foreign policy.

Efthymia (Efi) Kanner is Associate Professor at the Department of Turkish Studies and Modern Asian Studies, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Her research focuses on topics of social history of the Late Ottoman Empire and Turkey such as micro-history, history of education and philanthropy, history of social movements, and gender relations. She is the author of Men and Women in the Modernization Adventure. Turkish Modernization from a Gender Perspective (Greek, Herodotos, Athens 2021); and Editor of the volume Turkey: Violence, Resistance and Politics in a Time of Crisis. Social and Political Reactions towards Gender-based Violence (Greek, Herodotos, Athens 2018).

Maria Mavropoulou is a retired Assistant Professor of Turkish language and Literature, at the Department of Turkish Studies and Modern Asian Studies, National and Kapodistrian Universities of Athens, where she was teaching courses on modern Turkish literature,  introduction to Turkish Literature, and seminars on Turkish-Greek translation. Her research interests focus on Turkish language teaching, Turkish literature, and especially the works of Halide Edip Adıvar. Among her publications is the 2-volume Greek translation and edition of Mustafa Kemal’s “Νutuk: the Great Speech” (Papazisis, Athens 2009).

Aristotelis Mitraras is Assistant Professor of Turkish Language and Literature at the Department of Turkish Studies and Modern Asian Studies, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. His research interests include topics in the history of Turkish literature, contemporary literary currents in Turkish poetry and novels, comparative literature (Turkish and Greek), history and development of Turkish theater under the influence of Western theater. His publications include: An Anthology of New Turkish Literature [4 volumes] (Greek, Papazisis publ., Athens 2014-2017); The Nationalist Triptych Turkification-Islamization-Modernization in Ziya Gökalp’s Poetry–A Poetic Tour (Greek, Papazisis, Athens 2012).

Christina Sanlioglou is teaching staff and a PhD candidate at the Department of Turkish Studies and Modern Asian Studies, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and a certified Turkish language teacher. At the Department she teaches courses on Turkish as a foreign language, morphology and syntax of Turkish, and Turkish literature. Her research interests include: Turkish as a foreign language, contrastive language analysis, second/foreign language acquisition, translation and literature, empathy in literature and narrative empathy. Her PhD thesis title is “Empathy for the Asia Minor Catastrophe in Yaşar Kemal’s Work”.

Eleni Sella is Professor of General Linguistics at the Department of Turkish Studies and Modern Asian Studies, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and Chair of the Department. Her teaching and research interests include issues of bilingualism or multilingualism, contrastive linguistic analysis, second language acquisition, bilingual-minority education, issues of national identity and language, as well as theoretical and didactic issues of translation. Her publications include: Bilingualism, National Identity and Minority Languages. (Greek, Leimon, Athens 2016); Bilingualism and Society (Greek, Proskinio, Athens 2001/2007).