Law and Legality in the Ottoman Empire and Republic of Turkey

Law and Legality in the Ottoman Empire and Republic of Turkey

Law and Legality in the Ottoman Empire and Republic of Turkey

Law and Legality in the Ottoman Empire and Republic of Turkey


The editors of this volume have gathered leading scholars on the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey to chronologically examine the sweep and variety of sociolegal projects being carried in the region. These efforts intersect issues of property, gender, legal literacy, the demarcation of village boundaries, the codification of Islamic law, economic liberalism, crime and punishment, and refugee rights across the empire and the Aegean region of the Turkish Republic.


Kent F. Schull & M. Safa Saraçoğlu

This edited volume is an expansion of the Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association’s Spring 2015 issue “Law and Legality in the Ottoman Empire and Republic of Turkey” edited by Kent F. Schull (Binghamton University, SUNY), M. Safa Saraçoğlu (Bloomsburg University), and Robert Zens (Le Moyne College). It represents the wide range of excellent work being done in the field of Ottoman and Turkish socio-legal history. This volume includes a number of articles that were initially presented as part of a four-panel session at the 2013 annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) entitled, “Law, Legality, and Legitimacy in the Ottoman Empire.” the “embedded workshop” focused on the complex relationship between law, legality, and legitimacy with the particular goal of understanding the transformation of “how law was legitimized” over the course of Ottoman history. Twenty-five presenters and discussants participated in the four panels containing topics related to socio-legal history throughout the empire’s existence.

Part of the pretext of the workshop was to view “law” as representing a formal, institutional normative order. the formalization of law is a political and cultural process that requires different groups negotiating how to articulate a formal version of “existing norms.” This view also adapts David Garland’s “multidimensional interpretative approach, which sees punishment as an over determined, multifaceted social institution” to law, legality, and legitimization. This adaptation allows us to view law, legality, and legitimacy as “social artifacts” that embody and regenerate wider cultural categories and serve as a means of achieving particular legal ends. Laws, legality, and legitimacy cannot be explained by their instrumental purposes alone, but must also take into account cultural style, historical tradition, and dependence upon institutional, technical, and discursive conditions. They are part of a broader institution, administered by the state, but also grounded in wider patterns of knowing, feeling, and acting that depend upon these social roots for their continuing legitimacy and operation. It is also grounded in history, similar to all social institutions; modern legal codes, practices, and systems are historical outcomes that are imperfectly adapted to their current situation—a product of tradition as much as present policy. There are

1. David Garland, Punishment and Modern Society: a Study in Social Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 2.

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