This eBook was written by undergraduate students and edited and compiled by their instructors. It is the result of a semester-long collaboration between staff, faculty, and students at The Ohio State University (OSU) and İstanbul University (İÜ). It represents the culmination of ideas and information shared in the context of TURK 2241 Introduction to Turkish Culture, a general education course offered by the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (NELC) at OSU, in Autumn 2017. The course was co-taught by Danielle Schoon, Melinda McClimans, and Mehmet Açıkalın.
Dr. Danielle V. Schoon is a Lecturer in the department of NELC at OSU. She teaches the Turkish Studies curriculum, among other courses. Her training is in Cultural Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies (PhD, University of Arizona 2015). Her research is in Roma (‘Gypsy’) identity and political participation in contemporary Turkey.
Melinda McClimans is the Assistant Director of the Middle East Studies Center at OSU and is working on a PhD in Global Education. She teaches about the Middle East and Global Education in the International Studies program and the College of Education. She facilitated the online activities with students at İstanbul University for the duration of the Turkish Culture course.
Dr. Mehmet Açıkalın is Associate Professor in the Department of Social Studies Education at İstanbul University. He received his Master’s degree from the University of Missouri- Columbia in 2002 and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in 2006. As an international student, he engaged in a variety of intercultural experiences and made significant connections to American and other international students. Since then, he has collaborated on many cross-cultural projects that promote learning about diverse world cultures. After he completed his studies, Dr. Açıkalın returned to Turkey to teach undergraduate and graduate-level courses at İstanbul University.
A note on the title we chose for this eBook, Windows into Turkish Culture. Our use of the word ‘windows’ is meant to reference several layered meanings. First, it avoids any assumptions that one introductory text can do justice to the breadth and width of Turkey’s rich cultural heritage. This eBook provides glimpses into Turkish culture that are of central importance, to be sure, but the text is not exhaustive. The topics covered by the chapters herein were studied in the Introduction to Turkish Culture course: theatre, art, architecture, literature, dance, music, sports, fashion, film, TV/radio, and food. Each student was assigned two of these topics to research, present to the class, and write about in short papers, some of which became the chapters of this eBook.
Second, windows can provide a view to something outside, but also often provide a reflection of the viewer. The class emphasized the relationship between the self and others: the tensions, but also the possible connections and opportunities for greater awareness of the world and our place in it. Binaries like East/West cannot become obsolete in this process because they shape and define our global politics; however, questioning such dichotomies serves to challenge some of the stereotypes we might hold about each other and open up space for fresh inquiries and perspectives. This was the main goal of the class, and it is also our hope for the eBook.
Finally, Windows is a widely recognized term for a computer operating system, signaling the central importance of digital technology to this project. Students were able to engage online and track their progress with several digital tools. The online discussions took place on OSU’s Canvas learning management system (Carmen). We used the app Suitable to gather frequent reflections and other feedback, while also allowing students to track their progress and view the progress of their peers (they became rather competitive!). We offered optional Buckeye Badges (Global Community Building and Global Media Project) for students who successfully completed all of the submissions in Suitable in addition to the work required for their course assignments. Six out of eight students were awarded both badges, as well as one of the İstanbul University participants. These badges form the center of the e-portfolio of learning activities, reflections, and collaboration.
On the other side of the project, the İstanbul University students mostly took on the role of ambassador by representing their country and introducing their culture to their OSU peers. We appreciate their candor and willingness to share personal experiences and tastes with regard to the cultural traditions and artifacts we discussed. They enthusiastically assumed their role, taking pride in putting forward positive aspects of their culture as well as sharing their critiques. Their photographs and videos, along with their commentaries, were invaluable for understanding Turkish cultural elements such as food, music, celebrations, and clothing. Their personal photos were especially illuminating of aspects of Turkish culture such as weddings, henna nights, and other social events.
We would like to thank İstanbul University, especially the Faculty of Education, for their support of our online learning activities. We sincerely express our appreciation for the İstanbul University students who helped OSU students with their research on Turkey, for their generosity and openness.
This eBook and the e-portfolio associated with it would also not have been possible without the support of multiple internal OSU partners: the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, the Middle East Studies Center, the Office of International Affairs, the University Center for the Advancement of Teaching, the Office of Distance Education and e-Learning (ODEE), and the Buckeye Badges program. We especially thank the Affordable Learning Exchange (ALX) program in ODEE for their support in producing this eBook. We thank Dr. Joy McCorriston, Professor of Anthropology at The Ohio State University, for her ongoing contributions to the development of templates of cross-cultural learning activities that the e-portfolio is largely based on. We also express our gratitude to the instructional design experts of the university’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.
We express our gratitude to the guest scholars who presented to our students on aspects of Turkish society, language and culture: Bülent Bekçioğlu, Carolin Mueller, Nathan Young, and Eric Schoon.
Special thanks also go to Mark Visco, CEO and co-founder of Suitable, who provided invaluable technical support and feedback for the gamification of the e-portfolio.