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Fellow in Focus: Dr Burcin Cakir

Burcin Cakir

Access to Digital Archives can help neutralise nationalistic commemorations

The second edition of the Trinity Long Room Hub’s Fellow in Focus conversational series took place last week with Dr Burcin Cakir, Transnational Access fellow, funded by the CENDARI project (Collaborative European Digital Archive Infrastructure). Dr Cakir spoke to Trinity historian Professor John Horne, who was also founding Director of the Centre for War Studies, in the Trinity Long Room Hub about her research project looking at the First World War and specifically the narratives and discourse which shape how Gallipoli is remembered and forgotten.

Dr Cakir, who is from Turkey, is visiting from Glasgow Caledonian University where she has been a post-doctoral fellow since September 2014. She has completed honours degrees in English language and Literature and Political Science, and received her M.A in European Political History from Bilkent University. Dr Cakir was awarded her doctoral qualifications from the Texas Tech University in the United States before completing her Ph.D in 2012 in history at Istanbul University, Institute of Social Sciences.

CENDARI Research Fellowship

The EU sponsored CENDARI Visiting Research Fellowships are aimed at early career researchers who apply digital humanities methods to their historical enquiry. The Fellowship programme is designed to support researchers from countries without equivalent facilities and with limited access to advanced research infrastructures.

Military history, memory, and the comparative history of empires are among some of the research interests of Dr Cakir whose research project ‘Digitalizing Dardanelles: British Narrativization of Gallipoli Campaign’ is looking at how to provide multilingual access to digital assets focused on the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I.  Her research seeks to further develop online digital resources which will allow more accurate reporting of the events that took place at Gallipoli and the soldiers and medics that were based there.

Asked about her experience working on the CENDARI project, Dr Cakir commented ‘CENDARI represents the exact academic environment I had been seeking out for a long time. When I saw the CENDARI advertisement while I was teaching at a private university in Istanbul, I immediately decided to apply. I knew it would be really productive to have the chance to work at Trinity with the Manuscripts, the library and the digital archives. I already knew about Trinity’s War Studies Centre and I was also aware of Trinity’s History Department’s reputation – I believe I have found the ideal environment for academic research. I feel very honoured to be part of the project.’

Gallipoli Campaign

Burcin Cakir and John HorneAt her Fellow in Focus session, Professor John Horne questioned Dr Cakir on the repositioning of Gallipoli in Turkish history: ‘The whole of the Gallipoli peninsula was ignored for a very long time (by the Turkish government) and in 1936 when the Montreux Convention was signed, that was the first time that the Turkish government stepped onto the peninsula and saw that the peninsula was filled with foreign symbols. We then have the pilgrimages to the site from the Australian Anzacs and others, beginning from the 1920s so there was already a memorial construction going on by the British. So when the Turkish government saw all these foreign symbols and cemeteries they realised that Gallipoli was an entity that would have longevity and they had fallen behind in commemorating the Gallipoli Campaign and that was a source of shame for them. So they then began the project of reclaiming the memory of Gallipoli.’ According to Dr Cakir, this was also in part due to the economic pressures facing the newly founded republic and other nationalist projects at the heart of Anatolia.

Dr Cakir is critical of the way the Gallipoli campaign has been used throughout Turkish history: ‘The battle at Gallipoli was an Ottoman victory, it wasn’t a part of the Turkish independent movement, but it is manipulated in Turkish history and presented as a success of the Turkish independent movement.’ Today, as Dr Cakir explains, Gallipoli is remembered as the source of inspiration for Turkish independence and where we see Mustafa Kemal Atatürk emerging as a military leader.

Memory and Commemoration

Prof Horne asked Dr Cakir about the type of memory constructs that exist in Turkey in relation to the Gallipoli campaign and how this is demonstrated in her research: ‘When it comes to the memory of Gallipoli in Turkey, I can easily say that there are multiple ‘memories’ and these ‘memories’ of Gallipoli have changed a lot over time, depending on the Turkish government, and on Turkish foreign and domestic politics.’

British memory and discourse around the Gallipoli campaign is one of the key projects of CENDARI in seeking to build up a digital platform for military historians. Dr Cakir spoke about the British memorialisation of Gallipoli which she said has ignored many aspects when it comes to the colonial soldiers, much as the Turkish commemoration of the Gallipoli campaign doesn’t take account of any ethnic minority contribution such as the Armenian contribution or the Arab contribution. Dr Cakir notes, for example,  that the Irish soldiers’ contribution to the British effort at Gallipoli is not widely known by Turkish readers due to the misguided perception that all the soldiers were ‘British’, similar to the parallel perception that all soldiers were ‘ottoman.’

‘The Gallipoli campaign has been a commodity which is sold for political support and economic gain, economic profit and investment for future national identity.’

Upcoming Fellow in Focus:

CENDARI Transnational Access Fellow Dr Dorin Stănescu in conversation with Dr Alex Dowdall, Department of History, to discuss ‘Ulysses in the Great War. Travelling by Train at the End of the War: A View from Literature, Memoirs and Diaries.’

When: 1-2pm, Wednesday 15th of December

Where: Hoey Ideas Space, Trinity Long Room Hub

Contact: Aoife King, Communications Officer |Trinity Long Room Hub | | 01 896 3895