Erol Koymen (University of Chicago
Sonic Occidentalism and the Infrastructure of the Extraordinary: Classical Music in Turkish Modernity

Atatürk Cultural Center on Taksim Square, 2017. Erol Koymen

Over the past several decades, Turkish urban centers—Istanbul in particular—have been host to a significantly expanding classical music scene. This growth might appear to realize the Kemalist state’s modernist sonic and musical project—what I call “Sonic Occidentalism.” However, as perhaps most dramatically evidenced by the 2018 demolition of the Atatürk Cultural Center in Taksim Square, the Turkish state has not played a primary role in this dynamic. Rather, classical music has flourished in the civil society and corporate sectors and in a network of spaces that bracket the state modernist project at its imperial and neoliberal limits, such as Ottoman-era churches, missionary schools, and corporate holding-sponsored museums and performance spaces. In this project, I employ ethnographic methods to examine these spaces of classical music as an infrastructure. I ask: how does this infrastructure facilitate particular modes of musicking and particular fantasies, imaginaries, and modes of belonging? What are the limits of Occidentalism at the nexus of the Turkish state’s 20th-century modernist project and late-20th and 21st-century liberalization? Finally, how does thinking about music and sound as parts of a network of infrastructural systems open new possibilities for thinking the ways in which these shape and are shaped by urban social life?

Benan Grams (Georgetown University): Ottoman Medicine in Greater Syria

Ghuraba hospital in Damascus

The project investigates the history of Ottoman medicine and public health in Greater Syria with a focus on Damascus and Beirut from the mid-nineteenth century until the beginning of the French mandate in 1921. Its aim is to construct a comprehensive history of Ottoman medical reforms in Syria as an integral part of the empire-wide reform project, Tanzimat.

The Ottoman government engaged in a large-scale medical and public health modernization process as early as the 1830s. In Greater Syria, Ottoman governors introduced medical practices and implemented regulations and policies that served the state’s overall political and reform agendas. The central government had multiple concerns.  It wanted to restore Ottoman authority after the departure of Egyptian troops from Greater Syria in 1841, affirm its legitimacy in the eyes of the Arab population, prevent epidemics and develop a healthy population of able-bodied men for the recently reformed professional army. Additionally, authorities were under pressure to compete with missionaries who had already established their medical education institutions and hospitals.

The process of modernizing public health in Greater Syria affected state-society interaction. It was not a smooth top-down and straight forward process. Both sides were forced to negotiate the definition of illness and what it means to be healthy. Sanitary measures, health regulations and surveillance, designed based on modern conceptions of diseases and new notions of hygiene, brought state officials into intimate contact with the population. It was an initial step in a series of biopolitics the Ottoman government undertook to move the Ottoman society towards modernity. These interventionist measures encroached on the private sphere and disturbed the society’s gendered structure, imposing new ways of understanding the rights of the state over people’s bodies.

During her stay at the Orient-Institut Istanbul, Benan Grams will rely on official Ottoman statistics, correspondence, regulations, and laws housed at the Prime Minister’s Ottoman Archives in Istanbul (BOA). In particular, the official communication between Istanbul and the provincial administrators of Arab cities give us a glimpse into the challenges faced by Ottoman medical officials during this time. The project will unpack the fascinating and complex entanglement of global epidemics, international efforts to curtail communicable diseases, regional public health, within the context of western imperial ambitions in the Ottoman Empire, Ottoman modernization efforts, and growing nationalist/ethnic sensitivities. All of these contributed to the shaping of public health during this key period in the history of medicine in what is now Syria and Lebanon.

Shahrzad Irannejad (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz)
Localization of the Avicennean Inner Senses in a Hippocratic Body

First chapter of the third book from Avicenna The Canon of Medicine on the anatomy of the brain. Leiden University Library Or. 7, f1b.

Medieval scholars both in Europe and the Islamicate world believed that in addition to the five “outer” or “external” senses (i.e., touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight), there also was a set of “inner” senses. This theory describes how a number of mental faculties, localized in the ventricles of (or holes in) the brain, processed, cogitated and stored sensory information. The philosopher and physician Avicenna (980–1037 AD) seems to have offered the most complex and influential version of the theory of inner senses amongst medieval philosophers. The various elements of this theory find their precursors in scholars in the Greek tradition; these elements were received in the Arabic tradition via the Abbasid Translation Movement. This study is meant also to contribute to our understanding of the relation between philosophy and medicine in the medieval Islamicate world. The study would, therefore, discuss the diachronic transformation of concepts and ideas related to the brain and the mind through their transfer beyond linguistic, discursive and cultural borders.

At the Orient–Institut in Istanbul, Shahrzad Irannejad will look into the codicological aspects of the manuscripts – the digital copies of which – she has so far used for her dissertation. Furthermore, she would be dedicating some time exclusively to one manuscript from the Yeni Cami collection held in Süleymaniye library. This manuscript containing the text of Ḫalīfa ibn Abī al-Maḥāsin al-Ḥalabī’s Al-Kafī fi-l-Kuḥl contains a very rare illustration of the theory of the Inner Senses in the Arabic tradition. Shahrzad Irannejad would be using codicological research methods and questions to look at this manuscript as an object/medium of transfer of knowledge and analyze the illustration as an allegory for the coming together of the various elements of the theory of Inner Senses in an intersection of languages, cultures and fields of knowledge.

Esther Voswinckel Filiz M.A. (CERES, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany)
Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi in Istanbul – Biography of a Place

Mausoleum of Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi

Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi (1541–1628) is one of several celebrated Ottoman Sufi saints (evliyā) who are buried in Istanbul. He is known as the “second founder” (pīr-i sānī) of the Celvetīyye Sufi order. During his lifetime, he witnessed the reign of eight different sultans and is remembered as the ‘teacher of the sultans’. In popular tradition, moreover, he is known as the saintly protector of sea travel in general and of the Bosporus in particular. His domed mausoleum (türbe) on a hill in Üsküdar, on the Asian shore, has not ceased to be a vital focus of pilgrimage up to the present. When people in Istanbul talk about Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi, they often refer both to the saintly person as well as to the particular place where the saint gets visited: his mausoleum. This closeness between the concepts “place” and “person” explains the second part of the project title: “Biography of a Place”. The research project focuses on the locality of Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi as a centre of religious attraction. In what ways do people address the saint when they visit his tomb, and how does the particular, multi-layered materiality of the site matter in the various practices of relating to the saint?

The mausoleum of Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi was extensively restored between 2013 and 2015, and finally reopened in Ramadan 2015. The restoration of the site was the starting point of a long-time field research stay in Üsküdar, in which the rites of visiting the tomb (türbe ziyareti), the aesthetics of the site, its architecture, particular artifacts, which compose the interior of the tomb and the varied – ritual and other – handlings of old and new layers were studied. Among the numerous religious sites connected to Sufi traditions in Istanbul, the mausoleum of Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi holds a special place. After the legal banning of the Sufi orders in 1925 and the closure of all Sufi convents (tekke) and tombs (türbe), the larger part of the precious collections of ritual paraphernalia of the Sufi orders got lost. In the case of the tomb of Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi, however, a large collection of “personal belongings” (emanetler) of the saint and his order were kept inside the mausoleum up until the 1970s. This rich collection sheds light on numerous aspects of veneration, which nowadays can be encountered at very few tombs of Sufi saints in Istanbul: e.g. the ritual and symbolism of the “venerable turban” (tâc-ı şerîf), which crowns the grave structure, or the custom of “clothing” the cenotaph with particular, embroidered pieces of cloth. This research about the “biography of a place” aims to contribute to the exploration of the material culture of Sufism; the materialities and ensembles of things, which compose saintly places have, so far, only rarely been taken into consideration as a dimension of its own within the recent religious history of Istanbul.

Visiting Researchers

Manuscript of the Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies in Thessaloniki, No 11, written by the monk Matthaios from Vatopedi monastery in 1839

Emmanouil Giannopolous (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)
Byzantine music and its sources

Emmanouil Giannopoulos is assistant professor at the School of Music at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. His research on Byzantine music and its sources continues at Orient-Institut Istanbul with an Erasmus grant for a stay of one week. He focuses on studying the history, morphology and contemporary state of Eastern music and a comparative study with the Byzantine music. During his stay at the institute he will visit several archives for a systematic study of the relevant catalogues and a careful study of musical interpretation and observation of individual elements in relation to ecclesiastical and secular Byzantine music.