My Winter Quarter in Istanbul

Graduate Fellow Oscar Aguirre-Mandujano visited Ine Bey Library, an important manuscript library in Bursa, Turkey, during his winter quarter abroad. Photo by Elçin Arabaci.

My winter quarter of preliminary fieldwork in Turkey has been a wonderful experience. Istanbul offers a great international and local academic community, particularly for those studying Ottoman history and literature. During the last two months I have been visiting archives and libraries that are crucial to my research in an attempt to locate relevant sources. In order to deal with the incredible amount of material that is available here, by the end of the second week I decided to focus only on two of the several Ottoman intellectuals I am analyzing in my dissertation. I was able to locate the original manuscripts of their works and do an extensive study of secondary literature in both Turkish and English. Right now, I am also trying to identify the archival sources that I will need to revisit during my research year.

Another highlight of my quarter in Turkey has been connecting with professors based in different universities in Istanbul, such as Mimar Sinan, 28 May, Bogazici University, and Shehir University. Great recommendations and advice for my project have resulted from these interactions. Last week I traveled to Bursa, which is an important city for my research because one of the Ottoman intellectuals I am studying was governor of Bursa while in exile from the imperial court of Istanbul. In Bursa I was warmly received by Prof. Oguzoglu of Uludag University. He introduced me to Uludag University’s history department and spent almost two days discussing my project, introducing me to the city, and helping to generate additional ideas for possible archival sources relevant to my interests. I also spent time at Bursa’s Ine Bey manuscript library.

Oscar Aguirre-Mandujano (right) views images at a manuscript library in Turkey, with University of Chicago doctoral student Carlos Granier.

One exciting side trip took me to Amasya, the old capital of the princely court of Bayezid II, one of my key subjects. I spent time in the manuscript library there and established connections with the relevant librarians for future research trips. In March I am planning a short trip to London and Paris where I expect to meet professors from the University of London and La Sorbonne; my goal is to determine whether there is relevant material for my dissertation research in the British and French libraries and archives.

Last but not least, I was recently awarded a Schwartz Fellowship from the UW Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization to pursue my research in London next year. I was also selected as a 2013-2014 Junior Residential Fellow at the Research Center of Anatolian Civilizations of Koc University in Istanbul; this award will allow me to conduct my dissertation research for nine months in Istanbul next year. The preliminary research I have done this term under the auspices of a Chester Fritz Fellowship has allowed me to successfully identify the key archival and manuscript sources to pursue my dissertation research next year, while at the same time helping me to contact the relevant experts now living in Istanbul.


About the Author:

Oscar Aguirre-Mandujano is a third-year PhD student in the Interdisciplinary Program in Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Washington. He was born in Mexico City and attended the National University of Mexico (UNam) and the University of London before coming to Seattle. Oscar’s dissertation undertakes an interdisciplinary study of the impact of book production in the emergence of a new court literary culture during the reign of Bayezid II (r. 1452-1512) in the Ottoman Empire. As the Mickey Sreebny Memorial Scholar in Jewish Studies for 2013-2014, Oscar is studying the original compositions of Yehuda Leon Behar in Ottoman Turkish, a project which helps to illuminate the culture and identity of the Jewish community during the late Ottoman Empire.


  1. Abraham 6/19/2014 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    I notice that you have a strong background in Jewish research, and wonder if you did any research in libraries of Jewish interest in Istanbul? There must be many historic books and manuscripts from the hundreds of years of Torah scholarship in Kushta-Istanbul. And yet I have not found anyone who has written information for the outside world about such historic collections. I have read that years ago the chief rabbinate library was a great collection, but have not seen a published catalogue.

  2. Manoj Keshwar 4/26/2016 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Spending winters in Istanbul must be amazing.

  3. Turkey Travel 5/7/2016 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all the information
    Turkey is really a wonderful country

  4. Rick Stevens 9/1/2016 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    Ain’t no party like an Istanbul party, because the nightlife here is legendary.

Leave A Comment