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Shifting Grounds: Identitarian Categories and the Experience of Loss in the Imperial Center
The end of the Ottoman Empire has been the subject of many monographs, which have privileged the political, military, and diplomatic history of the period to illuminate the last 50 years of the Age of Empire in the Balkans and the Middle East. Relying on personal narratives of the end of the empire placed in the context of Ottoman state archives and newspaper accounts from across the empire, this paper examines the intimate lives of an extended family living through the last few turbulent decades of the Ottoman Empire. Focusing on the emotional and experiential levels, the paper will examine how global events were understood, experienced, and, in some cases, performed through the lives of men and women living in Istanbul, but who have connections stretching from Sofia to Damascus. The paper argues that shifting identarian categories, the foreclosure of imagined futures, and the emergence of new possibilities collided to produce a short period in time that highlights to a historian the process and experience of global trans-imperial on the quotidian level. Focusing on family history, and the history of individuals as they dealt with their shifting realities in real-time, allows for a different kind of history that not only privileges the experience-based over the event-based telling of history, but highlights historical processes otherwise rendered invisible to the traditional political or social historian. Examining the last few decades on the “street level” shows how concepts such as race, ethnicity, and class operated in a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional, and multi-racial empire operating in an increasingly competitive trans-imperial environment, while going through a process of increasing administrative centralization, increasingly public political participation, and a violent process of cultural homogenization. The paper investigates how these forms of ethnic, racial, and class distinctions were felt and experienced during a period of global upheaval and internal turmoil stretching between 1895 and 1922.
Geographic Area
Ottoman Empire
Sub Area