Saturday, January 3, 2009: 9:30 AM
Riverside Suite (Sheraton New York)
This paper will explore how gender and sexuality were regulated through the legal administration of illicit sex in mid-eighteenth-century Ottoman Anatolia. I examine the legal encounters between the Imperial Council (the central government) in Istanbul, local shari‛a
courts, and Ottoman subjects in order to explore how specific applications of Islamic law served practically to construct gender and sexual violence in the everyday-life experiences of men and women. Thus, this paper will analyze sexual violence as a legal and social discourse. It will argue that terminology corresponding to excessive sexual violence had been used in an inflated manner when one of the parties wanted to eliminate-therefore-criminalize certain groups or individuals. In addition, it will also discuss how controlling “excessive violence” was a symbol of honor, justice and sexual order for the early-modern Ottoman state. In this sense, it argues that sex had been “one of the primary languages” through which these conflicts and claims were articulated.
Thus, this paper will discuss how gender “struggles” fit into broader culture of “violence” in the empire and how gender overall interact with the notion of “violence”. I will also touch upon the overarching and historiographical question of whether administration of sexuality and administration of the empire was a sort of modern governmentality in eighteenth-century Ottoman society. Informed by my own research and analysis of the administration and regulation of the social sphere, I will demonstrate the centralist tendencies of the Ottoman legal system in this period through bureaucratization and proliferation of the petitioning system, attempts to control the local legal and administrative powers by checks and balances as well as direct interventions in the execution processes. By comparing such practices with the other contemporary empires, I problematize the notions of decentralization/centralization, and shift the focus to power and governing mechanisms of the “empire”.