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Session R4727 (Defining Early Modernity in Ottoman History), 2017
My contribution during the discussions of this roundtable frames the “early modern” in the Ottoman empire as lasting from the thirteenth century to the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Like all periodizations, this one is arbitrary. And despite the designation “early modern” I think the associations for this period have more to do with Ottoman pasts than with some notion of a “Western,” “Islamic,” or “world” modern. One of the problems with the historiography of the Ottoman early modern era is that it tends to project back phenomena and processes associated with the “modern” to see how far in time they apply. But that historiography does not necessarily enhance our understanding of the era (however we draw the periodization) or match Ottoman self-narratives. Within the empire, as in all cultural and political contexts, there were certain standard modes for marking or imagining time (counting kings, invoking the heroes and heroines of epic and not so epic literature, measuring the scope and endurance of conquests, invoking religious genealogies, and tracing the histories and movement, or not, of peoples). My contribution to this discussion will highlight certain conventions of counting time/history/identity in narrative and image, including those that mark time spatially on the map. Examples from the sources might include narratives such as those of Talikizade and Naima, and the illustrated campaign books of Matrakç? Nasuh. I plan to contrast those modes of marking time with some of our historiographic presumptions about what the particularities of Ottoman early modernity are (or are not). I propose three modes of marking time or conceptualizing peoples’ imaginings of their place in history: the enduring, the immediate, and the relational. Hopefully, this model will prove useful as the roundtable participants examine the utility and comparative value of a concept of the early modern for the Ottomans.