Name: Dr. Zeynep Turkyilmaz

Title : The Onerous Odyssey of Hovannes Avetaranian: A Cosmopolite’s struggle for emancipation, agency and equality

Starting date: 01.10.2021

Project Description: My RTG project investigates the life of a convert, Mehmet Şükrü who was born to a Muslim family in a small village in the eastern territories of the Ottoman Empire in 1861, adopted the name Hovannes Avetaranian and died as a devoted Protestant missionary in Wiesbaden Germany in 1919. Tracing  Avetaranian’s exceptional journey, his views on the world, his curiosity and soul-searching, self-proselytization and conversion, his missionary life from the Kashgar Mountains in China to Potsdam in Germany, I hope to uncover a trajectory of critical, dissenting and emancipatory entanglements of the local population in the Ottoman countryside with the modern-world -in-the-making. In the end however, Avetaranian’s struggle could not redesign the religio-political trajectory of his peoples as he had imagined and hoped, nor it could change the metanarrative about them within or outside of the Ottoman Empire. Yet, drawing on multi-sited archival work and critical literature on Ottoman empire, colonialism, cosmopolitanism, and religious/conversion studies, I propose to study his struggles as a radical intervention and an unwavering reminder of the complex and divergent possibilities of the past, and of enclaves of alternative worldings.