Turkish Empire, Ottoman Republic, Muslim Nation: History in 2023’s Turkey
Sakıp Sabancı Annual Lecture by Edhem Eldem, Professor of History, Boğaziçi University
Introduced by Zeynep Çelik, Sakıp Sabancı Visiting Professor of Turkish Studies, Columbia University
The centennial of the Republic may be a good occasion to propose an overall assessment of the place, role, and state of history in Turkey today. While the scholarly discipline has made much progress and reached a remarkable degree of sophistication in the past decades, constant and growing pressure has turned history into fodder for political and ideological discourse across the board. Half-truths, false notions, muddled concepts, superficial knowledge, facile correlations, wishful thinking, lingering taboos, chronic denial… This long list of symptoms suggests that Turkey is suffering from cliopathy and cliomania: it is both sick and obsessed with history. This is particularly true of Ottoman history, one of the prime concerns of political, ideological, and cultural constructs today. Its appeal to political actors and to the public alike is obvious: it allows for an amalgamation of concepts and labels in ways that the title of this lecture tries to suggest. While historians may rightly lament the harm done to their discipline, the real challenge they have to face is to try to understand to what extent these abuses may actually rest on very complex and largely unresolved historical issues.
Edhem Eldem teaches in the Department of History at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul. He has also taught at Berkeley, Harvard, Columbia, at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and has held the International Chair of Turkish and Ottoman Studies at the Collège de France. Among his fields of interest are the Levant trade in the eighteenth century, Ottoman funerary epigraphy, the development of an urban bourgeoisie in Istanbul, the history of the Ottoman Bank, the history of archaeology in the Ottoman Empire, late-nineteenth-century Ottoman first-person narratives and biographies, the history of photography in the Ottoman Empire, the dynamics of Westernization and Orientalism.
His publications include: French Trade in Istanbul in the Eighteenth Century (1999); A History of the Ottoman Bank (1999); The Ottoman City between East and West: Aleppo, Izmir and Istanbul (1999, with D. Goffman and B. Masters); Pride and Privilege. A History of Ottoman Orders, Medals and Decorations (2004); Death in Istanbul. Death and its Rituals in Ottoman-Islamic Culture (2005); Consuming the Orient (2007); Un Ottoman en Orient. Osman Hamdi Bey en Irak (1869-1871) (2010); Le voyage à Nemrud Dağı d’Osman Hamdi Bey et Osgan Efendi (2010); Scramble for the Past: A Story of Archaeology in the Ottoman Empire, 1753-1914 (2011, with Z. Bahrani and Z. Çelik); Camera Ottomana. Photography and Modernity in the Ottoman Empire, 1870-1914 (2015, with Z. Çelik); L’Empire ottoman et la Turquie face à l’Occident (2018); L’Alhambra. À la croisée des histoires (2021); L’Empire ottoman (2022).
Monday, April 3, 1501 International Affairs Building
Lecture: 4:00-5:30 pm / Reception: 5:30-6:30 pm
In-person attendance registration: http://bit.ly/SSCinperson
Online Streaming: bit.ly/SSCLecture2023