The Politics of Images: Cartoons in the Late Ottoman Empire

Friday, January 5, 2018: 1:30 PM
Columbia 10 (Washington Hilton)
Ekin Enacar, University of Chicago
The aim of this paper is to analyze the role of cartoons in transmitting political messages and creating public consciousness in early twentieth century Ottoman Empire. For this purpose, I analyze a satirical journal called Kalem (Pen). The Young Turk Revolution in 1908 marked the end of Abdulhamid II’s reign, which was notorious for absolutism and strict press censorship. The Ottoman press flourished in the immediate aftermath of the revolution. Within the first couple of months following the revolution, more than two hundred newspaper licenses were issued. Satirical journals re-emerged during this post-revolutionary press boom. The abolition of press censorship was a de-facto phenomenon. When the news of the revolution reached Istanbul, newspaper editors assumed that the Young Turks would have a more liberal attitude toward press, and refused to send copies of their publications to the censorship office. However, the new government grew more and more authoritarian after the revolution, and after a countercoup attempt that is known as the “31 March Incident” in 1909, found the pretext to have firmer control of the press. Unlike non-satirical journals, satirical journals could circumvent increasing state censorship by relying mostly on dramatic visual imagery. By using the ambiguity of cartoons and satirical stories, they could still criticize the post-revolutionary government and express their concerns regarding the new regime. Therefore, a detailed analysis of political cartoons published in satirical journals will display the social and political anxieties that were often times neglected by the non-satirical Ottoman press.
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