Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

Well-Connected Domains: Towards an Entangled Ottoman History

Academic journal article International Journal of Turkish Studies

Well-Connected Domains: Towards an Entangled Ottoman History

Article excerpt

PASCAL W. FIRGES, TOBIAS P. GRAF, CHRISTIAN ROTH, and GÜLAY TULASOGLU, eds., Well-Connected Domains: Towards an Entangled Ottoman History (Leiden: Brill, 2014). Pp. 308. $149.00 cloth.

Well-Connected Domains offers the Anglophone reader a glimpse into the very exciting new work currently being produced by both young and established Ottomanists, united in their quest for new empirical, conceptual, and methodological approaches to older themes. From the outset, this wide-ranging volume aims to integrate Ottoman history more fully into what Francophone scholars have called histoire croisée and Anglophones have dubbed variously as "global," "connected," or "entangled" history. A general introduction outlines the volume's conceptual frame and provenance in a series of meetings orbiting around Heidelberg University's cluster of excellence "Asia and Europe." Fourteen thematic essays follow, showcasing a range of methodological perspectives from microhistory to synthetic overviews, from economic history to philology and network analysis, and from art history to new legal and diplomatic history. Perhaps most fruitfully, this collection of essays also straddles the divide between scholarship on the early modern and Tanzimat eras, and between German, British, Turkish, Greek, Rumanian, Hungarian, and US institutional milieus. In addition to several helpful maps the volume also provides a combined bibliography. While individual pieces vary considerably in approach, and largely shy away from explicitly engaging broad conceptual questions of interest beyond Ottoman studies, they are almost uniformly strong, addressing novel themes, types of documentation, and analytical frameworks.

The volume is divided into three loosely chronological as well as thematic sections, each preceded by its own brief introduction. The first section, "Trade, Warfare, and Diplomacy in the Eastern Mediterranean," focuses largely on the sixteenth century. It opens with a piece by Suraiya Faroqhi, who, in a typical tour de force, provides a concise and erudite survey of Ottoman global trade ventures in the sixteenth century, belying any vestigial image of Ottoman insularity. Joshua White then uses a case study of the 1624-5 corsair raids on iskenderun to open up fascinating questions about the time-old bond and mutual imbrication between Ottoman and Venetian governmentalities. As he cogently shows, the dyadic relationship between Venice and istanbul inevitably entailed triangulation through places like Aleppo and even iskenderun and their attendant local officials and power brokers. In a similar vein, Michael Talbot shows the ways in which Ottoman maritime territoriality emerged as a subject of legal elaboration largely in the context of interstate diplomatic, military, and commercial engagements. While this is not entirely surprising, the piece underscores the ways in which sovereignty was often articulated most forcefully when jeopardized or undermined, and therefore that in order to study its conceptual and practical contours, we must employ an inherently relational frame vis-à-vis the competing concepts and practices of other polities or their agents. Viorel Panaite explores the highly varied contents of a single manuscript, now in the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, which was created by a French diplomat to the Porte at the turn of the seventeenth century, offering us a glimpse into an important and still largely unstudied type of Ottoman miscellany intended for use by foreign diplomatic personnel.

The second section, "Constructing and Managing Identity," covers the late sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. Nur Sobers-Khan analyzes the vocabularies deployed in slave manumission records from sixteenth-century Galata. By attending to the (neo-platonic) philosophical, scientific, and juridical underpinnings of what, at first glance, seem like highly conventionalized records, she underscores how social relations are inherently laced with cultural assumptions about personhood, and, moreover, how such cultural assumptions themselves were contingently shaped by complex dynamics that brought together Persianate, Arabic, and Ottoman discourses. …

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