Past Event

Workshop on Contested Sites and Historical Dialogue

April 5, 2014
9:30 AM - 1:30 PM
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Guantánamo Public Memory Project
Istanbul Workshop on Contested Sites and Historical Dialogue

Columbia Global Centers | Istanbul and Studio-X Istanbul invite university students to an interactive workshop led by Professor Elazar Barkan and Liz Ševčenko of Columbia University.  Due to limited space, interested students and their professors are kindly requested to confirm their participation by March 28, 2014.

The workshop is being held as part of a month-long project in which Studio X Istanbul will host a number of interrelated efforts: the Guantánamo Public Memory Project; the Open Memory Library featuring material on contested city histories from Istanbul, Beijing, Mumbai, New York and Rio; a Hafıza Merkezi lecture series on the hidden pasts of cities in Turkey; and the Closed Book, a research publication documenting the status of prisons in Turkey.

About The Guantánamo Public Memory Project
The "Guantánamo Public Memory Project" is a powerful example of how studying a place and its history bring forth new understandings of contemporary questions.  Many of us will readily associate Guantánamo with its current use in the War on Terror, but its historical legacy is equally important to surfacing the many layers and perspectives that reveal how Guantánamo has operated as a ‘state of exception’ for decades. 

Such questions were all explored and researched by groups of students from public history courses in eleven universities around the United States, who collaborated to create the traveling exhibition, over 100 testimonies, a web platform, and public events.  Through courses, SMS-voting, blogging, and other means, students and stakeholders in each host city contribute research and reflections to this ongoing global conversation about Guantánamo’s legacy and its future.   The exhibition will be on display at Studio X Istanbul from April 4 to May 9, 2014.

About the Workshop
The workshop invites student to:

  • Explore questions of historical dialogue and public memory of “states of exception” and contested sites, placing Guantánamo in comparative perspective with other Sites of Conscience and memory projects.
  • Participate in and shape the Guantánamo Public Memory Project’s international dialogue by contributing perspectives on the questions the Guantánamo Public Memory Project raises and their relevance/resonance in Turkey.  The workshop will facilitate student contributions in a form that will be integrated back into the digital and physical exhibit as it travels in the US and other international cities, so that American students and other publics can read and learn from their perspectives.

Workshop Participation

  • The workshop is open to 25 undergraduate and graduate students from Humanities and Social Sciences disciplines, who are particularly interested in issues of public memory, contested sites, states of exception and historical dialogue.
  • There is also additional space available for those wishing to participate as observers.
  • The workshop will be held in English. All students should have a good command of English in order to be able participate in the discussion.
  • It is highly recommended to do some background reading prior to the workshop. The suggested materials will be provided by the organizers.
  • Students are expected to visit the exhibition in advance, and bring questions and/or comments to the workshop.

Background Reading

  1. "Guantánamo Public Memory Project – Project Blueprint," by International Sites of Conscience. Available at:ánamo/blueprint.pdf
  1. "Sites of Conscience: Heritage for and of Human Rights," by Liz Ševčenko
  1. Websites to explore:
  1. Optional reading on states of exception:

Workshop Agenda

Friday, April 4, 2014

Pre-workshop preparation at Studio-X (Meclis-i Mebusan 35A, Salipazari)

  • Students are encouraged to attend the opening of the exhibition at 18:00 at Studio-X Istanbul. Professor Elazar Barkan and Liz Ševčenko will both give a short lecture as part of the opening event.
  • If students cannot make it to the opening, the exhibition can be viewed from 10:00 onwards on Friday.
  • Assignment:  Students with smart phones should take photographs of themselves or of each other in front of one of the exhibit panels, commenting on something in particular that strikes them – something that resonates, something they have a question about, or something they disagree with. 

Saturday, April 5

Workshop at Columbia Global Centers | Istanbul

09:30 – 09:45           Welcome and Introduction

09:45– 10:15             Historical Dialogue, States of Exception and Guantánamo, Elazar Barkan, Director, Columbia University Institute for the Study of Human Rights

10:15 – 10:45            Sites of Conscience and the Making of the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, Liz Ševčenko, Director, Guantánamo Public Memory Project

10:45-11:15              Questions and Answers

11:15 – 12:00           Interactive session: Students will work in small groups to generate responses to questions such as:

  • What questions do you have for American students who created or will see this exhibit?
  • What sites in Turkey do you think should be opened to historical dialogue?  What would a public memory/historical dialogue project around these sites look like?
  • What kind of historical dialogue should be developed around these sites? What questions should be asked?  Who should be involved in discussing these questions? 

Formats will be developed that ensure student contributions are captured and shared with the Project’s global public.

  • Students are invited to submit images representing related local places or issues about which they want to raise awareness.  
  • Writing questions they want to pose to US students hosting the exhibit that we can send those students and invite them to respond to via the blog

12:00-12:45  Lunch break

12:45-1:30     Plenary sharing, reflection, and conclusion

1:30 – 2:00    Transfer to Studio X

2:00 – 4:00    Panel on the Diyarbakir Prison Experience at Studio X

After the workshop, students will also have the opportunity to join the panel discussion on Diyarbakir prison, organized in collaboration with Hafiza Merkezi and moderated by Prof. Turgut Tarhanli of Istanbul Bilgi University. The panel aims to explore the Diyarbakir prison through the experiences of those who have been directly involved in the effort to reclaim it as a space for human rights.

Workshop Leaders

Elazar Barkan
Elazar Barkan is Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, Director of the School of International and Public Affairs Human Rights Concentration, and Director of Columbia's Institute for the Study of Human Rights.

Barkan is also founding Director of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR) in The Hague. Professor Barkan served on ISHR’s board of directors before becoming ISHR’s co-director in 2007 and director in 2008. Previously, Professor Barkan served as chair of the History Department and the Cultural Studies Department at the Claremont Graduate University, where he was the founding director of the Humanities Center. Professor Barkan is a historian by training and received his PhD from Brandeis University.

His research interests focus on human rights and on the role of history in contemporary society and politics and the response to gross historical crimes and injustices. His human rights work seeks to achieve conflict resolution and reconciliation by bringing scholars from two or more sides of a conflict together and employing historical methodology to create shared narratives across political divides and to turn historical dialogue into a fundamental tool of political reconciliation.  A recent pertinent article: “Historians and Historical Reconciliation,” (AHR Forum)  American Historical Review, (October 2009).  Professor Barkan's other current research interests include refugee repatriation, comparative analysis of historical commissions, shared sacred sites, and the question of human rights impact, specifically with regard to redress and transitional justice.

Barkan received his PhD from Brandeis University in Comparative European History and BA from Tel Aviv University.

Liz Ševčenko
Liz Ševčenko was Founding Director of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, a network of historic sites that foster public dialogue on pressing contemporary issues. Starting in 1999 as a meeting of nine sites under the auspices of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, under her leadership the Coalition grew to over 250 members in more than 40 countries; launched regional networks in Russia, South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East; as well as an international Immigration Sites of Conscience network and a bi-national (US and Canada) Indian Boarding Schools Project; established as an independent organization; and grew from a budget of $100,000 to $1.3 million.

As Coalition Director, Ševčenko worked with initiatives in more than 60 countries to design replicable programs and practices that reflect on past struggles and inspire citizens to become involved in addressing their contemporary legacies. Before launching the Coalition, Ševčenko had over ten years of experience developing public history projects designed to catalyze civic dialogue in New York and around the country. As Vice President for Programs at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, she developed exhibits and educational activities that connect the dramatic stories of the neighborhood’s immigrants past and present. She also developed national and community initiatives to inspire civic dialogue on cultural identity, labor relations, housing, welfare, immigration, and other issues raised by these stories. She has published extensively on Sites of Conscience in journals and edited volumes in a variety of fields, from human rights to cultural heritage to transitional justice.

Ševčenko has a B.A. from Yale University and is ABD in history at New York University. The Guantánamo Public Memory Project builds public awareness of the long history of the US naval station at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, before and after 9-11, and fosters dialogue on the future of this place, its people, and its policies. It produces digital media, a traveling exhibit, and teaching and research resources.