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Educating an Empire: An Interdisciplinary Examination of Schooling in the Nineteenth Century

Panel X-9, sponsored byOttoman and Turkish Studies Assocation, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, November 4 at 5:30 pm

Panel Description
This panel explores the transformation of education in the nineteenth century in the Middle East from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Ottoman historians have long been interested in the ways that the Tanzimat "reorganized" the empire in the nineteenth century, focusing on various fields, the impact of modernization, the role of sultans and other prominent figures in this process, as well as perceived motivations for these changes (external pressure from European powers, internal separatist movements and rebellions, the rise of new political ideologies, et cetera). In this context, the establishment of the Mekatib-i Umumiye Nezareti (Ministry of Education) and an array of new universities, academies, and schools could seem like just one of many ways in which the empire was restructuring and bureaucratic reforms and new institutions, as well as the new activities of pre-existing institutions, still has much to yield. Together, we engage with a multitude of questions: what types of new educational institutions emerged in the region in the nineteenth century? What were the goals of these institutions, and did they meet said goals in their early years? For schools that predated the nineteenth century, were their demographics, pedagogical methods, and goals influenced by new reforms, or did they stay the course of their past? Were there differences between schools positioned in different parts of the empire, or schools providing different levels of education and topics of study? How did translation, print culture, language and literacy impact the ways in which different people learned and accessed education, in and outside of formal schools? By assembling this panel, we are bringing together scholars from different disciplines - History, Art & Architecture, Language & Literature - in order to inspire productive discussions and to provide new insights in the history of education in the Middle East. We also made sure to assemble papers that address education in multiple regions, languages, levels, and topics to avoid siloed insights and to paint a more holistic picture. From Malta to Yanya to Istanbul to Baghdad and beyond, from Arabic to Greek to Armenian to Ottoman & Armeno-Turkish and more, spanning many confessional identities, professions, classes and ages, this panel will provoke diverse conversations. We are excited to engage with each other and an audience, and to expand understanding of education in the Middle East in the nineteenth century through this panel. We are also honored to be sponsored by the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association.
Architecture & Urban Planning
Art/Art History
  • This paper explores the establishment and first decades of the Tıphane ve Cerrahhane-i Amire (Imperial School of Medicine & the Imperial School of Surgery, later called the Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Şahane or Imperial School of Medicine, among other names), in Istanbul. It delves into the schools pre-history, in particular Mustafa Behçet Efendi's involvement in two short-lived medical educational projects in Istanbul prior to his success with the Tıphane-i Amire in 1827, first with a school for Ottoman Rum (Greek Orthodox Christian) students and the second a naval medical academy for Ottoman Muslims. He spearheaded the establishment of this medical school with the support of Sultan Mahmud II, under whom he also served as hekimbaşı, or head doctor. This paper then examines the ways in which this school, in terms of its goals, curricula, faculty, and students, differed from the existing Süleymaniye Medical School in Istanbul, and delves into the significance of those differences. In particular, it looks into the identities and inter-communal dynamics of the faculty and students and the explicit focus on military medicine in its founding years, in contrast to the subsequent split into separate military and civilian medical schools. It examines on the varied interests of the founding faculties and their connections to other causes and regions -for example, faculty members at the Ottoman Imperial School of Medicine like Stephanos and Constantinos Caratheodory, and Sarantis Archigenis, were engaged with Hellenism and education reform for Greek Orthodox Christians specifically in addition to their ties to Ottoman imperial medical education and the Ottoman state. Many of the early faculty, administrators, and students of these schools also had attended the same foreign institutions abroad in medical hubs like Paris, Berlin, Padua, and Vienna, and incorporated those experiences into their conceptions on how to found their respective new institutions. I argue that this school, as the first in the empire to educate Muslim and non-Muslim students together, holds a unique place in Ottoman educational history. Delving more deeply into its early decades with this in mind, as well gesturing to the ways in which its establishment and activities did and did not disrupt the constitution of the medical profession in the Ottoman empire, which one could argue had been dominated by Italian-trained, non-Muslim physicians in prior centuries, yields new fruit.
  • This paper focuses on Ottoman Christian merchants as patrons of education in the city of Yanya during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (approx. 1797- 1830). It takes as its case studies Emmanouil Gkioumas, Zois Kaplanis, and the Maroutsi and Zosima brothers, along with the schools they founded and patronized: the Gkiouma, Kaplaniaia, and Zosimaia Academies. My general aim is to better understand how local, imperial, and trans-imperial actors came together to foster educational development. Specifically, I ask: how did Ottoman Christian merchants active outside the empire work with local and imperial authorities to open and administer schools? How was this collaborative environment enabled and enhanced by early modern Ottoman realities? How does the view from Yanya inform our notions of non-Muslim schools and state-centric, institutional approaches to the study of education? My argument is that the opening of Greek schools in the period preceding the establishment of the independent Greek state was the result of collaboration between a variety of actors, both institutional— as in the case of the Orthodox Church— and individual. The rise during the eighteenth century of powerful provincial elites, such as a‘yan and new mercantile classes, was also a significant contributing factor to the flourishing of Greek education. This paper employs social network theory as well as theories of the household and its functions in order to chart the connections between different types of patrons, from provincial rulers to the Orthodox Church. It enters into conversation with theories of nationalism, which have traditionally approached education as a fundamental building-block of the nation-state. The source base employed is wide, including both documentary and print sources in Ottoman Turkish and Greek, drawn from the Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi and Patriarchal Archives in Istanbul, the Gennadius Library in Athens, and the Zosimaia Library in Ioannina. The broader contributions are two-fold. First, this paper suggests that Ottoman non-Muslim education, particularly in the Balkans, was neither a necessary precursor to nor an obvious indication of nationalist sentiment. Rather, its proliferation represented the rise of a variety of new elites, some but not all of which espoused nationalist ideas, and their collaboration with existing networks of power. In this sense, this paper also argues for situating non-Muslim education within its broader Ottoman context, suggesting that educational movements were not always driven by a single, state-centric vision but rather reflect a variety of different iterations of modernity.
  • This paper investigates the textual relationships between the original English editions of John Bunyan’s novel The Pilgrim’s Progress and its two 19th century translations in their historical context within the late Ottoman Empire. Քրիստիանոսին Ճամբորդութիինը, Աս Աշխարհէս Հանդերձեալ Աշխարհը, Երազի Ձեիով (Kristianosin Cambordutsyunı, As Aşhares Handertsyal Aşharı, Yerazi Zevov) is published in 1843 in İzmir by Gulielmos Griffit. In 1864, roughly two decades later, an Armeno-Turkish translation of the same work appears in İstanbul, printed by Harutyun Minasyan, titled Քրիսթիանըն Եօլճոիլոիղոի, Պոի Տիինեատան Կէլէճէք Տիինեայա, Րիիյա Շէքլինտէ Եափըլմըշ (Kristianın Yolculuğu, Bu Dünyadan Gelecek Dünyaya, Rüya Şeklinde Yazılmış). At a time when private schools start proliferating in Istanbul and elsewhere throughout the Ottoman Empire especially within the Greek and Armenian communities, often in competition with missionary schools, the education of the youth is heavily influenced by what gets published (including what gets translated) and how they are presented. The very choice of translating Pilgrim’s Progress will be contextualized in this paper regarding the missionary education of the Ottoman non-Muslims and the political developments of the era such as the recognition of Catholic (1803) and Protestant (1857) millets in the Ottoman Empire and the drafting of the Armenian Constitution of 1863 for the Ottoman Armenians. A close reading of these two anonymous translations and comparing them to the original English editions of the period might help us better understand the microcosm of the Ottoman Armenian readerships within their larger environment. First, this is an attempt to establish whether the Armeno-Turkish translation is based the Armenian translation or not, and thus understand in the future whether there exist translation trends within the Armenian community in terms of language directionality. Second, comparing the footnotes and editorial annotations in the translations and in four specific original English editions , this investigation aims to reveal whether the anonymous translators insert additional notes and actively contribute to the local reception of the text, and thus start sketching a translational/editorial profile. Third, comparing the translations of Biblical references to some of the available Bible translations of the period in book format, the paper speculates whether translators operate with an awareness of the larger translated corpus of their time by using those existing Bible translations in their own Bunyan translation. How Jesus is made to speak in these translations, i.e. translation strategies, will further suggest their intended and imagined readerships.
  • Craftspeople, teachers, and reformers in the nineteenth and early twentieth century Ottoman Empire confronted substantial changes in production—from the construction of the first factories in the region, to competition with cheaper imported European goods, to the decline of local industries such as silk. One way to meet these challenges was the reformation of craft education. With the Public Education Act of 1869, the Ministry of Education standardized the curricula of craft schools (sanayi mektebi)—based on the first such school founded by statesman Midhat Pasha (1822-1883) in Danube Province in 1864—and ordered their establishment across the empire. This paper focuses on a key text in the development of such institutions, a school book named First Teacher (Hace-i Evvel) that was published by author and journalist Ahmet Mithat (1844-1912) in 1869. While initially written for the Baghdad vocational school to address what Mithat perceived as a deficiency in education and craft production in the city, the book was soon used throughout the empire for students to gain the academic knowledge and craft experience to attain employment upon graduation. Skills that had been taught for centuries such as carpentry and shoemaking are included in the textbook, whereas the operation of new technologies like the printing press and textile machines was commonly taught at many craft schools alongside the older crafts (as evident in provincial almanacs) and yet does not appear in the book. The identification of established crafts as “traditional” and their juxtaposition with new technologies mirrors the larger discourse that artists, architects, and intellectuals such as Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910) used to articulate a uniquely Ottoman artistic and architectural idiom that drew from the past yet was distinctly contemporary. Artists and architects “revived” medieval and early modern designs, techniques, and materials in search of a national style, just as schools resurrected, elevated, and standardized “traditional” crafts—in fact changing the meaning of “craft” by expanding its definition to include new technology. My paper is innovative in its exploration of the various terminologies that reformers, teachers, and textbooks used to describe the same kinds of production—such as "sanat" or "sanayi"—which were understood as “(hand)craft,” “industry,” “vocation,” or “art,” their meanings shifting with the artistic, educational, geographical, and political context. Lastly, by bringing attention to the transformation of craft, I establish a framework of artistic continuity—rather than sharp separation—between the Ottoman Empire and its successor states.
  • Over the course of a life lived between metropoles within and alongside the Ottoman Empire—Beirut, Cairo, Valletta, Tunis, Istanbul—Lebanese littérateur Aḥmad Fāris al-Shidyāq produced a number of texts concerned with how “the Arabic language” ought to be conceived and taught. In addition to three works explicitly framed as Arabic language primers, al-Shidyāq published an edited and abridged version of an 18th-century grammar composed by and intended for Arabophone Christians, an English-language grammar, and various articles related to the teaching of Arabic in and beyond the Ottoman Arab provinces. Produced in varied political and institutional contexts—while al-Shidyāq served as an employee of American Protestant missionaries in Malta, supervisor of the Education Directorate of Tunis, and head editor of an imperially-funded newspaper in Istanbul—these texts testify to “the pedagogical” as a site of complex intersections between “Islam” and “Christianity,” “Arabness” and “Ottomanness.” My paper argues that, for al-Shidyāq, these issues crystallize around the relationship between “language” in the abstract and Arabic as one of many “modern, national languages.” I suggest that a close reading of some of al-Shidyāq’s grammatical and lexicographical texts that are not explicitly pedagogical uniquely enables us to distill a distinctly Shidyāqian approach to Arabic language pedagogy. How, I ask, does al-Shidyāq think that “modern” Arabic can be taught and learned? And what about al-lugha—the Arabic language as conceived within a “premodern” Islamic episteme?