[P4853] Regulating Print in the Late Ottoman Empire: A New Look into the Question of Censorship

Created by Kathryn Schwartz
Monday, 11/20/17 10:30am


Bringing together research on the imperial center and provincial cities of Egypt, Iraq, and Greater Syria during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this panel explores how Ottoman printed texts were regulated. It does so by investigating different political economies of print regulations as they functioned at the urban level. Little empirical research exists on the nature of Ottoman print laws as they were promulgated, enforced, and engaged by their contemporaries. This is particularly true for the empire's provinces. Because of the lack of detailed case studies, existing scholarship on print and Ottoman censorship tends to converge around the narrative of Hamidian authoritarian rule. The aim of this panel is therefore threefold. First, we seek to lay the groundwork for understanding the nature of Ottoman textual regulation by establishing the available sources and the different approaches by which this topic might be studied. Second, we seek to understand which aspects of Ottoman press regulation were representative of an imperial whole, and which aspects were specific to distinctive regional backdrops. Third, we seek to re-evaluate common periodizations of Ottoman print regimes.

The four papers root the history of regulation and censorship in particular industries, locales, periods, periodicals, and individuals. The first paper examines print regulations in Egypt during the nineteenth century to show how they developed from a tension between the cooperative status of the local printing industry on the ground, and the intensity of the Ottoman imperial press laws. Moving into the twentieth century, the second paper takes Beiruti and Damascene newspapers as its focus to argue against the standard periodisation of Ottoman censorship as bifurcated before and after 1908. The third paper approaches the study of censorship by examining a newspaper owner in 1909 Basra and the role of human agency in Ottoman press censorship. Finally, the fourth paper considers how censorship abetted the development of particular genres, particularly the satirical journal, in circumventing press restrictions during the years following the Young Turk revolution.

Taken as a whole, this panel moves away from the static view of Ottoman approaches to regulating print throughout one hundred years and across a vast territory to a nuanced examination of interrelated processes.





Benjamin Carr Fortna

(University of Arizona)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

Till Grallert

(Orient-Institut Beirut)
Till Grallert is a research associate at the Orient-Institut Beirut. He completed his Ph.D. in history with a thesis on the production of public space in late Ottoman Damascus at Berlin Graduate School Muslim Cultures and Societies in 2014. He currently...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Kathryn Schwartz

(Harvard University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Ekin Enacar

(The University of Chicago)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Annie Greene

(The University of Chicago)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;