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2015 Koç Lecture Series to host Şuhnaz Yılmaz

March 03, 2015
Şuhnaz Yılmaz

Each year, Stanford faculty members invite approximately 1,500 visiting scholars from around the world who are cutting edge research leaders in their countries and experts in their field. The Office of International Affairs is currently examining ways to help Stanford faculty develop new international collaborations and strengthen existing partnerships with these high impact visitors. As part of effort to promote our visiting scholars’ top-notch collaborations with Stanford faculty, we will interview a few of them in 2015.

Professor Şuhnaz Yılmaz, Associate Professor of International Relations at Koç University and Associate Director of the Graduate School of Social Sciences and Humanities will have two talks at Stanford on March 3rd and 5th. This is part of a special collaboration between the three centers at Stanford Global Studies, Mediterranean Studies ForumCenter for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (CREEES)Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and the Center for Globalization and Democratic Governance (GLODEM) at Koç University in Turkey. The centers at Stanford launched a three-year project with Koç University in 2012 aiming to facilitate transatlantic collaboration in the humanities and social sciences. Professor Yılmaz, a visiting scholar at CREEES from 2009 to 2010, was instrumental in launching the Koç Lecture Series.

Q. May you briefly explain about the Koç Lecture Series and how the annual scholarly exchange works between Stanford and Koç University?

SY: This has been a very exciting and fruitful academic initiative. Stanford University's Mediterranean Studies Forum, Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, and the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies launched an annual lecture series in collaboration with Center for Globalization and Democratic Governance (GLODEM) at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey. Due to the initiative’s highly interdisciplinary nature, it has also been supported by the College of Administrative Sciences and Economics (CASE), Graduate School of Social Sciences and Humanities (GSSSH) and Office of International Programs (OIP) at Koç University. As a part of this three-year project, the affiliated faculty members from each academic center visits the other institution for a week, delivering a public lecture and an academic research seminar, meeting with affiliated faculty and students. The extended visits aim to facilitate an academic platform conducive to the exchange of ideas and to explore interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities between faculty and student affiliates of the participating centers.

The first lecture at Stanford was delivered by Prof. Ziya Onis on November 13, 2012 and it was entitled “The Triumph of Conservative Globalism: The Political Economy of the AKP Era.” Prof. Onis also presented an academic seminar, titled “Turkey and the Arab Spring: Between Ethics and Self-Interest” on November 15, 2012. In the week of March 18, 2013, Prof. Robert Crews (Department of History) and Prof. Shahzad Bashir (Department of Religious Studies) had a very successful visit to GLODEM to discuss their recent book, Under the Drones: Modern Lives in Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands, and also presented their current work, respectively titled “Global Drug Wars” and “Present Pasts: Metaphor and Meaning in Historical Narratives”. Their lectures stimulated a very lively academic discussion and had high publicity. During this visit, Prof. Crews and Prof. Bashir also held several meetings to enquire the possibilities of further academic collaboration. They played a key role in promoting and consolidating the collaboration between our institutions.

In the 2013-2014 academic year, Prof. Sener Akturk visited Stanford in the week of October 28, 2013, and delivered a public lecture and an academic seminar about his recent book, Regimes of Ethnicity and Nationhood in Germany, Russia, and Turkey. In March 2014, Prof. Joel Beinin (Department of History), Prof. James Ferguson (Department of Anthropology) and Prof. Larry Diamond (Department of Political Science and Sociology and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution) visited Koç to present their most current research. Their lectures had very high levels of participation and served as a great source of academic inspiration both for Koç faculty and students. Moreover, on March 27-28, 2015, we co-hosted the Fifth Annual Conference of Arab Reform and Democracy entitled 'Political Change in the Arab World: Internal Dynamics and Regional Actors' with Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, in İstanbul at Koç University.

This year we look forward to the upcoming public lecture by Prof. Kabir Tambar (Department of Anthropology) on March 11, 2015.

Q. How do you find the interdisciplinary collaboration beneficial to both institutions?

SY: This initiative has been very beneficial for both institutions, providing a fertile ground for the academic exchange of ideas from a broad interdisciplinary perspective, as well as for providing a solid base for future academic collaboration.

Q. This is the last year for the Koç Lecture Series. Do you anticipate extending the collaboration with Stanford? If so, do you have any specific ideas to share on how to enhance the partnership?

SY: We are very excited about our academic collaboration with Stanford and look forward to continuing and enhancing our existing partnership. The consolidation and further institutionalization of the existing ties is very important to carry this great start to a new level. There are also a number of other initiatives for enhancing the collaboration between the two universities such as the ten-week Bing Overseas Program in Istanbul held at Koç University with the participation of Stanford and Koç students, as well as the collaboration regarding theAmerican Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford (AMENDS) program and conference.

"My experience at Stanford as a visiting scholar at CREEES was both academically and intellectually very rewarding."

Q. As an expert in Turkish-American relations, what do you think would be the most imperative security issue that the two countries should focus on and why?

SY: Regionally, major challenges include deepening sectarian lines, the instability caused by the Syrian conflict, the refugee crisis, and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Moreover, Ankara has to preserve a precarious balance between its Western allies and an increasingly assertive Russia, on which Turkey depends for energy. Despite a seemingly positive turn, the outcome of nuclear negotiations with Iran still remains unclear. Globally, the intensifying threat from religious extremist terrorist networks, on the one hand, and rising Islamophobia and extreme nationalism, on the other, indicate a potentially explosive rift.

Currently, the most pressing issue on the joint agenda of the two countries is to deal with the security threat arising from Syria and the rise of ISIS, which has strong destabilizing effects for the entire region and beyond. Both countries will have a lot to benefit from their collaboration.

Q. How would you describe your residency at Stanford as a visiting scholar? How has the experience been beneficial to your personal and academic path?

SY: My experience at Stanford as a visiting scholar at CREEES was both academically and intellectually very rewarding and the academic exchanges and interaction that I had in this period has been very beneficial for my personal and academic path. I completed my PhD studies at Princeton and post-doctoral studies at Harvard and I believe my visiting scholar year at Stanford has enabled me to carry my academic research to a new and even more productive level. In this period, I have made significant progress in relation to my research on Eurasian energy politics and Turkish-Russian relations. I also greatly benefited from the rich academic resources of Stanford University and Hoover Institution for my book focusing on the diplomatic history of Turkish-American relations.

While I was based at CREEES, I had the opportunity to interact with the faculty, graduate students and affiliates from a number of different centers and departments, including the Mediterranean Studies Forum, and the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

I would like to thank to all of these wonderful colleagues and very able staff of these centers for a truly rewarding experience and making me feel part of the Stanford family.


Professor Yılmaz will be giving two lectures in March, free and open to the public:

March 3, 2015 12:00 pm “Turkish-Russian Relations in a Turbulent Region and the Challenges of Eurasian Energy Politics” (Encina Central CISAC Conference Room)

March 5, 2015 3:15 pm “Turkish-American Relations (1800-1952): Between the Stars, Stripes and the Crescent” (Encina West, Room 208)

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