Lessons from the past affect the present

Brian Miller explores Turkish policy in faculty lecture series

Milton Guevara, Contributing Writer

The Karl W. Weiss ’87 Faculty Lecture Series for 2016-17 commenced with a presentation by Brian Miller, visiting assistant professor of history this Wednesday, Sept. 14. The series is intended to showcase research from professors in various departments to the Allegheny community and are open to students, faculty and staff. Miller spoke about the Turkish guest worker program in the 1960s.

“[The Lecture series] is also an opportunity for students who are interested in going into academia to get a taste of the type of work that the faculty do when they are not teaching classes,” Miller said.

The presentation, “Envisioning a Turkish Miracle: The 1960s Turkish Guest Worker Initiative and the Making of a ‘New’ Europe,” gave insight into Turkish guest workers in Germany. Much of Miller’s research focuses on Turkey and the Middle East.

Miller will present a version of the presentation at a conference for the Association for the Study of Middle East and North Africa on Oct. 28. He is competing with others in his field for a space in the “Journal of the Middle East and North Africa.”

According to Miller, Turkish state planners were motivated by Kemalism and modernization theory. They saw the guest worker program as a way to develop the country. Kemalism, Turkey’s founding ideology, is rooted in the principles of secular democracy. Turkish founding ideology was influenced by Europe.

“Investigating the differences of international migration from the political and social context of both the sending and receiving nations … offers important historical context to intended changes within and between both societies,” Miller said.

Miller showed how past development projects also influence modern society.

“I am interested in trying to understand the historical context of this because I am interested in contemporary issues in Turkey and throughout the Middle East,” Miller said.

Turkey has recently been faced with a series of terrorist attacks and an attempted coup. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been purging Turkish journalists, intellectuals, judges and political opponents.

“I think anything on Turkey right now is relevant considering the political climate,” said Chris Brindle, ’18, a history major who attended the lecture. “I am here specifically because I do not know much about Turkish history, but I think I need to be considering all the stuff that is going on with the war on terror, the civil war in Syria and the coup.”

Professors often conduct their research during weekends and over the summer. Many professors incorporate their work into the class.

“Research—always pushing knowledge forward—is very important,” Miller said. “This idea that I try to develop through my outside research directly informs nuanced changes to further develop what I am teaching in the classroom. Research and teaching, while they seem to be two independent things, are actually connected.”

Many of the attendees arrived with little-to-no prior knowledge of Turkish history. Tyler Puorro, ’17, a chemistry major, said that students at Allegheny College are eager to learn.

“This is a picture of Allegheny students in general. We come to learn things we would not have the opportunity to learn about. There is a reason we have had these events for so many years. We are not slowing down on the different events we are having,” said Puorro.

The lecture series gives professors a venue outside of the classroom to share their intellectual interests.

“The engagement that I found in the Q & A afterwards was heartwarming. My research was of interest, and I was able to contribute to the community and their understanding of this issue that is important to me,” Miller said.