Michael Ferguson: Izmir as a City of Displacement

Izmir as a City of Displacement, 1875-2015

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Michael Ferguson

This project is premised on the argument that the history of Izmir is an ideal case-study for inquiry into the evolution of the political, social, cultural, and legal history of displacement. In focusing on Izmir, this study decenters prevailing Ottoman, Turkish, and even Mediterranean frameworks that have set both temporal and geographic limits on understandings of displacement. A sustained study of the movement of displaced peoples through Izmir reveals networks that traverse and extend beyond “Mediterranean,” “Middle Eastern,” and “African” parameters and thus call these categories into question. Moreover, through a study of Izmir’s long historical experience with migration and resettlement schemes, Michael hopes to enable both scholars and policymakers to think about the structural problems inherent in our current international order, in which displacement is less a rupture or “crisis” than a feature of that very order.
In this project Michael is examining three major waves of displacement in the history of Izmir. First, it will trace the arrival of refugees from the Balkan provinces of the Ottoman Empire as a result of the Russo-Ottoman War (1877-78). This first major uprooting of more than one million people resulted in tens if not hundreds of thousands arriving in Izmir in just a few years. Second, this project will examine the displacement of local Greeks (Turkish: Rum) out of Izmir and the concurrent arrival of Turks (and all Muslims) as part of the Greek-Turkish Population Exchange of 1923. Finally, it will turn to the more recent mass wave of people displaced by wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, who, since 2011, have been using Izmir as a launching point for the sea journey to Greece and the European Union.

Michael Ferguson is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, UK. Michael’s research focuses on questions of identity, marginalization, and minorities in the late Ottoman Empire and early republican Turkey. His current book project examines the relatively unknown social and cultural history of enslaved and emancipated Africans and their descendants in Izmir in the late Ottoman Empire. His study contributes to the historiography on African slavery, as well as the growing body of scholarship uncovering the lives of non-elite subjects whose contributions to the making of the late Ottoman world have been underrepresented in the prevailing literature.


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