Berkeley History Professor Receives NEH Grant for Groundbreaking Project on Istanbul's Greek Orthodox Communities in the 19th and 20th Centuries

August 15, 2023

Christine Philliou

UC Berkeley History Professor Christine Philliou has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for a 3-year research project to create a comprehensive, public-facing website to build new types of knowledge and raise public awareness about Istanbul and its constituent Orthodox Christian communities in the 19th and 20th centuries. The project, titled "Visualizing Local Christian Communities in Muslim Cosmopolitan Istanbul in the 19th and 20th Centuries” will be hosted at Berkeley's Global, International and Area Studies with the goal of writing these communities that have been marginalized by nationalism back into the historical record of Europe and the Middle East.

It will engage an international team of scholars from the U.S, Turkey and Greece and use multi-lingual sources to reconstruct the demography and topography of Istanbul's Greek Orthodox communities, situating them in the broader urban fabric of the Ottoman capital and world city between 1821, when the Greek Revolution began and 1923, when the Treaty of Lausanne was signed. The team plans to produce articles, podcast interviews, blogposts, interactive maps, data visualizations, relational databases, and virtual and in-person exhibitions that grow out of the website.

Philliou's $249,000 NEH award is the latest component of a broader multi-regional area studies research collaborative called Istanpolis that connects Modern Greek Studies, and Turkish, Ottoman and Post- Ottoman Studies (TOPOS) programs at UC Berkeley. It’s also supported by the Modern Greek Studies Foundation, U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Centers Program, the France-Berkeley Fund and the Peder Sather Center for Advanced Study.

"Receiving the NEH grant is a tremendous honor and opportunity for us to uncover and share the rich, multifaceted history of Istanbul's Greek Orthodox communities and to explore the complex and often overlooked relationships between them and this Ottoman and Turkish city, of which they were a part,” Professor Philliou said. “It will lead us to new insights and approaches to the histories of both Europe and the Middle East.”

-Kenny Ma

National Endowment for the Humanities