World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010

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Public Culture and the Experiences of Modernity in Ottoman Cities (417) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel
 

· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI 23, 9.00-11.00 am

· NOT_DEFINED institution: College of William and Mary (USA)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Sibel Zandi-Sayek

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The session will focus on the use of everyday life and experience to examine
and conceptualize understandings of public space in major cities of the
Ottoman Empire in the early modern and modern period. The aim is to
explore new approaches and innovative methodologies to the study of
Ottoman urban history, and to the ways we think and write about cities, public
space, and the public sphere in the Ottoman context. Through four case
studies ranging from eighteenth-century Damascus to nineteenth-and early
twentieth-century Beirut and Istanbul, the papers simultaneously engage the
social and spatial dimensions of public space and highlight people’s agency
in defining public space. They explore the continual reformulations of notions
of public and private, both in the period preceding the centralization of urban
order and in the context of the rapid urbanization and modernization of the
second half of the nineteenth century.

Chair: Sibel Zandi-Sayek, Department of Art and Art History

Discussant: Shirine Hamadeh, Department of Art History, Rice University

Paper presenter: Dana Sajdi, Department of History, Boston University, The Flaneur of Damascus: The Topographies of Ibn Kannan

Paper presenter: Ralph Bodenstein, Cairo University and German Archeological Institute in Cairo, Containing the Public: Domestic Space and the Public-Private Intersections in the Houses of Beirut's Elites

Paper presenter: Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, Department of History, Northeastern University, On The Waterfront: Work, Leisure and Protest in the Port of Beirut, 1890-1914

Paper presenter: Irvin Schick, Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Sabanci University, The Contestation for Public Space: Men and Dogs in Turn of Twentieth-Century Istanbul

Dana Sajdi's paper, ''The Flaneur of Damascus: The Topographies of Ibn Kannan,” demonstrates that the experience of public life and the everyday environment emerged as new subjects in an older literary genre in eighteenth-century Damascus. Sajdi
focuses on Ibn Kannan's diary and topographies, representative of this new
urban sensibility, to discuss how the citizen-author gradually took possession
of the city. She shows that in contrast to earlier topographies of the city that
emphasized divinity or political power, Ibn Kannan’s Damascus informs a new
consciousness of the public space of the city. Ralph Bodenstein brings
attention to the significance of the private realm in conceptualizations of the
public, by bringing the private into the fold of the public sphere in Beirut, in
the second half of the nineteenth century.

Bodenstein’s paper, ''Containing the Public: Domestic Space and the Public-Private Intersections in the Houses of Beirut's Elites,'' examines the houses of the city's elites as important, yetoverlooked, spaces for socialization and sites for the reproduction of social relations at times of rapid socio-cultural transformations. He explores the
parallels between the changing spatial layout in these houses and shifting
notions of private and public.

The shaping of concepts of public and public space is the subject of Ilham Khuri-Makdisi’s paper, ''On The Waterfront: Work, Leisure and Protest in the Port of Beirut, 1890-1914.'' Khuri-Makdisi examines everyday life on the quays of late nineteenth-century Beirut, focusing on the impact of the establishment of the Compagnie du Port de Beyrouth on how port-workers and other inhabitants of the city used the
waterfront as a site of work, leisure and protest. She argues that local
periodicals, the municipality, and the Port Company played a role in
promoting specific, often conflicting visions of the city and in shaping notions
of the public and the urban public space. Likewise, Irvin Schick explores public
spaces as sites of contestation, yet, his paper addresses this issue in the
context of turn-of-the-twentieth-century-Istanbul, as waged between
neighborhood residents and stray dogs, who had traditionally functioned as
guardians of the streets.

Schick’s paper, ''The Contestation for Public Space: Men and Dogs in Turn of Twentieth-Century Istanbul,'' uses the massacre of Istanbul's stray dogs in 1910 as a vehicle to argue that it was not, contrary to common interpretations, a consequence of modernist ideology. Rather, it was a product of the changing practices of public spaces that occurred as neighborhood boundaries became increasingly porous and as the Ottomans ‘conquered the night’.