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Codifying Corruption in 19th Century Ottoman Governance
This paper explores how the Ottoman polity considered/regulated public office corruption (POC) in its regulations. I analyze two understudied volumes of codes in their entirety to understand the context(s) of corruption in different regulations. This project explores how the Ottoman legal rhetoric defined POC as an unwanted (yet unavoidable) practice. Following Ian Hacking’s work on “social construction” of concepts, I explore how in Ottoman governance, POC was considered as “inevitable.” The works on corruption in the Ottoman polity either point out how corruption was a rampant problem or how Ottoman practices were misunderstood by outside observers as corruption. This paper differs from those accounts and argues that POC is “socially constructed” in nineteenth-century legal texts as an unavoidable consequence of human involvement in public service. What makes this paper unique is that rather than focusing on individual cases of POC, it explores some early compilations of the 19th-century codification movements that has not been examined much at all (let alone, in their entirety) to identify how these codes defined corruptible processes. Corruption requires a corruptible process. It is a deviation from a normative order defining proper governance. 19th-century Ottoman codification movement employed a legalist discourse to redefine processes such as customs’ controls, to eliminate practices such as price controls, to introduce certificates such as title deeds, etc. This codification movement outlined a normative order and defined POC in that context. Two comprehensive volumes of legal codes were published (in 1851 and 1863). By rendering these volumes digitally-legible through OCR and coding them using a qualitative analysis software this project provides an in-depth analysis of a significant variety of legal texts, rather than focusing on individual laws or independent cases of POC. This novel approach gets us a step closer to understanding the topology of 19th-century Ottoman governance precisely because it focuses on laws compiled by intellectuals like Ahmed Cevdet Pasha. The initial findings of the project show how these codes defined spaces/practices where corruption was possible. Once such practices were explained, corruption became a societal ill that needed addressing. But it also became a negotiation tool for individuals who accused others of “corruption” or praised themselves as incorruptible. By examining these legal compilations in a comprehensive way that involves digitizing and coding them with a qualitative analysis software, this project sheds a light to the Ottoman codification process, exploring new ways to analyze the legal discourse from a broad perspective.
Geographic Area
Ottoman Empire
Sub Area