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Remembering a Lost Homeland:
Bozburun in the Past and Present

Scattered ancient Greek temples, Byzantine monastic remains and dilapidated churches, residential complexes shape much of the built environment of the Bozburun Peninsula. Observing these architectural traces prompts one to think about the natives using these buildings, conducting daily activities, rituals and religious feasts. Throughout its history from the Classical period onwards, the peninsula had been inhabited by a mixed body of inhabitants comprised first of pagans and then the Greek Orthodox and Muslim communities until the Compulsory Exchange of Populations between Greece and Turkey (1923). This treaty prompted the departure of the native Greeks from the area into Greece. The Phoenix archaeological and cultural heritage project aims to examine the remains dated to Greco-Roman, Byzantine times as well as the Ottoman times, concomitantly an oral history study will be carried out aiming to give voice to the former Greek inhabitants and their relatives who had lived here for centuries until the 1923 population exchange. Similarly, a group of Turks who form the majority of the region will be interviewed as well. Besides the Turks, a small ratio of European expats live in the region as well.

The Turkish residents from the villages of Taşlıca (Fenaket) and Söğüt (Karamaka) will be interviewed. To examine the experience of the Greeks from Bozburun, their children who had been settled in Simi, Rhodes, and Athens will be interviewed. The oral history project aims to explore the family stories, the experience of the multi-religious coexistence before 1923 in order to understand the approach of the villagers regarding the past socio-cultural, religious and economic structure of the region. Moreover, complemented with the further archival work conducted in the Prime Ministry Ottoman Archives, our project aims to offer a broader reading of the socio-cultural and political dynamics of the region under the late Ottoman rule. The data gathered through archival research and oral history interviews will be analyzed with an interdisciplinary perspective using historical, sociological, and anthropological methods of analyses.

The negative perception for the Greek and Turkish relations is politically constructed for the purpose of forming homogenous nation-states. Despite the nation-state boundaries drawn between these two states, the Greeks and the Turks inhabit the two sides of the Aegean and share similar if not the same geo-political and economic interests. We hope that this project will contribute to challenge these mutual negative perceptions and turn them into positive ones by offering multi-religious co-existence between these two cultures. Along the same lines, the interdisciplinary analysis of oral history interviews will open a new window to reconstruct the stereotypical understandings produced by the official histories. We believe that the oral history project will instigate a new platform between the Greeks and the Turks to challenge –and eventually diminish– the stereotypical and conventional ideas that created the bases for the notion of conflicting nations. Hence, it will contribute to the development of culture of peace between two sides of the Aegean.