This year's Irene Tilenius Bloom Prize is awarded to Yasemin Akcaguner, a senior in the Middle East track for a project on temporality in the late Ottoman Empire. Akcaguner spent the summer in Istanbul researching center-periphery relations in the Ottoman Empire, particularly in the context of the clock towers Sultan Abdulhamid II built throughout the Empire for his silver jubilee in 1901. After three years of studying Arabic at Columbia, Akcaguner, a native speaker of Turkish, was able to make use of sources in Ottoman Turkish from the late nineteenth century, including newspaper articles from the period as well as government correspondences found in the Presidential Ottoman Archives in Istanbul. In her senior thesis, she hopes to analyze how these clocktowers, symbolical of a shift from religious time to European modern time, affected the everyday lives of nineteenth century Ottomans.
The Irene Tilenius Bloom Prize was established in 2013 in honor of Professor Irene Bloom (d. 2010), who was a much-beloved Professor (from 1984) and Chair (from 1994) of the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, until her retirement in 2002. She taught in the field of Chinese Philosophical and Political Thought, with a specialization on the ancient Confucian philosopher Mencius. She also taught a popular course on Human Rights in East Asia.