SUMMARY:The First World War in the Ottoman Empire is often described as a momentous event that transformed society and family life in lasting ways. Yet how the state of war actually shaped gender relations in Ottoman society during the period of conflict, and the relationship between the political and social concerns of wartime is still being untangled by historians working at the intersection of gender, law, and politics. This panel brings together four historians engaged in this project to examine the gender history of the Ottoman First World War in its social and political dimensions. The first paper provides rich context for the emergence of state policies related to gender, family, and migration in the nineteenth century Ottoman Empire. Through a case study of the Widow’s House, a refuge for widowed migrant women in Istanbul, this contribution explores the relationship between conflict, gender, and the emergence of social relief policies in the Empire. The second paper takes us to the center of debates over how to prevent the moral decline of the Ottoman family in the First World War. This paper focuses on how the state approached sexual crimes and adulterous relationships, illustrating broader connections between wartime social anxieties and the emergence of new legal regimes. The third paper examines the way the social and political dynamics of the First World War shaped the institution of marriage. Through a case study of a matchmaking campaign in 1918, this contribution demonstrates how the state’s wartime priorities facilitated the erosion of the existing socioeconomic bargain of marriage. The fourth paper draws attention to the anxieties of the Ottoman state over establishing legal procedures for proper marriages that would address the social circumstances of WWI. By focusing on the wartime policies and regulations by the Young Turk administration to pragmatically cope with the practices of religiously illicit and officially unapproved marriages, the paper explores the mundane ways the law worked towards reinforcing the policing of the family by the state. Together, the four papers elaborate a portrait of the interaction between gender, state, and society in the Ottoman First World War. This new understanding of how institutions shaped in lasting ways by the context of the First World War will help to complicate and critique existing tropes of a total social rupture, and highlight continuities in approaches to gender, law, social welfare policy and marriage during this critical moment of transition.
SPONSOR:Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association