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Provincial Fatwas, Festivals, and Celebrations as Borderlands in Ottoman Early Modernity
This paper approaches early modern Ottoman communal celebrations and festivals as a borderland, which brings together different genders and confessional groups that were not meant to cross their gender or confessional boundaries in the public sphere. I argue that in this borderland of communal celebrations the rules which maintain communal and gender boundaries and, thus, undergird the “empire of difference” do not hold sway. We witness in this borderland an alternative model for a diverse society that is based on desegregation. It is precisely this serious challenge posed by communal celebrations and festivals to the “empire of difference” that brings them under scrutiny in the legal opinions of jurisconsults. Using these sources, first, I shed light on the description of these celebrations in the fatwas and the muftis’ evaluation of these events; second, I provide a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between the mufti and the actors of the celebrations, and third, I scrutinize the creation of a shared space between separated gender and religious groups. These fatwas are in Turkish and come from the collections of Suverü'l-Fetâvâ (1627) from Skopje, Fetâvâ-yı Akkirmanî (1630-31) from Akkerman (modern-day Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi in Ukraine), Mufîdetü’l-En’am (1665) from western Anatolia, Fetâvâ (1679) from İzmir, Fetâvâ (1715) and Bahrü’l-Fetâvâ (1750) from Erzurum, and “Recueil” (1793) from Euboea. I have selected these collections to get a broad view of the concept of borderland from different corners of the empire. As the panel intends to consider the idea of borderland in new lights and attempts to bring together different approaches to it from multiple perspectives, my paper contributes to this end by bringing forth the contested domain of celebration in the early modern Ottoman empire as a means to access this ephemeral and temporary borderland, a framework in which ideological, religious, and communal differences are both divided and united at the same time, a nexus of various agents and parties. The fatwas show that the approach of the participants of these meetings and the mufti toward these occasions differ significantly, and a mental diversification can be observed. Whereas muftis represent a consistently divisive and hostile attitude towards these meetings, subjects in the fatwas demonstrate an alternative and converging approach to the union of separate communities and genders. Therefore, the idea of festivals and celebrations as borderlands can introduce a fresh look at the vertical and horizontal connections among various parties in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Ottoman Empire.
Geographic Area
Ottoman Empire
Sub Area