World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


OTTOMAN PERSPECTIVES - 2/4. Discourses on Religion and Nation (045) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: MON 19, 5 - 7 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description:

Paper Presenter: Birten Çelik (Assistant Professor, Middle East Technical University, Turkey), “Changing Lives and Identities: The Ottoman Women and the World War I”
Though the Ottoman women were used to the wars, the World War I changed their course of life from many aspects. Although there were female labors in the Ottoman Empire long before this war, their number increased with the war and many Ottoman women replaced the male labors in the factories, service and construction works. The Ottoman women even worked in the women labor battalion formed in 1917 to produce the needs of the army. Meanwhile it was again during this war period, the Ottoman women though with limited numbers began to work as civil servants. Moreover, women?s active participation in the benevolent societies and nationalist activities also increased during this war period and Ottoman women began to be seen more in the public. All these efforts that they spent were not only for themselves but also for the survival of their country as well where still they were not equal with the men in the society as well as in the constitution. When the World War I was finished with the defeat of the Central Powers of which the Ottoman Empire was a member, its last territory Anatolia was occupied by the Allied Powers. Another struggle started for the Ottoman women but this time there were only Muslim women who were mainly Turkish to save their country while their fellows from different ethnicities were busy to establish their own independent state on the ex-Ottoman territories. Thus, the concept being an Ottoman lost its meaning so did the concept of Ottoman women. At this point it is necessary to ask, how did the Ottoman women came to this point? If it had not been this war could the women in the Ottoman Empire participate more in the working life and be active in the social life? Did they benefit from their previous experiences? Were the efforts that the Ottoman women spent during this war can be interpreted as their patriotism or feminine approach to what came with the war? And when and in which conditions they won a national consciousness if they have any? This paper aims to answer these questions by concentrating on the experiences and achievements of the Ottoman women during the World War I to be able to understand what changed in their life with this war positively or negatively and to learn how they benefited from these experiences to draw their future with a new identity.

Paper Presenter: Mehmet Ozan (PhD student, University of Cambridge, UK), “Different Approaches to Nationalism in the Islamist Discourse in the Late Ottoman Society: A Case Study of the Journal Sebilü’r-re’ad (1908-1924)”
My intention in this study is to examine the transformation of Turkish Islamist discourse in the journal Sebilür-resad between the years of 1908-1924. Sebilür-Resad started to be published in 1908 in Istanbul, after the Ottoman sultan Abdülhamit II’s oppression over the intellectual and political life terminated with his reign. The journal was criticizing the importation of Western institutions and thoughts into the empire. It was generally advocating the idea of Muslim unity (ummah) based on an ideal moral and political solidarity against the encroachment of Western powers to the Muslim world. In the articulation of such solidarity, the noteworthy point is in what different ways nationalism was codified in this Islamist discourse in the face of changing political conjuncture in Turkey during that period. For this study, I analyzed thirty articles published in the journal of the leading Islamist intellectuals between those years. In the light of my findings, it may be seen that three different types of nationalism (Turkism, Ottomanism, and territorial Turkish nationalism) respectively were promoted and integrated into the Islamist discourse in three different periods: 1908-1913 (the rise of Turkishness); 1913-1919 (the separation of Arab provinces after WWI); and 1919-1924 (Turkish National Liberation War in Anatolia). In this paper, overall, I will try to demonstrate how Islamist discourse can be intertwined with varying notions of state, subject and nation under different political and historical circumstances.

Paper Presenter: Slobodan Ilic (Associate Professor - Dr., Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus), “Between Heresy and Legitimacy: The Religious Discourse of the 17th Century Ottoman Empire”
The question of legitimacy of the theosophical teachings of the great Andalusian mystic Muhyuddin ibn Arabi (d. 1240) and skepticism concerning its conformity with the Islamic orthodoxy had been raised very early, and it led to a warm dispute between its supporters and opponents already in the Great Master’s lifetime. The first systematical criticism of unorthodox religious practices and, in particular, of the Ibn Arabi’s theory of ontological monism (wahdat al-wujud) was made by Taqiyy ad-din Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) and all later purist movements were more or less its replica. He followed basically in the footsteps of Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 1200), who in his work ‘Talbisu Iblis’ had condemned all extreme practices of early organized sufism (e.g. celibacy, veneration of saints and their graves, renunciation and rejection to participate in any responsibility for the life of the community) claiming that they were in discord with the spirit of Islamic creed. The dispute took a new dimension at the beginning of the 17th century through the religious zeal of Mehmed Qad’-zade (d. 1635), a student of religious conservative Mehmed Birgivi (d. 1573), who denounced some ‘novelties’ like consumption of coffee and tobacco, and persuaded Murad IV to take cruel measures to suppress them. Targeted were also some extreme ritual practices of dervish brotherhoods notably body-mortification of Rufais and devran (standing zikr) of Halvetis. On the other side of the polemic were Halwati sheikh Abdülmecid Sivasi (d. 1639-40) and his disciples. The paper aims to offer an insight in this long-lasting intellectual debate whose focal point was the work and intellectual legacy of the great mystic.

Paper Presenter: Melis Hafez (PhD Candidate, UCLA, USA), “The Question of the "Laziness of the Ottoman Nation": The Discourse and Practice of Work and Nation-formation in Late Ottoman Society”
In 1843, just four years after the edict of Gulhane, with which the Ottoman Empire entered its long nineteenth century, an unsigned article appeared in the official newspaper of the empire. This article, after evaluating the empires position within the rapidly changing world, ascribed its politico-economic weakness directly to a sole reason: the laziness of the 'Ottoman nation.' To the reformers, laziness was a social disease that lied at the core of the empires decline. This paper presents a section of an ongoing research on the development of modern work concepts and emergence of laziness as a social problem in late Ottoman society (1839-1920). In contrast to the rather comprehensively studied history of labor movements, modern discourses of work and related cultural struggles in the nineteenth century are not examined sufficiently in the Middle Eastern historiography. How were the concepts of work moralized, socially practiced and politicized in late Ottoman society? How did the contents of work, work ethic and laziness change by becoming social, 'national' and political issues? Emphasizing the role of social praxis in the emergence and spread of new discourses, in this paper I focus on two specific processes. In the context of the expansion of bureaucracy and the bureaucratic reforms, I examine the states efforts to order and reorder the work discipline, time management and leisure of its employees. The bureaucratic reforms attempted to eliminate a perceived idleness in the governmental bureaus and helped create a (re)definition of work space and work time by restructuring the offices, regulating the officials, and thus engaging them in shared practice that redefined their temporal and spatial experiences. Not surprisingly, the issues of laziness and the wasting of time, which bore the stigma of hindering industrialization, were targeted not only by the state to determine the parameters of a good and productive 'citizen' but also by various political groups. The second focus of this paper is based on the ethic books of the period, which display an 'elective affinity' between the mobilization for productivity, modern conceptualizations of body and time, and nation formation. Unlike the state orders that specifically targeted the bureaucrats, the authors of ethics books, most of whom were bureaucrats themselves, addressed the entire Ottoman 'nation' Constantly defined and redefined through multiple perspectives of the historical players of the period, the ideas on idleness, laziness and work provide us keys to understanding the specificities of Ottoman modernity.