The 24th International Byzantine Studies Congress was the first Byzantine congress I attended in my academic life, and it was exciting to have the opportunity to listen to the presentations of numerous researchers during a busy schedule over a period of almost one week! The advantage of such organizations is that they can offer the audience many research and paper presentations on diverse topics approaching the discipline from different perspectives in a short time and create an environment that enables researchers to communicate one-on-one, which may then potentially lead to future collaborations. Still, I experienced this beautiful environment with the sadness caused by the reality that the congress could not be held in Istanbul due to political reasons. The fact that such a scientific organization, which could be considered as the Olympics of Byzantine studies, had to be replaced from Istanbul due to the political conjuncture shaped in Turkey in recent years, caused great disappointment for both Turkish and foreign scholars. Many researchers, especially the postgraduates had to withdraw from the congress as they could not afford the combined costs of the participation fee, accommodation, and travel expenses, even though they could have attended the congress if it had been held in Istanbul instead of Venice. Moreover, for the Byzantine Studies a congress to be carried out in the city that was the capital of the Byzantine Empire, with planned trips in Istanbul, would have given the participants the opportunity to experience the material culture of Byzantium. As a result, fewer researchers from Turkey were able to benefit from the scholarly advantages of the congress than they could have if the congress had taken place in Istanbul. On the other hand, despite the scientific objectivity of the studies being conducted in Turkey, the ideological prejudices against Byzantine Studies in Turkey can be disappointing for our future studies. Nevertheless, it was pleasing to see that the number of researchers from Turkey who gave papers at the congress this year increased compared to previous years.
I attended the last two days of the congress. The most important thing that caught my attention was that there was almost no time left for discussion at the end of the sessions for the papers usually exceeded the allocated time. I believe that the lack of feedback and interaction undermines the efficiency of an organization. Furthermore, a closed, narrow corridor out of sight was reserved for poster presentations. In the future congresses, there should be more consideration regarding the venue choices that are efficient for poster presentations, where participants can get one-on-one information about their research.
The 80-page congress program itself is a small reference source for gaining information about current research topics and learning about who is working on which topic. When I looked at the program where Byzantine studies met with different disciplines and perspectives, I wondered how many of these studies were able to find financial support. Our work depends on the financial resources we receive from institutions through project applications, apart from those of tenured academics. It is pleasing to see such a rich program where a variety of research questions are discussed today, where we are increasingly being required to be more “global” and “digital” beyond being interdisciplinary, where our project applications run the risk of being deemed “traditional,” and where IT skills precede academic qualifications in job listings.
A Green and Democratic Congress
The congress in Venice-Padua was held in hybrid format. Remote participation brought forth its advantages and disadvantages alike. Technical problems that impact presentations in terms of time such as fluctuations in Internet connection or microphones not working, and the impossibility of social engagement for remote participants were the primary disadvantages. Despite these significant issues that are difficult to ignore, I believe that the hybrid format should be continued, and remote participation should be encouraged in future congresses.
Above all, remote participation is a highly democratizing solution for participants with physical, economic, social, and geographical (e.g., independent researchers who are not affiliated with an institution and thus need to pay for congress participation from their own means and, parents who cannot travel for as long as a whole week due to familial responsibilities). As I mentioned above, many researchers from Turkey withdrew their papers this year, predominantly for financial reasons. I do not think that it is a fair approach to require the same participation fee for remote and physical attendance, and I am in favor of lowering the participation fees to encourage remote participation in future congresses.
We travel a lot for academic events, especially by plane, and the impact of this situation on the environment and solution proposals are on the agenda of scientific studies, especially following the pandemic. Studies show that researchers who travel more have higher incomes. Furthermore, studies suggest that, there are mostly two reasons why academics attend conferences and congresses: symbolic capital, that is, personal recognition and prestige, in addition to a short vacation! (I think that if the congress had taken place in Istanbul, the participants might not even have had the opportunity to listen to the papers, and rightly so due to the sightseeing opportunities for a week!)
Efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of academic events and their unfavorable impact on the environment and to provide equal opportunity for researchers are also pointing in the direction of increasing hybrid activities. Good news! With this in mind, the organizing committee for the 25th International Congress of Byzantine Studies, which will take place in Vienna in 2026, will apply for the “Green event” certificate and the hybrid format will be continued! I do not think that the contraction of the organization through hybrid participation will negatively impact Byzantine Studies. On the contrary, through such an effort, the support intended for congress and participation can be directed to more research.
An important reason for the acceleration of scientific development today is that information becomes accessible to everyone. Undoubtedly, the most important contribution to Byzantine Studies in Turkey in recent years is the establishment of the social media platform Bizantolog. Currently, the target audience of this platform is Turkish-speaking Byzantine researchers and students. The founders of the platform, who prepare content and events for the discipline, also had the opportunity to introduce themselves to the international community at the congress. The platform stands out especially by making the courses, interviews and workshops it organizes open to everyone through their video-sharing channel. I hope that the papers presented in the next congress will be made accessible in a similar manner. Until now, Venice Ca’ Foscari University only shared a recording of the opening speeches of the congress on its YouTube channel. At the conference held at King’s College University in 2013, it was emphasized that the interest in Byzantine studies in Turkey had increased in recent years. Almost 10 years later, the 24th International Congress of Byzantine Studies could not take place in Istanbul, but the truth is, the congress proved us that Byzantine Studies in Turkey continues with increasing speed and productivity!
Canan Arıkan-Caba, PhD Candidate, Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, University of Vienna
Translation: Neylan Bağcıoğlu
Proofreading: Miray Eroğlu
 Wynes et al., “Academic Air Travel Has a Limited Influence on Professional Success,” Journal of Cleaner Production 226 (2019): 959-967.
 K.G. Høyer ve Petter Næss, “Conference Tourism: A Problem for the Environment, as well as for Research?,” Journal of Sustainable Tourism 9 (6) (2001): 451-460.
 Byzantine: New perspectives from Turkey in Byzantine Studies was held as a conference series at King’s College London during the fall semester in 2013 with the presentations of Nevra Necipoğlu, Buket Kitapçı Bayri, Yaman Dalanay, Günder Varınlıoğlu and Koray Durak.