Daria Kovaleva (Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

Oral Drama in Istanbul and the Production of Public Culture in the Second Ottoman Empire (1570s-1820s)

Karagöz puppet, reproduced in Felix von Luschan, “Das türkische Schattenspiel,” in Internationales Archiv für Ethnographie 2 (1889): 81.

Daria Kovaleva is a PhD candidate in History and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Her dissertation investigates the performers of oral drama and the production of spectacle in Istanbul between the late sixteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. The history of the imperial capital’s storytellers, comic impersonators, shadow puppeteers, their evolving dramatic practice and emerging repertoire serve as a window to explore how public culture was produced at that time in the major urban centers of the Eastern Mediterranean (Cairo, Damascus, Istanbul) in comparison to Venice and Naples. The chronological frame of the project allows to revise what remains of pre-nineteenth-century dramatic texts and the evidence which sheds light on its performers, while placing their investigation within the public sphere of early modern Istanbul and within the historical context of the Second Ottoman Empire (1580-1826), as conceptualized by Baki Tezcan (2010). To approach the elusive performative arts historically, the project combines methods of book history and manuscript studies with a history of concepts, historical semantics and socio-economic history (study of profession, industry and market). This research will demonstrate how the Ottoman Empire was not unlike its early modern contemporaries when it comes to the politics, economy, and sociology of the production of culture in general, and the production of spectacle in particular.

Uldanay Jumabay, M.A. (Goethe University Frankfurt/Main)
Clause combining strategies in Kazakh as spoken in China in comparative perspectives

An excerpt from the daily life of Kazakh nomads. Photo: Uldanay Jumabay.

Kazakh, one of the official languages of Kazakhstan, belongs to the Kipchak or North-western branch of the Turkic languages. Kazakh is closely related to other South Kipchak languages such as Kirghiz, Noghay, Karakalpak, and Kipchak Uzbek. Over ten million speakers of Kazakh live in the Republic of Kazakhstan, in north-western China (Xinjiang), and Mongolia.

Turkic languages share a number of typological properties, e.g., their basic word order is typically Subject-Object-Verb. Typical Turkic syntax is left-branching, i.e., head-final. Embedded clauses are based on non-finite verbs such as action nominals, participant nominals, and converbs. The non-finite verbal morphology functions as bound subjunctors, marking the clauses as embedded. These bound junctors correspond in English to free subjunctors, relative pronouns, and adverbs. The planned project aims at describing some selected syntactic properties of Kazakh as spoken in China. Specifically, how are the typical Turkic features represented in Kazakh clause combining strategies and what are the language specific features in Kazakh compared to other Turkic languages as, for instance, Turkish? Kazakh syntax has been studied less than Turkish, thus, a comparative analysis will lead to new insights. Special attention will be paid to the analysis of the morphological and semantic-functional properties of the bound junctors.

Jilian Ma, M.A. (Koç University)
Ottoman/Turkish-China intellectual engagements from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century

Two Ottoman works about Islam in China: Kolcalı Abdülaziz, Çin’de Din-i Mübin-i İslam ve Çin Müslümanları, İstanbul: 1321(1903/1904); Hasan Tahsin, Çin’de İslamiyet , İstanbul: Tercüman-ı Hakikat Matbaası, 1322(1904/1905).

Focusing on the flow of knowledge and people in a global context, this project attempts to trace the Ottoman/Turkish-Chinese connections and mutual perceptions from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, when both societies were trying to relocate themselves on the global stage. It explores how these two distant societies imagined, perceived and narrated each other at the discourse level concerning geographic consciousness and current affairs; how they interacted on the practical level via official and unofficial channels such as foreign policy, official missions, and different kinds of travels; how these interactions shaped their knowledge of each other (knowledge itself and forms of knowledge); what contexts promoted the circulation of knowledge between the two societies; and how this knowledge from or about the opposite side was organized and was included in the multi-dimensional ideologies of the local societies and led to further contact. By shifting the perspective from the Western mental effects of “the sick man of Europe” and “the sick man of Asia” to these two entities’ reference of each other, this study aims to disclose mutually intellectual influence of non-Western countries – both its possibilities and constraints, and endeavors to shed light on the internal transition journeys of these two societies individually and their reciprocal creation of an dialogical network of multidirectional interactions.

Dimitrios Giagtzoglou, M.A. (University of Crete)
The Ottoman “science of letters” in Theory and Practice: Principles, Methods, People and Sources

Figure: Şücaüddin İlyas b. İsa b. Mecdüddin es-Saruhani, (d. 967/1559), Ferahnâme, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, Carullah MS 1539.

During the last fifteen years a good number of excellent books, articles and journals have dealt extensively with the various aspects and forms of Islamicate occult knowledge. Unfortunately, few of these studies have shed light on one of the most fascinating periods of the history of the Middle East and the Balkans, that of the Ottoman Empire. This project aspires to contribute in this new research field through the study of what seems to have been one of the most characteristic expressions of Ottoman occultism. The science of letters (‘ilm al-ḥurūf)  or Lettrism, as it is usually defined by contemporary scholars, could be briefly described as the attribution of mystical qualities to the letters of the alphabet. In the lands of Islam, the works of Muhyiddin ibn Arabi and Ahmed el-Buni are perhaps the most prominent and representative projections of an occult genre, which was expressed both on a highly philosophic and, at the same time, quite practical level. Many of the disciples of these great masters of the letters continued their legacy and had an impact on the courts of the various rulers of the Arab and Persian Lands. For the Ottoman sultans, who, from mid-fourteenth century, were trying to establish themselves as an important political power amongst the other Anatolian emirates, the production of lettrist knowledge was a useful tool in their effort to construct their imperial ideology and legitimize their political authority. Talismanic objects such as shirts and inscribed amulets were produced especially for the protection of the sultan’s family, while some of the most prominent members of the ulema provided the rulers with lettrist prophecies on major events of the near or distant future. At the same time, various sufi circles applied lettrist knowledge to interprete the Quran and understand the esoteric qualities and truths of the universe and the world around them. The project brings together all these different voices and sets off to describe, analyse and above all contextualise them inside the intellectual realities and the social and political dynamics of Anatolia and the greater Ottoman Empire.

Mehdi Mirabian Tabar (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
Theologico-Political Obstacles to the Establishment of the Modern State in Iran: A Study of Iran’s Constitutional Movement of 1906

The opening of the first National Assembly (Majlis) in the courtyard of the military school of Tehran (1906)

In Iran, the nineteenth century, which coincided with the reign of the Qajar dynasty, was a period of profound changes in the economy, politics, and culture. The seeds of constitutional thought in Iran were also sown in the early nineteenth century when a group of intellectuals introduced modern concepts and ideas—such as the rule of law, limited monarchy, freedom, and equality—to the country. The main objective of the constitutional movement was to curtail the Shah’s absolute power by enacting a set of laws modeled after European ones—that is, a state based on the rule of law. This was not something that could be easily accomplished for two reasons: First, the Shah opposed any limitations on his absolute power; And, second, the Shi῾ite clerics considered the idea of law making to be contrary to Islam. However, what made the situation worse for the constitutionalists was the collaboration between the shahs and the Shi῾ite clerics, which had its roots in the Safavid era (1501-1736) and reached its peak during the Qajar period. With the gradual expansion of constitutional thought in Iran, this collaboration turned into a coalition that opposed constitutionalism and advocated the old regime. This study aims to investigate this coalition as a theologico-political obstacle to the establishment of modern state in Iran: a state based on laws originating from the unassisted human reason in a community governed by God’s law and His sovereign will.

Douglas Mattsson, Södertörn University, Stockholm
Religious semiotic resources in black metal music and the evolvement of subcultures

Douglas Mattsson is a PhD student at the department of Religious Studies at Södertörn University in Stockholm, Sweden. His academic background is in the study of religion, and his research has mostly focused on youth and subcultures in Muslim majority societies and especially Turkey. He is currently working on his dissertation which is an ethnographic study of the Turkish black metal music scene. His dissertation will be the first major scholarly work that focuses on a subculture that has been present in Turkey since the early 1990s. In the general framework of his dissertation, Mattsson is particularly interested in how religious semiotic resources are utilized within the scene to communicate thoughts and opinions regarding religion in Turkey. His most recent publication includes chapters in the anthologies The Politics of Culture in Contemporary Turkey (Pierre Hecker, Ivo Furman (eds.) Edinburgh University Press, 2021) and Living Metal: Metal Scenes around the World (Bryan Bardine, Jerome Stueart (eds.) Intellect, 2021).