Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Rethinking Late Ottoman Civilization Symposium

March 24-25, 2017 | The University of Texas at Austin

Keynote Speaker: Suraiya Faroqhi

Program Committee: Samy Ayoub, Jeannette Okur, and Firdevs Canbaz Yumuşak

The Ottomans encountered the word civilization in the early 19th century, and the Ottoman version of this word, medeniyet, was coined thereafter. Both ‘civilization’ and ‘empire’ refer to comprehensive manifestations of power, culture, and ideas. This symposium will explore the artifacts of Ottoman modernization and intellectual history, and encourage careful examination of the late Ottoman discourse on “civilization.”

As is well known, many Ottoman intellectuals, in their conceptualization of civilization, aimed to reconcile the material achievements of European civilization with Ottoman-Islamic morality and aesthetics. Even so, historiographies in the post-Ottoman sovereign states have often equated modernization with de-Ottomanization, a notion which excludes the Ottoman period as a legitimate setting for the study of modernity. This symposium encourages new scholarship that will further legitimize the study of Ottomans’ engagement with modernity’s social, political, economic and aesthetic implications. 

Conference Program

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Welcome Reception | Reading Room (CAL 516) | 6:00-8:00 pm

Friday, March 24, 2017 | CLA 1.302B

Registration/Coffee and bagels | 8:30 am – 9:00 am

Opening Remarks | 9:00 - 9:15 am

Session One | 9:15 am - 10:30 am | Ulama, Courts, and Political Order 

Moderator: Samy Ayoub, UT Austin

Amir Toft, University of Chicago, “Registered Silence: The Institutional Logic of the Ottoman Sicils”

Marilene Karam, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, “Ulama as ambivalent political actors of change: the work of ‘Abd al-Jawād al-Qāyātī in the end of 19th century”

Coffee Break | 10:30 am - 11:00 am 

Session Two | 11:00 am – 1:00 pm | Rethinking Late Ottoman Historiography

Moderator: Christopher Rose, UT Austin

Chantal El Hayek, Massachussetts Institute of Technology, “Historiography of Levantine Beirut (1830–1930): Questioning Modernist and Postcolonial Narratives of the Late Ottoman City”

Patrick Adamiak, University of California, San Diego, “Expanding the Circle of Civilization in the Syrian Desert: Ottoman Discourse and Refugee Settlement,1878-1914”

Jelena Radovanović, Princeton University, “Can there be a “genius Turk”? Encountering the Ottoman in post-1878 Niš”

Eyal Ginio, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “Shaping the Constitutional Sultanate: The Reign of Mehmed Reşad (1909-1918)”

Lunch |  1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Session Three | 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm | Minorities in the Late Ottoman Empire

Moderator: Kamran Aghaie, UT Austin

J. Andrew Bush, New York University, Abu Dhabi, “Religious Difference and the Politics of Literary Imagination in Kurdistan (1850-1930)”

Michael Sims, University of Washington, Seattle, “Education and National Purpose in Kurdish and Syriac Christian Periodicals of the Late Ottoman Empire”

Rabea Benhalim, University of Texas at Austin, "Reforms and Shifts in Ottoman Jews’ Legal Authority"

Yasar Tolga Cora, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, “Championing Ottomanism: Language and Practice of the Armenian Notables in the Eastern Provinces in mid-Nineteenth Century”

Break | 4:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Keynote Lecture | 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Suraiya Faroqhi, Istanbul Bilgi University, “The material culture of poverty: Cristina Trivulzio’s account of life in mid-nineteenth century Central Anatolia”

Dinner | 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm | Levaca Teppan

Saturday, March 25, 2017 | Calhoun (CAL) 100

Session One | 9:00 am- 10:45 am | Perspectives on Ottoman Civilization 

Moderator: Andrew Akhlaghi, UT Austin

Meltem Toksöz, Brown University/Bosphorus University, “The Concept of Civilization in Late Ottoman Universal Histories”

Melis Hafez, Virginia Commonwealth University, “Moralists as Culture Producers in Late Ottoman Society”

Stefan Detchev, South-West University, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, “Procession of civilization” - the first Bulgarian Istanbul cookbook from 1870 and the road to modernity

Break | 10:45 am – 11:00 pm 

The Ottoman rebab, mini-concert by Celil Refik Kaya | 11:00 –11:30 pm

Lunch | 11:00 pm – 11:30 am

Session Two | 12:30 pm – 2:15 pm | Ottoman Sensibilities

Moderator:David Rahimi, UT Austin

Alison Terndrup, Boston University, “Picturing the Modern Sultan: a Portrait of Mahmud II”

Emrah Şahin, University of Florida, “Taken Hostage in Ottoman Lands: Imperial State Responses to Miss Stone Affair, American Missionaries, and Public Disorder”

Ellinor Morack, Otto-Friedrich University, Bamburg, “The experience of Ottoman modernity and the advent of the apocalypse: Yecüc ve Mecüc (Istanbul ca. 1910)”

Break |  2:15 pm – 3:00 pm

Session Three | 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm | Ottoman Women, Family and Modernity

Moderator: Jeannette Okur, UT Austin

Kate Dannies, Georgetown University, “Gender and Modernity in the Ottoman First World War”

Ansev Demirhan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “A Transregional Muslim Woman Question and its Ottoman Roots”

Tuğba Karaman, Independent Scholar, “Rethinking Islam, Remaking Ottoman Women: “True Islam” Discourse in the Late Ottoman Women’s Press”

Hakan Karpuzcu, Princeton University, “Reorganizing the Family Through Law in the Late Ottoman Empire”

Concluding Remarks |  5:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Dinner | 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

For further information, please contact: Dr. Samy Ayoub at

Co-sponsored by: Center for European Studies, Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies, College of Liberal Arts, Department of History, Graduate School Academic Enrichment Fund, Institute for Historical Studies, Islamic Studies Initiative, Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law, Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice

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