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Symposium Feb. 25-26 Leads Off Series of Events About Turkic Peoples

February 23, 2011 — A two-day symposium Feb. 25 and 26 at the University of Virginia will explore the long transformation of the status of Turkic peoples and societies and the concept of a Turkic identity that spans political systems and world regions.

"Histories and Identities" is the first in a four-month-long grouping of symposia, concerts and lectures, collectively titled "Bridging World Regions: The Turkic Connection."

"We are also co-sponsoring the visit of the Turkish ambassador as well as a photography exhibition by the Turkish Students' Organization," said Sena Aydin, a native of Turkey who graduated from U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences last year with a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology. Aydin was recruited to help pull the event together by her former anthropology professor, Daniel Lefkowitz.

Another organizer, Robert Geraci, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies, said it's time to talk about Turkey and its geographically important location between Europe and China.

"The traditional approach has been to study Turkey through the prism of the Middle East," he said. "This is more of an interregional approach. We thought this might be more interesting because of the worlds Turkey falls between."

"Also," he added, "the Turkic world's profile has been raised in the last few weeks because of the unrest in the Middle East."

The symposium takes place in Nau Hall auditorium Feb. 25 from 1 to 4:45 p.m. and Feb. 26 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.  It is free and open to the public.

It brings in four visiting speakers: Stephen Dale of Ohio State University, a specialist on the Mughal empire and comparative Muslim-Turkic empires; Suraiya Faroqhi of Istanbul Bilgi University, a leading scholar of the Ottoman Empire; Walter Denny from the University of Massachusetts, an expert on the history of carpet weaving; and Ron Sela of Indiana University, a historian of Central Asia, the cradle of Turkic civilization that fell under the sway of the Mongols, Russians and Chinese.

A concert in McLeod Hall on Feb. 25 from 8 to10 p.m. by Turku: Nomads of the Silk Road. is free and open to the public.

The Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures and the Center for Russian and East European Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences organized the Turkic Connection.

"We began working on it in December, but we really started getting our hands dirty in January," said Aydin, who has worked diligently with her team to pull together the event.

Turkey's ambassador to the United States, Namik Tan, will speak in Nau Hall auditorium March 23. His talk is co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for International Programs.

The Turkish Students' Organization will mount a photo exhibit of Turkish students and culture in the United States. In addition to showing images of Turkish students at U.Va., Aydin said the TSO has solicited students at other universities to send photos of Turkish students. The exhibit is scheduled April 15 and 16. The location has yet to be determined.

Visit the event website to learn about the other events featured during the Turkic Connection.

— By Jane Kelly

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