Call for Papers: Ottoman Cultural Mobilities: 19th century Modes of Travel, Collecting and Display. Antwerp, 2-5 September 2020

Session at the European Association for Urban History 2020 Conference

Session chairs: Prof. Belgin Turan Özkaya and Semra Horuz

Stressing the contextual and conceptual aspects, this session aims to discuss the Ottoman participation and response to the international 19th century culture of travel, collecting and display. It particularly focuses on the mobility and circulation of people and objects around Ottoman and connected contexts; Ottoman encounters and exchanges en route; the journeys of intellectuals, collections and archives in the late Ottoman Empire.

From the 18th century onwards, the Ottoman state instigated major transformations after overtly facing the fact that the imperial glory of the past could not be restored solely with military reformations. Throughout the 19th century, technological developments and intellectuals’ awareness of social transformations incited unprecedented cultural mobilities. The vibrant modes of Tanzimat reforms ushered in an impetus to understand Europe systematically on both governmental and public levels. Forged by the ever-changing transportation infrastructures, vital urban milieu and novel understanding of history, Ottoman intelligentsia embarked on solo journeys, pored over European cities, published accounts, created, displayed and circulated personal archives and collections. Concurrently, vocal press culture became an essential engine of knowledge production and discussion on grand concepts such as progress and heritage, tradition and civilization. All these practices were pivotal for the formation of spaces that frame and exhibit the past effective in the emergence of the modern museum and the conception of the fields like urban planning, architecture and archeology.

Stressing the contextual and conceptual aspects of these activities and formations, this session welcomes researches on Ottoman participation and responses to the international 19th century culture of travel, collecting and display. It particularly focuses on the mobility and circulation of people and objects around Ottoman and connected contexts; Ottoman encounters and exchanges en route; the journeys of intellectuals, collections and archives in the late Ottoman Empire. In addition to the bureaucratic attempts and initiatives of the capital, personal imageries, reception and appropriation of various localities, stories of archeological and architectural pieces as well as those of non-professionals, interactions between locals, foreigners, dilettanti and experts are some of the tracks that might be explored. In the scholarship there is a clear subordination of 19th century Ottoman cultural mobilities to the bureaucratic transformations and diplomatic concerns. The aim here is not to disregard such interconnectedness and the dependence of cultural policies to political missions but pay attention also to the movements of artefacts and people. Rejecting essentializing oppositional constructions of the East and West but also chauvinistic counter arguments that lose sight of the obvious asymmetrical relations, failures and constraints, the purpose is to discuss ways for analyzing 19th century Ottoman transformations via a transnational paradigm.

Abstract proposals must be submitted through the conference portal by 4 October 2019.

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