It is difficult to ever truly leave the BIAA. I first arrived in September 2014 for what I expected to be a 12-month stay as a Postdoctoral Fellow. Plans to relocate to İstanbul were abandoned after the offer of a further two-year Research Fellowship for the project From Enemies to Allies: Turkey and Britain 1914-1952, a series of workshops and associated special issues based on which a final edited volume was published this year. I finally left in August 2017, but when the position of Assistant Director was advertised two years later, partway through my appointment as Research Assistant Professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, I felt the urge to return, leaving Hong Kong as the protest movement was reaching its peak.
Little did I know that within six months of my arrival, the outbreak of Covid-19 would change the nature of my duties and the pattern of Institute life for the best part of two years. The support and solidarity of Institute staff and fellows made the hardships of the pandemic more bearable. Covid restrictions coincided with a major digitisation drive and reorganisation of the Institute’s IT services, which saw the creation of new websites for the BIAA, library and digital repository as well as new office infrastructure.
In lockdown, I was able to finalise the manuscript of my first book, Britain’s Levantine Empire, 1914-1923, much of the research for which I had carried out during my first years at the Institute. As Covid restrictions were lifted, I was able to see through a number of collaborative projects connected to my research on occupied Istanbul. Together with former BIAA Postdoctoral Fellow Gizem Tongo, I published an open-access bibliography for the study of the city, organised a major conference on the occupation in collaboration with Boğaziçi University, Salt Research, and the Institut Français des Études Anatoliennes, and curated the ongoing exhibition Occupied City: Politics and Daily Life in İstanbul 1918-1923 at the İstanbul Research Institute.
An unexpected but highly rewarding aspect of my work has been my involvement with the Feriköy Protestant Cemetery Initiative to conserve and document this important historical site. This initiative is formed of representatives of the BIAA, Orient Institute, Netherlands Institute in Turkey, Hungarian Cultural Centre, American Research Institute in Turkey, and Swedish Research Institute Istanbul. During my term, I was able to oversee the completion of projects to scan some of the oldest tombstones located on the cemetery’s Monument Row, dating back to the early 17th century, and to survey the cemetery’s plant and tree life and document its ecological importance for the city.
I have mixed feelings about leaving Ankara for Napoli, where I will take up a three-year Research Fellowship at the Scuola Superiore Meridonale. I recently realised that, at seven years, Ankara is the city I have lived in longest as an adult, and I will sorely miss friends and colleagues inside and outside the Institute. The strength of these bonds and my ongoing research interests will no doubt bring me back to Ankara again and again, and I look forward to seeing how the Institute evolves over the terms of my successors.
– Dr Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal, BIAA Assistant Director (2019-2023)