Prof. Paolo Girardelli

Boğaziçi University

Paolo Girardelli is an art and architectural historian working on the visual and spatial dimension of European/Ottoman/Mediterranean encounters. Since October 2019, he chairs the Department of History of Boğaziçi (Bosphorus) University, where his teaching and research activity started in 1999. He was a Fellow in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT in 2005-06, an invited scholar at the INHA (Paris) in 2013, at ANAMED (Koç University Research Center for Anatolian Studies) in 2015-16, and at KHI Florenz in 2016. He also took part in the Getty Connecting Art Histories Initiative, and was involved as an external observer/commentator in the Art, Space, Mobility project lead by Gerhard Wolf and Hannah Baader. In 2018-19 he taught Islamic art history, and a seminar on Islamic architecture and the environment, at UNC – Chapel Hill. He was co-editor, with Ezio Godoli, of the volume Italian Architects and Builders in the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, and guest editor of a thematic issue of the journal Architecture Beyond Europe on the space of diplomacy, both published in 2017.

  • Architectural and urban history
  • Cultural/political landscapes
  • Mediterranean studies
  • Ottoman-European encounters
  • Levantine visual culture

Paolo Girardelli's current book project is a spatial and architectural history of the so-called Eastern Question, observed from the point of view of the changing urban/architectural image of Pera - the "cosmopolitan" district of diplomacy and foreign settlement in Istanbul. As a guest at the KHI, he is especially focusing on the religious dimension of landscape in this plural environment. Religious minorities in Pera and other late Ottoman environments were (in)visible and (un)recognizable according to changing, historically contingent spatial and architectural dynamics. The conversion of a significant number of Ottoman Armenians to Catholicism in the 18th and 19th century was one of the major challenges to the traditional order, framing co-existence and inter-communal relationships. How did Catholic institutions in Istanbul and Europe respond to this challenge? What were the material, spatial and visual consequences of the emancipation of non-Muslim Ottoman subjects from restrictions such as settlement patterns and sumptuary laws? Which elements of landscape are still representative, in Pera and elsewhere, of similar historical dynamics, and what kind of meaning does civil society ascribe to them today? These and other issues inspire Paolo's work at the KHI, while constituting the main elements of several parts of his book.


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