International Conference: Occupied Istanbul: Urban Politics, Culture and Society, 1918-1923

On the morning of 16 March 1920, British military forces, which had been present in Istanbul alongside wartime allies France, Italy and Greece since November 1918, conducted a series of arrests of high profile former and serving Ottoman officials and officers, took control of multiple government ministries, and declared martial law. It was not until 6 October 1923 that Allied forces departed the city. The centenaries of the official occupation of Istanbul and its evacuation present a useful moment in which to promote a more comprehensive study of the politics, culture, and society of the period. Despite the wealth of relevant multi-national archival holdings available, the occupation has been largely ignored in public memory and academic writing in the former occupying powers and is often marginalised in the Anatolia-focused history of the War of Independence in Turkey. The conference, a partnership between the American Research Institute in Turkey, Boğaziçi University Department of History, the British Institute At Ankara, Institut Français des Etudes Anatoliennes, and Salt Research, brings together many of the scholars who have worked to fill this historiographical hole in recent years, and will provide an opportunity to discuss how occupation impacted issues as diverse as politics, policing, music, archaeology, commerce, fashion, the press, labour, infrastructure, justice, and housing.

The conference will take place over three days. Below you will find a schedule and zoom link for each day. Anyone wishing to attend days 1 or 2 in person should send a confirmation email including their full name and workplace or institutional affiliation to

Thursday 30 June. Auditorium, Salt Galata.

Register online here:

15.30-16.00. Introductions.

Yaşar Tolga Cora (Boğaziçi University), Welcome address.
Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal, (British Institute At Ankara), Thinking about occupied Istanbul.

16.00-18.00. Panel 1.

Chair: Gizem Tongo (Middle East Technical University).

Ceren Abi (Kadir Has University), Archaeology in the occupied city: the Allied scholarly and archaeological activities in Istanbul.
Ayşe Özil (Sabancı University), Import trade in Istanbul under Allied occupation: Greek trading companies of Galata.
Carole Woodall (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs), Post-armistice Pera: considering occupation through the lens of early jazz.
Özde Çeliktemel-Thomen (Middle East Technical University), Occupied Istanbul on reel: wartime films, culture, and society

18.30-20.00. Keynote and Reception.

Moreau, Odile (Montpellier 3. University), Occupied Istanbul: a new form for military domination

Friday 1 July. Nafi Baba Binası, Boğaziçi University

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11.00-12.30. Panel 2.

Chair: Zeynep Simavi (American Research Institute in Turkey).

Mehmet Polatel (Hrant Dink Foundation), Regulating post-war settlement: property disputes in occupied Istanbul and its environs.
Stefo Benlisoy (Istanbul Technical University), Sorrow or joy: Ottoman Greek voices from Istanbul.
Amy Mills (University of Southern Maine), Turkish masculinity in the occupied city.

14.00-16.00. Panel 3.

Chair: Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal.

Ellinor Morack (Bamberg University), “A date that needs to be engraved forever in every Turk’s heart”: Commemorations of the “martyrs of March 16” in the Republican Press.
Silvana Rachieru (University of Bucharest), Occupied Istanbul seen from Sıraselviler street: diplomatic perceptions and survival strategies at the royal legation of Romania.
Ayşe Polat (Medeniyet Universtiy), Imperial, occupied, and national: Ottoman religious bureaucratic administration in Istanbul.
Ümit Fırat Açıkgöz (American University in Beirut), Urbanism under occupation: the homeless and the visionary in Istanbul.

16.30-18.30. Panel 4.

Chair: Yaşar Tolga Cora.

Neslişah L. Başaran Lotz (İstanbul Aydın University), Turkish communists under the occupation Şefik Hüsnü (Değmer) and the underground Turkish communist group in Istanbul.
Erol Ülker (Işık University), Parting of the ways in the Turkish national movement: sultanists and populists in occupied Istanbul.
Pınar Şenışık (Doğuş University), The people of occupied Istanbul welcome Refet Pasha: popular demonstrations and “emotional communities”.
George Vassiadis (Royal Holloway, University of London), The Greek philological syllogos of Constantinople during the Allied occupation: the beginning of the end.

Saturday 2 July. Online.

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11.00-12.30. Panel 5.

Chair: Edhem Eldem.

Claire Le Bras (Nantes University), The French reorganization of the Ottoman gendarmery: an imperialistic structure during the occupation.
Didem Yavuz Velipaşaoğlu (İzmir Ekonomi University), Military at the mill: workforce transformation and changing artistic production at Hereke Factory.
Nurçin İleri (Forum Transregionale Studien/Humboldt University), A techno-political account of electrical infrastructure in occupied Istanbul.

14.00-16.00. Panel 6.

Chair: Paolo Giradelli.

Dimitris Kamouzis (Centre for Asia Minor Studies), Greek Freemasons and the Megali Idea: The ‘Armonia’ Lodge of Constantinople.
Bilge Ar (Istanbul Technical University), An urban transformation of Istanbul: refunctioning the existing building stock under Allied occupation.
Elif Mahir Metinsoy (Galatasaray University), Women and fashion in occupied Istanbul.
Timur Saitov (Binghamton University), Istanbul – Constantinople – Tsargrad: Russian civil war refugees in the occupied city.

16.30-18.30. Panel 7.

Chair: Christine Philliou.

Burak Sayım (Graduate Institute Geneva), Occupied Istanbul as a communist hub.
Emine Evered (University of Michigan), Dry Istanbul: politics of anti alcohol activism during the occupation.
Ari Şekeryan (University of Michigan), Between hope and despair: the Armenian intellectuals during the Armistice period
Erdağ Göknar (Duke University), Legal and affective archives of atrocity: the afterlives of war crimes tribunals in occupied Istanbul.

19.00-20.00. Concluding remarks and general discussion.

Chair: Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal.

Ryan Gingeras (Naval Postgraduate School), Making sense of the end: Thoughts on writing a history of the armistice period.