About Elon Honors in Turkey

A student takes notes on her smart phone.
Elon Honors in Turkey is a travel seminar for first year Honors students. Each fall students interested in taking the course participate in a two-hour seminar introducing the course content. This year we focused on the blurry boundaries between religion and politics, especially in the ancient world. Students then are assigned an essay requiring them to reflect upon pertinent readings and content presented in the seminar. Performance in both the seminar and on the essay determines the list of those selected for participation in the course. The number of participants for this course is limited to between 10-15 students, allowing students an opportunity to work closely with instructors as they engage the course content. 

Course Overview
The city of Istanbul, as it is currently known, has been a cultural crossroads for millennia. In light of this, this first-year honors course, uses the city of Istanbul itself, and other parts of Turkey, as laboratories for academic inquiry into the ways social identities are constructed.  Drawing upon our expertise in History and Religious Studies, the course instructors, Michael Carignan and Lynn Huber, provide students the tools with which to investigate the long history of Turkey as both an “eastern” and “western” culture and to probe the meanings signified in these categories. The course is deliberately situated within the middle of a first-year Honors curriculum when students have completed Global Studies equipped with conceptual tools for thinking about the world, and before they enter a discipline-based Spring-semester course. 

Students in the Istanbul Archeological Museum.
Students visit sites of historical and contemporary significance to life in Turkey, engage readings that amplify our understandings of several academic “problems” relevant to Turkish studies, reflect in writing on a number of topics that pertain to our readings and site-visits, and probe one or several related questions on a topic of their choosing.  Among the topics of central importance to the course are nationalism and imperialism and the identities associated with these categories, East vs. West or East and West?, the construction of identity in terms of religion and gender, and Turkey’s relationships to its past. 

Course Objectives
  • Students will articulate a basic understanding of the history of Istanbul specifically and Turkey more generally as a cultural and political crossroads;
  • Students will be able to discuss the role Istanbul and, to some extent, Turkey has as a religious center and as a locus of religious diversity;
  • Students will learn to “read” sites for their historical and religious meanings;
  • Students will learn to apply disciplinary lenses to one aspect of Turkey/ Istanbul.
  • Students will develop a research question based upon their study in Turkey.
Sites to be visited in Istanbul include the Hagia Sophia, Suleymaniye Cami, St. Savior in Chora, Topkapi Palace, the Istanbul Archeological Museum, and the Şakirin Cami.  Sites outside of Istanbul include Koç University, the Agora at Izmir/ Ancient Smyrna, Ephesus, Aphrodisias, the Mausoleum of Atatürk and the Temple of Augustus in Ankara, the Anatolian Archeological Museum, and the Tumulus at Gordion.

Click here for more information about the Honors Fellows program at Elon.

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