ANAMED Talks – A Book Talk: Cities as Palimpsests? Responses to Antiquity in Eastern Mediterranean Urbanism

Date: 16 June 2022
Time: 18:30 (Turkey local time, GMT +3)
For this month’s talk, ANAMED will feature Elizabeth Key Fowden, former ANAMED fellow Suna Çağaptay, Edward Zychowicz-Coghill, Göksun Akyürek, Assaad Seif and Caroline Goodson. Moderated by Emre Erkal, their talk will address Palimpsest which is the word they reach for as shorthand for the historical complexity and cultural hybridity of the eastern Mediterranean city. But does this fashionable trope slyly force us to see contradiction where local inhabitants saw (and see) none, to impose distinctions that satisfy our own assumptions about historical periodization and cultural practice, but bear little relation to the experience of ancient, medieval, early modern or modern persons? By visualizing the city as distinctive strata do they blind ourselves to the porosity of urban tissue? The origins of this volume can be traced back to a three-day conference in May 2018 hosted by Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul, during which they discussed the usefulness of the city palimpsest trope.

This online talk will be held in English. Please register this event in advance from here.


Elizabeth Key Fowden

Grounded in her training in Classics, Elizabeth Key Fowden’s research has focused on religious, political, and architectural intersections in late antique and early Islamic Greater Syria. In her current book project, The Parthenon Mosque, Fowden applies her interest in Islamic reformulation of the classical and Christian inheritance to the early modern conjunction of Greek, European and Ottoman views in the ‘City of Sages’. Elizabeth helped formulate and organise the Impact of the Ancient City project’s international conference, “Cities as palimpsests?” also served as the co-editor for the volume. She is senior research associate in Classics and fellow of the Centre of Islamic Studies at Cambridge; and co-PI of the Cambridge-Stockholm project Greece between Europe and Asia, which includes a recent workshop on Mediterranean embroideries co-organised with Deniz Türker in Kavala, Greece.

Suna Çağaptay

Suna Çağaptay is a medievalist working on artistic and cultural interactions in the eastern Mediterranean and their reflections on the built environment. Currently, she is a research associate on the Impact of the Ancient City project at the University of Cambridge and a postdoctoral research associate at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge. She is the author of The First Ottoman Capital: The Religious, Architectural and Social History of Bursa (2020), as well as several articles focusing on aspects of medieval frontiers, spolia and identity appearing in Muqarnas, Byzantine and Modern Greek  Studies Journal, and Dumbarton Oaks Papers. She is a researcher at the Civizilations Studies Center (MEDAM) at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul. Suna is one of the organizers of the Impact of the Ancient City project’s international conference, “Cities as palimpsests?” as well as acting as a co-editor for the volume.

Edward Zychowicz-Coghill

Edward Zychowicz-Coghill is Lecturer in the History of Asia at King’s College London. He was previously a research associate on the Impact of the Ancient City project. He is a cultural and intellectual historian of the early Islamic world whose work encompasses early Arabic historiography, visions of the pre-Islamic past, and economic imaginaries. Publications include The First Annals: Fragments of Umayyad History (2021) and Writing the Conquest of  Egypt: The Formation of  Early Islamic Historiography (forthcoming). Ed also is one of the editors of the volume “Cities as Palimpsests?”

Göksun Akyürek

Göksun Akyürek is an architect and architectural historian, working on the nineteenth and twentieth century history and theory of architectural production of various scales and contexts, mostly focusing in Istanbul and Turkey.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in architecture from METU, Faculty of Architecture in Ankara, Master’s in architectural history from the same university and her PhD from Yıldız Technical University in architectural history, in Istanbul. She also studied in Budapest as a visiting scholar at the Budapest Technical University. Her published studies include Ottoman architectural history of Tanzimat Istanbul, nineteenth century housing market of Istanbul, early Republican formation of Ankara, and the twentieth century history of tourism architecture in Turkey. Currently she is working as an assistant professor and teaching architectural design and history at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul.

Assaad Seif

Assaad Seif is an archaeologist, University Professor, and UNESCO / ICOMOS Heritage Expert with 30 years of experience. Dr. Seif held first-line positions at the Lebanese Ministry of Culture ranging from the head of the archaeology and heritage research departments to serving as an advisor for the Minister of Culture. He is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of CMAS – Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites – a Tailor & Francis publication. He is also a research consultant at the National Council for Scientific Research (CNRSL). Building on his wide archaeological field work and urban archaeology experience, Dr Assaid Seif is a UNESCO and ICOMOS expert, Dr. Seif is well acquainted with the current situation of cultural heritage management and conservation, archaeological research, cultural project implementation as well as cultural dissemination, community engagement, and awareness-raising in the Arab countries in general and Lebanon in particular.

Caroline Goodson

Her research concentrates on the nature of power in this part of the early medieval world, looking at how different groups positioned themselves as successors to the Romans’ past glories or as innovators in a new world order. She is particularly interested in how cities facilitated certain forms of social interaction and political authority and how changing religious practices and politics related to day-to-day experiences (and how these have been transmitted to us through material and textual records). Her work deliberately moves between the disciplines of history and archaeology. She has published extensively on medieval documentary and historical texts, such as chronicles, hagiography, and more recently charters and diplomata.

Emre Erkal

Emre Erkal is an architect with experience in architectural and urban design projects, applications and research on several facets of contemporary cities and settlements. Prior to his professional M.Arch. degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, he completed METU Electronics Engineering Department, and worked as a researcher at Bilkent and Indiana Universities as well as Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Following his Ph.D. degree from İstanbul Technical University, he has been teaching classes and workshops in architectural and urban design, interactive technologies and digital design. Recently he has been teaching architectural studios and computational design at METU Department of Architecture, and he is currently conducting projects in historic city centers of Istanbul and Antalya where issues of archaeology, conservation, cultural heritage, geography and technology intersect.