World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Neither Pashas nor Sultans: Alternative leadership in the late Ottoman Empire and Early Republican Turkey (258) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED 21, 5.00-7.00 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (UK)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Ioannis Moutsis & Stefano Taglia

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: This panel wishes to bring together scholars working on different aspects of late Ottoman/early republican Turkish history, who hope to shed new light on the life and the works of emblematic figures that shaped the visions of their contemporaries on the past and the future of their communities and political associations. During the last century of the Ottoman Empire and the single party period of the Turkish Republic, one can witness similar trends in the conception of power and of who holds it, be it the Sultan or the President of the Republic. Yet, following the era when the ruler was the absolute monarch, roughly from the late 19th century onwards, we also witnessed the emergence of statesmen and religious leaders that either opposed the established political and social foundations or attempted to introduce innovative ideas that would come into confrontation with the status quo. Such examples can be found not only within the borders of the Ottoman Empire or modern Turkey but also in the Turkish speaking world outside of the borders of the republic such as among the Turks of Bulgaria and Greece. Although they didn’t have the opportunity to become as well known as the established Ottoman and Turkish leaders these figures emerged as ''alternative'' great men and contributed substantially to the conceptualisation of socio-political realities, be that for the empire or the republic.

Chair: Onur Ylidirim (Assoc. Prof.-Middle East Technical University)

Discussant: Marc Aymes (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris)

Paper presenter: Stefano Taglia (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), “Constructing the superiority of the Ottomans: Mehmet Sabahettin and his synthesis of Edmond Demolins”
The paper will focus on Mehmet Sabahettin, the son of Damad Mahmud Pasha. Sabahettin was the ''brain'' behind the organisation of the 1st Congress of Ottoman Liberals in Paris, in 1902, which, even though a failure from the point of view of the creation of a united front against the rule of Abdulhamid II, marked the beginning of a process that was to be unstoppable. It is following the congress of 1902, in fact, that the Young Turks speeded up matters culminating with the revolution of 1908. What is most interesting about the figure of Sabahettin is his constant effort to apply his synthesis of the ''science sociale'' of Edmond Demolins to the Ottoman environment: while most of the members of the CUP either abandoned the society or aligned themselves with the new status-quo after 1908, Sabahettin remained convinced of the principles of sociology that he had studied and remained at the fringes for the rest of his life. Sabahettin was undoubtedly an arrogant, uncompromising man, pitting himself against almost all those who represented the constituted power. However, his ideas were progressive and enlightening for his time: the idea of reforming the schooling system and the social position of the family in Ottoman/Turkish society, as well as his plan for the creation of a federal empire were clear innovations.

Paper presenter: Ioannis Moutsis (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), "Necati Özkan: A Turkish Cypriot Kemalist in Cyprus of the 1920s"
The paper will seek to investigate the emergence of a new Turkish Cypriot political class towards the end of the 1920s. Through the consolidation of the Kemalist reforms in the Turkish Cypriot society and the confrontation with the Greek Cypriot demands for Enosis the traditional partnership with the British that was viewed essential for balancing the Greek Cypriot agitation was longer considered the only viable policy. In this way Sir Munir Bey, the Turkish Cypriot member of the legislative council and member of the Evkaf that in the mid 1920s was intended by the British to become the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community and counterbalance the power of the Archbishop, was disregarded in the eyes of his community. So much so that in the elections for the legislative council in 1930 to Necati Özkan, a young businessman who soon became the unofficial leader of the Turkish Cypriot community throughout the 1930s until the emergence of the political leadership that would become engaged in the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus. Necati Özkan, born in 1899, was the first Turkish Cypriot expressed the Kemalist set of principles that would become quite popular in among the Turkish Cypriots already from the early 1920s and was one of the first Turkish Cypriots to openly question the community?s association with the British Administration. He explicitly challenged this ?Turco-British? pact by voting with his Greek Cypriot colleagues against a Tax Bill brought for approval by the British colonial government in 1931. In the same year he was one of the chief organizers of the Turkish Cypriot national congress. Based on archival material from both the Northern and the Southern part of the island the paper will attempt to highlight the procedure that led to emergence of the new political class and the basic features of the Necati Özkan?s leadership at a time when British colonialism did not offer the possibility for extended political action.