SUMMARY:Spanning the eighteenth century through the end of the Ottoman Empire, papers in this panel explore the unique and shifting situation of alcohol and drinking. Bridging social, cultural, economic, legal, and political histories, panelists tap into the many meanings of the commodity and how state and society variously regarded it in terms of transgression, negotiation and normalization, and regulation and prohibition. Despite religious proscription for many of the empire’s Muslim citizens, ethno-religious minority communities were generally exempt, so long as they did not sell their product to Muslims. This flexibility facilitated sustained production and consumption even through many dry spells. Over time, alcohol’s place expanded and it acquired greater acceptance among many throughout this late imperial period. Focusing on these transformations in acceptability and interrelated transformations in identities, beliefs, economies, and governance, alcohol and drinking culture together provide a unique vantage for historical analysis.
Amid these shifts, the customs and contexts of consumption were reshaped. Global forces also exerted influence, so that, for example, in the face of increasing imports of foreign alcohol, the anise-flavored rak? began to emerge as a national drink. These transitions constituted focal points in the heated social debates that ensued, adding unique dimensions to the politics of temperance and prohibition that began to coalesce at the turn of the twentieth century. Concentrating on alcohol, its shifting symbolisms, and how it was implicated uniquely alongside other political concerns, the papers in this panel interrogate the place of alcohol in Ottoman history. Namely, identifying those who did drink, who among them drank what, where, when, and how?
Panel participants approach these questions from their varied backgrounds and diverse historiographic perspectives. Our first scrutinizes contested sites of consumption in early modern Galata, factoring in how associated anxieties over sexual encounters inspired local community policing. The second confronts the rise of rak? and nationalism amid broader dynamics of modernization, imperial competition, and state-minority conflicts. The third and fourth panelists each look at matters during World War I and its aftermath; the heyday of global temperance activism. The third examines wartime views on alcohol and the subsequent Allied occupation of Istanbul. Finally, the fourth interrogates how temperance activists in the empire and the United States interacted and influenced each other, contributing to the republic’s eventual short-lived prohibition (1920-1924). Providing alternative perspectives and initiating dialog, the panel includes the foremost scholar on histories of intoxicants in Persia and Iran.