MESA Book Awards
2023 Albert Hourani Book Award Co-Winner
Losing Istanbul: Arab-Ottoman Imperialists and the End of Empire
Stanford University Press
Mostafa Minawi’s masterful work, Losing Istanbul, exemplifies the productive the ways in which global microhistories can shed light on, and change, our conceptualizations of imperialism and imperial loyalties in the late Ottoman Empire. Focusing on the mesmerizing careers of Shafiq Azmzade (1861–1916) and his nephew Sadik (Sadiq) al-Mu’ayyad Azmzade (1858–1910), the networks they belonged to, and their professional careers as Ottoman imperialists, the book takes us to various places and spaces in which the Azmzades were active, and explains how the Ottoman empire employed, neglected, and eventually betrayed, its most loyal Arab champions and advocates. Moreover, in the book’s nuanced treatment of questions relating to race and color in Ottoman contexts, and how they intersected with other global conversations on race, Losing Istanbul carefully considers the multiple, and often conflicting, meanings of being an Arab and an Ottoman-Arab in an empire whose ideas of citizenship, belonging, and community were rapidly changing. This superbly researched study, then, boldly deconstructs historical narratives, unpacks the relationship between several imperial centers and their peripheries, and challenges commonly held periodizations. Thinking about the Ottoman Empire from a comparative perspective, he reminds us of the partial and incomplete implementation of imperial ideologies. Above all, however, Minawi presents us with a cautionary tale about the perils of ethnoracialization and ethnic nationalism, and their tragic consequences.