Living in the Ottoman Realm: Empire and Identity, 13th to 20th Centuries

Living in the Ottoman Realm: Empire and Identity, 13th to 20th Centuries

Living in the Ottoman Realm: Empire and Identity, 13th to 20th Centuries

Living in the Ottoman Realm: Empire and Identity, 13th to 20th Centuries

Synopsis

Living in the Ottoman Realm brings the Ottoman Empire to life in all of its ethnic, religious, linguistic, and geographic diversity. The contributors explore the development and transformation of identity over the long span of the empire's existence. They offer engaging accounts of individuals, groups, and communities by drawing on a rich array of primary sources, some available in English translation for the first time. These materials are examined with new methodological approaches to gain a deeper understanding of what it meant to be Ottoman. Designed for use as a course text, each chapter includes study questions and suggestions for further reading.

Excerpt

This volume was conceptualized in 2007 at a Middle East Studies Association (MESA) book fair in Montreal. We had just met and introduced ourselves when we began discussing our mutual research interests in Ottoman identity. Since we are respectively an early modernist (Christine) and modernist (Kent) in our scholarly periods of study, we were intrigued by the idea of discussing this important issue across time and space in the Ottoman Empire. We both lamented how rarely Ottomanists who study different time periods actually engage each other’s work to compare the continuities and changes from premodern to modern times. It was during this conversation that the germ of an idea arose that compelled us to expand the scope of our intellectual inquiry and engage Ottoman studies more broadly. We also lamented how few pedagogical resources existed for teaching about the empire, particularly primary sources in translation and accessible stories of individuals, groups, and everyday life.

We decided to keep in touch and organize a panel on Ottoman identity at the next mesa conference in 2008. This was a small four-person panel with one scholar representing each of the four generally accepted historical periods of the empire. It was a test, really, to see how the conversation and dialogue would go and to see if this project could grow wings. We were both very pleasantly surprised by the turnout, the presentations, and the audience participation. This experience impelled us to dream big and devise a more ambitious plan. in fact, we hatched the idea to bring even more scholars together to share their work and engage each other in a conference setting.

In December 2011 at the annual mesa conference in Washington, dc, we successfully pulled off something that to the best of our knowledge had never been tried before at this venue. We created our own workshop within a conference by organizing four panels on the theme of Ottoman identity, one panel for each period of the empire’s history. This series of panels brought nearly thirty Ottomanists together to share their research and discuss the possibilities and intricacies of the creation, development, augmentation, transformation, and expansion of what it meant to be Ottoman from the dynasty’s earliest beginnings as a pastoral-nomadic polity until its demise as an imperial nation-state. Each session was packed with participants, and the excitement, engagement, and support of the broader Ottoman scholarly community was astounding. We realized that we needed to produce a book to keep the conversation alive.

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