Friday, January 2, 2009: 4:30 PM
Sutton Center (Hilton New York)
The goals of this paper are to review historiographical trends and set new directions for late Ottoman history. In the first part, I identify the three grand narratives of late Ottoman history as top-down political transformation, economic incorporation to the world-economy and imperial state-building. I conclude that the late Ottoman historiography operates on dualistic accounts and state-centered imperial narratives which alter the content of the center-periphery model but keep the framework intact in essence. Centered upon the strategic idea of imperial variation, in the second part, I argue that the Ottoman Middle East can be understood better by employing a spatial, institutional and comparative approach.
Thus, I suggest that the Ottoman Middle East was characterized by three historical trajectories during the nineteenth century. These were the coast, interior and the frontier. The coastal framework represented the port-cities and commercial hinterlands of Western Anatolia, Lebanon and the eastern Mediterranean littoral; the interior path marked the inland experience of central Anatolia, Syria and Palestine; and the frontier incorporated the contentious borderland regions of Eastern Anatolia, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula. In a snapshot, the Ottoman trajectories were shaped by the discourse of modernity and the strength of market relations in the coast, the state bureaucracy and the notion of omnipresent Islamic state in the interior and religious trust networks and politics of mobilization in the frontier.
The final part of the paper focuses on the frontier trajectory which included the politically volatile, economically least developed, demographically sparse and religiously non-orthodox regions. I explore in particular the negotiated character of the Ottoman state consolidation, collection of protection rents and repertoires of rebellion, all of which strengthened local autonomy and the power of local leaderships.