EMPIRE’S QUESTIONS: ASSESSMENT of OTTOMAN HISTORIOGRAPHY in the LAST FIFTEEN YEARS
(İSTANBUL BİLGİ UNIVERSITY)
APRIL 29, 2019 15:40-17:30
Abstract: Even though Ottoman history has changed considerably in the last twenty years, historiography has remained one of its least developed aspects. This imbalance in turn creates an imbalance in the representation and critical assessment of the field; insofar as Ottoman history is represented for non-experts (especially for the academics in other fields and in Western academia), there are major shortcomings and misplaced judgements; and with regards to overall assessments, historiographical interpretations are rather descriptive than critical.
The talk will critically assess major developments in Ottoman history. It argues that Ottoman history has been operating in a different theoretical and institutional environment in the last twenty years. Despite the proliferation of inspiring works both in terms of quality and quantity, the field is more fragmented than before, and it has been devoid of the “big questions” of historical sociology and political economy. Instead, conceptual frameworks based on flexibility and pragmatism seem to offer an alternative along with the attempts to situate the Empire within the contours of Early Modernity, both of which need to be evaluated more critically and contextualized as responses to present political circumstances. Furthermore, the changing institutional context in Turkey has rarely been taken into consideration in our overall assessment of the field. Seen from this perspective, we may well need a more balanced account, despite our more optimistic judgement.
Murat Dağlı received his Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and has been teaching at Istanbul Bilgi University in the last five years. His main fields of interest include the social and economic history of the early modern period as well as historiography and historical sociology.