Istanbul Seminars 2015

By Ahmed Muneeb & Megan Shoemate 

In May we had the opportunity to attend the 2015 Istanbul Seminars Conference, organized annually by the Rome-based Reset Dialogues on Civilization foundation, in partnership with Istanbul Bilgi University.  The Seminars, held every year in Istanbul, were designed to provide a forum for East-West dialogue in a city split between the European and Asian continents, as well as foster intellectual dialogue on democracy and human rights.  This year’s conference, entitled “Politics Beyond Borders: The Republican Model Challenged by the Internationalization of Economy, Law and Communication,” centered on the philosophical aspects of Republicanism in the modern world, and expanded to specific case studies of the Kurdish population in Turkey, the Arab Spring, and the Charlie Hebdo shootings.

The Seminars were led this year by members of the foundation and several professors, including Professor Seyla Benhabib, director of the Ethics, Politics, and Economics department of Yale, and Stephen Macedo, professor of Public Policy and founding director of Princeton’s program in Law and Public Affairs.  In addition to attending and participating in the lectures with other masters and doctoral students, we were able to present as part of Student Working Groups on Arab Nationalism and Republican Theory.

The Istanbul Seminars not only challenged and enriched our knowledge, but also complemented our coursework at the Brandt School.  The lectures spanned across various disciplines, and ranged from highly theoretical and philosophical topics to the concrete and political.  The participation of academics from over 25 different countries, as well as the opportunity to present our own ideas and engage in cross-cultural dialogue, provided new and valuable insights for both our MPP courses as well as our future careers in the global context.