[P4898] Sovereignty Reformed: Ottoman Authority between the International and the Islamic in the Tanzimat Era

Created by Selim Karlitekin
Monday, 11/20/17 8:00am


Our panel takes as its subject the political thought and praxis of the Tanzimat era, particularly the re-formations of Ottoman authority that emerged in this period according to a set of standards we identify as both Islamic and international. More than half a century after ?erif Mardin’s The Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought (1962), we are still in the wake of its call to treat Tanzimat-era political thought as part and parcel of the global era. The reification of the Tanzimat into projects, institutions and other concrete instantiations of the modern age have obscured the conceptual ruptures and predicaments it unleashed.

The four papers presented in this panel seek to move past the longstanding tendency of Tanzimat scholarship to structure its inquiries around the motif of domestic reform, and aim instead to situate the problem of authority in the Tanzimat era within a transnational and global “problem-space,” in David Scott’s language (2004). Each of these papers explores the conversion of older formers of authority into the grammar of political modernity (law, state, society) and highlights the discontents and aporias this conversion produced.

Our first paper tackles the authority of the sultanic oath in the Ottoman Empire and its transformation following the Tanzimat. Our next paper approaches the question of sovereignty in the global era through the writings of Ali Suavi, and highlights the transnational sources of Suavi’s rejection of Ottoman constitutionalism and internationalism. Our third paper explores the practice of Ottoman sovereignty and other forms of authority in a provincial setting, highlighting the intersection of Ottoman social divisions with those outside Ottoman borders and documenting their production of regionally specific hierarchies of social difference. Our final paper traverses the structural relationship between ‘ijtihad’ (legal reasoning), civilization and progress in order to reveal the form of authority claimed by Tanzimat-era religious reformers.

Collectively, these papers offer a response to Hannah Arendt’s argument concerning the dematerialization of authority (1954) and the articulation of new sites of power, knowledge, and subjecthood. Among the questions they seek to answer: How is authority recognized and defined? How did Ottoman individuals and institutions respond to the erosion of old modalities of authority and the emergence of new ones on a global scale? By engaging these questions across a range of sites and scales, these papers explore the Tanzimat as a field of overlapping structures of authority and power.






Madeleine Elfenbein

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

Aria Nakissa

(Washington University in St. Louis)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Selim Karlitekin

(Columbia University / Graduate School of Arts and Sciences)
Selim studied Sociology and Philosophy at Bogazici University (B.A. 2010). He started a Ph.D. degree in Anthropology at CUNY Graduate Center. In Fall 2012, he dropped out to start again his studies at Columbia University's MESAAS program. He is currently...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;