As a preeminent scholar in Middle Eastern studies, Wyant Professor and Professor of Political Science Lenore Martin is often contacted by members of the international media asking for her thoughts on the state of Turkey's foreign policies, especially in regard to its emerging influence in the Middle East. Witnessing this shift in policy and its effect on Turkish-Middle East relations with her own eyes provided her with added confidence to respond to such queries.
During the spring 2010 semester, Dr. Martin served as a Senior Research Fulbright Scholar in Ankara, Turkey, conducting research for a book on the developing role of Turkey in the Middle East. The four-and-a-half-month visit marked her longest stay since she first began traveling to Turkey in 1994 and offered the type of insight only firsthand experience can provide.
"The government is much more involved in the Middle East now compared to when I traveled there in 1994 and 2000," said Dr. Martin. "In class, I like to stress 'perspective.' It is very hard to understand international relations unless you are willing to see and understand other perspectives, then you can begin to think in terms of policy that makes sense. It was a wonderful experience. To have the opportunity to live in another country like that is a privilege."
Approximately 1,250 U.S. college and university faculty and professionals receive a Fulbright grant to teach and/or conduct research abroad each year. Dr. Martin has been a member of Emmanuel's faculty since 1973. In addition, she serves as a research associate of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and as an associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, both at Harvard University, where she co-chairs the Middle East Seminar and Seminar on Turkey in the Modern World.
While in Turkey, Dr. Martin conductedresearch at Middle East Technical University (METU), where she previously helped develop a Middle East program in 2006 as part of a Senior Fulbright Specialist grant. This most recent experience allowed her to focus on her own research and writing, to travel throughout the region and to give more than a dozen speaking engagements around the country sponsored by Turkish universities, think tanks, the U.S. Embassy and the Fulbright Commission. Turkey's increased activism in the Middle East marks a dramatic shift from previous decades. According to Dr. Martin, during her sabbatical stay the country was exerting great energy to build strong relationships all over the region, especially with Syria, Iraq and Iran. She traveled to two Syrian border locations to witness the increased relations herself and came away impressed by the economic growth.
"Not too long ago the relationshipsbetween Syria and Iran had been very strained and Turkey looked more toward Europe than it did to the Middle East," said Dr. Martin. "Upon election in 2002, this Turkish government decided to build on its geopolitical location and cultural ties going back to the Ottoman Empire and rebuild its relationships in the region, especially economic relationships with Syria, Iran and Iraq."
Dr. Martin's travels introduced her to associates around the world, many of whom she integrated into her classroom teaching upon returning to Emmanuel. After a visit to Palestine during her research abroad, she invited three speakers to her "Strategies of War and Peace" course via the video-calling tool Skype and through communication technology available on campus in the Daley Family Classroom, a multi-purpose classroom located in the Maureen Murphy Wilkens Science Center. In preparation for their simulated negotiation of the Israel-Palestine conflict, students were able to speak with a minister in the Palestinian authority, a nonviolent activist, and a former deputy speaker of Israeli Parliament, all of whom are very involved in trying to bring a peaceful, two-state solution to the dispute.
"It was an opportunity for students to think critically about crucial questions of war, peace and negotiation strategies with prime movers in the Palestinian and Israeli political struggle for peace," said Dr.Martin. "There was a great interchange. The students really appreciated the opportunity to meet leaders from both sides and the Middle Eastern guests appreciated the opportunity to clarify their positions and the challenges ahead.
"This is an exciting time to be teachingabout the Middle East and Turkey," she added. "I am able to bring my experiences in Turkey to the classroom as we analyze the dynamic changes in Middle East politics and Turkey's role in them."