Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thoughts on Fulbright Application...

My Fulbright application is due SOON! (Sept 13th). I've posted some of my musings below about what I'm looking at here....

A few years ago, while conducting research on the King-Crane Commission (see, I kept stumbling on correspondence between the American commission members and some teachers at American colleges in the Near East. Deans at Robert College and at the Constantinople College for Women were not only important sources of knowledge about the Ottoman Empire, its politics and culture, but also the homes of pro-American sentiment. The Turkish Wilsonian League, for example, was established by the faculty of these colleges. Famous pro-American voices (such as Halide Edib Adivar and Ahmet Emin Yalman) were closely tied to these schools. I've been exploring this interest a lot more, and now trying to develop it into a cohesive project for my Fulbright application. Here is a sort-of-summary below.

 I'm looking at the relationship between American protestant missionaries in the late Ottoman Empire-Early Republic, about 1850-1930. The main outposts of the missionaries are their schools, spread throughout Anatolia, the Arab provinces, and of course in Istanbul. Here, Robert College and the Constantinople College for Women are my primary subjects of study.

There are various dynamics that I'm interested in. One, RC and CCW are "lumped" in the scholarship discussing foreign schools and missionary schools in this period. In doing so, the diversity among the foreign and missionary school directives and practices are lost. Scholars skip over this diversity and instead focus on the Ottoman perception of all "foreign/missionary" institutions as a threat and impetus for reform. I think the subject demands a new perspective which delineates the differences among the foreign schools, and elucidates WHY and HOW these schools (though very different) came to be seen as a collective threat to the Ottoman identity and government.

Secondly, I think the school can also be viewed as a diplomatic outpost for the Americans, especially in the period where there is not American consul or open embassy. The school appears in diplomatic correspondence in such functions - it hosts American emissaries, is the almost exclusive source of American understanding of the near east (disseminated through various missionary newspapers), and in a number of diplomatic mini-crises, Robert College is a much more effective negotiator than the embassy. I don't know what "aim" I have here, but it's know, a thing of interest.

Third, I am interested in the cultural, intellectual and political impact of education at RC and CCW on its students. A lot of scholarship has talked about this, but sort of without a way or system of measuring it (sources are a key problem here...). But I thinkkkkkk I would like to engage in a study of the student organizations - probably looking at this with more of a sociological and anthropological perspective on identity formation. This is relevant to point 1, in that it would tell us whether or not education at these schools actually has a subversive effect on Ottoman identity formation.

Anyways that's about what I've got so far..."in short." As you can tell its a bit scattered still, but I would really, realllyyy love your input. Does this sound interesting to you? Do you think the Fulbright would find it interesting? Do you know anyone studying this topic, and if so how could I get in touch with them? great, wonderful, I love you, thank you.