Who Owns Ottoman History? (Re)thinking an Imperial Past in Our Time
Lecture by Prof. Ali Yaycioğlu
Chair: Prof. Eyal Ginio
This talk is an attempt at rethinking how to make sense of the Ottoman past in our time. The Ottoman Empire was one of the most long-lived political enterprises, institutionalized in Turkey, southeastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa from the fourteenth to the early twentieth centuries. In this vast geographical context, the empire ruled diverse peoples with its complex temporal and spatial claims. Since its tragic collapse after the First World War, some historians and intellectuals in the post-Ottoman world and beyond examined the Ottoman Empire mainly to give meaning to the national movements against its “despotic” regime. Others studied it to understand the structural reasons for the underdevelopment in the post-Ottoman countries. Since the 1990s, however, we have seen in academia a new interest in Ottoman history in the post-Ottoman lands, Europe, and the United States, as a misunderstood and unappreciated experience. We have also witnessed a fascination with the Ottoman ways, both in popular culture and in politics. How, then, should we engage with this multifaceted history? Ali Yaycioglu will discuss the possibilities and the limits of conceptualizing (and imagining) the Ottoman world beyond the Ottoman Empire and will discuss the possibilities of viewing the Ottoman past as a collective experience of diverse human communities, environmental settings, and material manifestations.