Dec 29, 2013

History on the Internet | Chris Gratien

139. End of Year 2013

In our final episode of our biggest year yet, we explain the importance of independent, open-access internet projects and answer the questions of CUNY-City College students about the podcast.

Chris Gratien is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University studying the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and modern Middle East (see

Dec 28, 2013

Traveling Oculists in Israel/Palestine

with Anat Mooreville

hosted by Chris Gratien and Seçil Yılmaz

This episode is part of an ongoing series entitled History of Science, Ottoman or Otherwise.
Download the series
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Medicine is not merely a practice that takes place in hospitals, clinics, and laboratories. It also involves the movement and operation of medical practitioners in different social spaces. In this episode, Anat Mooreville discusses traveling doctors in Israel/Palestine and their role not only in combating trachoma (a severe eye disease that causes blindness) but also as ethnographers and go-betweens within the framework of a Zionist national project.

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Anat Mooreville is a doctoral candidate at UCLA studying the history of science and medicine in Israel/Palestine
Chris Gratien is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University studying the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East (see
Seçil Yılmaz is a doctoral candidate at the Graduate Center-CUNY studying the history of disease, medicine, and sex in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey (see

Episode No. 138
Release Date: 28 December 2013
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Editing and Production by Chris Gratien
Bibliography courtesy of Anat Mooreville

This episode originally appeared under the title of "Wandering Doctors in Israel/Palestine."

Citation: "Wandering Doctors in Israel/Palestine," Anat Mooreville, Chris Gratien, and Seçil Yılmaz, Ottoman History Podcast, No. 138 (28 December 2013)


Davidovitch, Nadav, and Shifra Shvarts. 2000. “Health and Hegemony: Preventive Medicine, Immigrants and the Israeli Melting Pot.” Israel Studies. 9, no. 2: 150-179.

Davidovitch, Nadav, and Zalman Greenberg. 2007. “Public Health, Culture, and Colonial Medicine: Smallpox and Variolation in Palestine During the British Mandate.” Public Health Reports. 122, no. 3: 398-406.

Feigenbaum, Arieh. Fifty Years of Ophthalmology in Israel [Hebrew]. Tel-Aviv: ha-Refuʼah, 1946. 

Hirsch, Dafna. 2009. “‘We Are Here to Bring the West, Not Only to Ourselves’: Zionist Occidentalism and the Discourse of Hygiene in Mandate Palestine.” International Journal of Middle East Studies. 41: 577-594.

Sufian, Sandra M. Healing the Land and the Nation: Malaria and the Zionist Project in Palestine, 1920-1947. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Taylor, Hugh R. Trachoma: A Blinding Scourge from the Bronze Age to the Twenty-First Century. East Melbourne, Vic: Centre for Eye Research Australia, 2008.

Dec 27, 2013

Across Anatolia on a Bicycle

with Daniel Pontillo

hosted by Chris Gratien

This episode is part of an ongoing series entitled History of Science, Ottoman or Otherwise.
Download the series
Podcast Feed | iTunes | Soundcloud

What does it mean to wield or possess a certain technology? What are the limits to associational claims to technical expertise or superiority? In this podcast, Daniel Pontillo considers these cultural and social dimensions of technology through a study of the travel narrative Across Asia on a Bicycle, in which two American men set out at in the heat of the late nineteenth-century bicycle craze to use their new technology to tame the rugged Asian geography. In our discussion, we focus on the first leg of their trip, which was carried out in Ottoman Anatolia (click here for a complete PDF from GoogleBooks)

Daniel Pontillo is a doctoral student at University of Rochester studying brain and cognitive sciences (Linkedin)
Chris Gratien is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University researching the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. (see

Episode No. 137
Release date: 27 December 2013
Location: University of Rochester, NY
Editing and Production by Chris Gratien
Images from "Across Asia on a Bicycle" digitized by GoogleBooks

Citation: "Across Anatolia on a Bicycle," Daniel Pontillo and Chris Gratien, Ottoman History Podcast, No. 137 (27 December 2013)


Thomas Gaskell Allen, Jr. and William Lewis Sachtleben with their bicycles in western China
Original caption simply reads "a contrast"

An evening in a village

An Ottoman Zaptieh carries bicycle across river on horseback

This bread, which they refer to with the Turkish "ekmek," was not all that appealing for the American travelers, but they found it extremely convenient as they slipped it over their heads so they could eat it readily while on their bicycles.

This rider reportedly called their bicycle a "devil's carriage"

American bicyclers strike a pose with a group of curious villagers

Discussing the nuances of Islamic learning with a kadı in Sivas

Dec 26, 2013

Arabs Through Turkish Eyes

with Nicholas Danforth

hosted by Chris Gratien

When are policies driven by prejudice, and when do policies give rise to prejudiced representations? In this episode, Nicholas Danforth explores depictions of Middle East politics in the Turkish satirical periodical Akbaba from the 1930s onward in an attempt to understand the politics of representation, and offers some comparisons regarding the role of such prejudices and discourses within contemporary politics in the US and elsewhere.

Nicholas Danforth is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University studying the history of modern Turkey (see
Chris Gratien is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University studying the social and environmental history of the modern Middle East (see

Citation: "Arabs Through Turkish Eyes," Nicholas Danforth and Chris Gratien, Ottoman History Podcast, No. 136 (26 December 2014)

Trigger Warning: the images below, which are drawn from historical issues of the Turkish satirical magazine Akbaba, contain caricatures and stereotypes that listeners may find unsettling or offensive.

Click here to read the Nick's entire article in the Afternoon Map and access all the images for this podcast


Dec 18, 2013


with Nicholas Kontovas

hosted by Chris Gratien and Lydia Harrington

This episode is part of a series on Women, Gender, and Sex in Ottoman history

Download the series
Podcast Feed | iTunes | Soundcloud

The term Lubunca refers to a type of slang historically used among Istanbul’s LGBTQ communities. The term has gained currency only in the past decades, but in this podcast, Nicholas Kontovas suggest much deeper orgins in an overview of this underground jargon and its connections to the historical sociolinguistics of Turkey’s urban communities.

Nicholas Kontovas is a graduate student in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University
Chris Gratien is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University researching the social environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East (see
Lydia Harrington is a graduate student at the University of Washington

Episode No. 138
Release date: 18 December 2013
Location: Kurtuluş, Istanbul
Editing and Production by Chris Gratien
Bibliography and images courtesy of Nicholas Kontovas


Source: Nicholas Kontovas

Source: Nicholas Kontovas

Source: Nicholas Kontovas

Source: Nicholas Kontovas

Source: Nicholas Kontovas

Source: Nicholas Kontovas


Nicholas Kontovas
Aktunç, H. (2008). Büyük Argo Sözlüğü, Tanıklarıyla (Big Dictionary of Slang, with citations) (6th ed.). Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları.

Baker, P. (2002). Polari: The Lost Language of Gay Men. London: Routledge.

Bardakçı, M. (2005). Osmanlı'da Sex (Sex among the Ottomans). Istanbul: İnkılâp Kitabevi.

ibn Cemaleddin, A. (2000). Osmanlı Adet, Merasim, ve Tabirleri (Ottoman Traditions, Ceremonies, and Expressions). Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları. Modern Turkish rendering of the Late Ottoman عادات و مراسم قديمه تعبيرات و معاملات قومیه عثمانیه Adât ve merasim-i kadime, tabirât
ve muamelât-ı kavmiye-i Osmaniye, first published in 1912.

Kyuchukov, H. and P. Bakker (1999). A note on Romani words in the gay slang of Istanbul. In Grazer Linguistische Studien, Volume 51, pp. 95--98. Graz: Karl-Franzens-Universitat Graz.

Wyers, M. D. (2012). ``Wicked'' Istanbul: The Regulation of Prostitution in the Early Turkish Republic. Istanbul: Libra Kitapçılık ve Yayıncılık.

Yüzgün, A. (1986a). Türkiye'de Eşcinsellik: Dün, Bugün (Homosexuality in Turkey: Yesterday & Today). Istanbul: Hür-Yüz Yayıncılık.

Dec 13, 2013

From Dönme to Biennale: The "New Mosque" in Thessaloniki

From Dönme to Biennale: The "New Mosque" in Thessaloniki

by Emily Neumeier
published 13 December 2013

[1] Gal Weinstein's installation Fire Tire (2010) for the Thessaloniki Biennale. 
The piece to the right is over 4 meters tall. Exhibited in the Yeni Camii (New Mosque), 
constructed 1902 in Thessaloniki, Greece. Photo by author.

[2] Yeni Camii. Early 20th-century postcard.
Whether it's Sydney or Singapore, it seems like almost every major city in the world is now staging its own biennale, and Greece is no exception. This autumn, Thessaloniki celebrates its 4th Biennale of Contemporary Art, and, besides featuring the work of a wide group of international artists, the Biennale committee has also opened the doors of several historical monuments in the city that are not always accessible to visitors. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I recently headed out to the Yeni Camii (English: New Mosque,  Greek: Γενί Τζαμί), one of the main exhibition spaces for the festival and also one of the most interesting monuments in Ottoman Thessaloniki, a bustling port city with a long past of Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities living together. [1, 2] In this post, we take you on a tour of the building, and explain how the Yeni Camii remains a place where the politics of these different communities continues to play out until the present.

[3] The Yeni Camii under construction, with scaffolding
 around the minaret that was eventually torn
down. 1902. Photo from the site of Baki Sarısakal.
The Yeni Camii (New Mosque) was built in 1902--hardly "new" by today's standards--one of the last major additions to the urban fabric before Thessaloniki was incorporated into the Greek state in 1912. [3] Scholars claim that the mosque was specifically built for the so-called Dönme community of Thessaloniki, Muslims of Sephardic Jewish origin that had converted to Islam by the 17th-18th centuries (Baer 157).  According to the Ottoman newspaper Sabah, on a fine autumn morning early in September 1902--at 8:30 am sharp--a crowd of thousands gathered to watch the opening ceremony for the mosque, a grand affair complete with a military band playing the "Hamidiye March" and speeches from the governor of the province and one Haci Mehmed Hayri Pasha, a field marshal in the Third Army who is named as the mosque's primary patron in the original foundation inscription.

[4] Maps illustrating the expansion of Ottoman Thessaloniki beyond the walled city, from 1850 to 1809. The Yeni Camii lies at the center of the new Hamidiye neighborhood, which appears in the right-hand map as the large area south-east of the city center, next to the shore of the bay. The Salname (Yearbook) of Thessaloniki in 1907 CE (1325 H) refers to the Yeni Camii as the "recently constructed Hamidiye Mosque." [p.565, available through ISAM]

[5] Yeni Camii (New Mosque). Photo from
the Vakıf Genel 
Müdürlüğü (Ankara),
Defter No. 2219. Courtesy of Sotiris Dimitriadis. 
The mosque was not constructed in the city center, but rather in a new neighborhood--the Hamidiye district--which, in the 1880s, was the first major suburb to develop beyond the ancient city walls. [4]  Photographs of the building under construction [3] or early postcards reveal how the mosque--which is today completely hemmed in by apartment buildings--once stood isolated in an airy square, surrounded by trees. The Hamidiye neighborhood was located south-east of the city along the shore of the bay. There many of Salonica’s wealthiest families built themselves magnificent homes with names like Chateau Mon Bonheur, or Villa Bianca, featuring views over the water to Mt. Olympos. Indeed, an old photograph from an album dated 1924, now in the Pious Endowment Directorate in Ankara, labels the building as the "Mosque of the Villas" (Yalilar Cami Şerifi). [5] Such a well-heeled community would naturally clamor for their own congregational mosque, designed in line with the latest architectural trends and fashions.

[5] Plaque located on the facade of the Yeni Camii, naming
Vitaliano Poselli as the architect in both Ottoman Turkish
and Italian, with the year 1319 AH (1902 CE). Author's Photo.
According to a plaque fixed to the outer facade, the architect of the mosque was Vitaliano Poselli, a Sicilian trained in Istanbul. [5] Poselli had been working in Thessaloniki since 1885, successful in his own private practice as well as in public contracts. He seems to have been responsible for the majority of the large fin-di-siecle behemoths that punctuate Thessaloniki's urban landscape: the Banque de Salonique (1906-8), the local Ottoman administration building (Hükümet Konağı, 1891), the Church of the Virgin Mary (1902-3) and the Villa Alatini (the residence of Sultan Abdülhamid II when he was in exile to Salonica 1909-12). Following the trend of the period, Poselli designed the mosque in what could be called an "eclectic" style, mixing together different structural elements that could be identified as Gothic (pointed arches), Renaissance/Neo-Classical (rounded arches, Corinthian capitals) and what at the time would be called "Moorish" or "Turkish" (horse-shoe arches, muqarnas, arabesque pattern-work). [6]

[6] Facade of the Yeni Camii. Photo by Author.
There is no question that at the turn of the century the Dönme of Thessaloniki promoted a vibrant culture with cosmopolitan tastes, as evidenced in the several literary and scientific journals being published by members of this community. However, the same scholars who have worked to document the role of this community in late Ottoman Salonica have, in my opinion, tended to over-stress the history of the Dönme to explain the eclectic style of the Yeni Camii. Marc Baer writes: "[The mosque's] Corinthian columns, referring to the Greco-Byzantine locality, hold up Alhambric-style Andalusian arches, referencing Islam, above which prominent bands of six-pointed stars in marble wrapping are inscribed on the building's interior and exterior, which conjures comparisons with Italian synagogues. Above the entrance, a large six-pointed star is embedded within an ornate arabesque...Because it is a fascinating melange, the distinctive mosque serves as a metaphor for the cosmopolitanism promoted by the Dönme." Looking at the Yeni Camii from the stand-point of a modern aesthetic, its combination of historical styles may strike a 21st-century viewer as unusual, or even unique. Yet the fact is that, within the context of the late 19th century, this mosque was hardly extraordinary. Eclecticism was the style of the day, and it took hold in almost every continent and translated to many different kinds of buildings: museums (PAFA, Philadelphia), churches (Immaculate Conception, New Orleans), synagogues (New Synagogue, Berlin), theaters, and yes, mosques as well. The Yeni Camii in Thessaloniki actually bears an uncanny resemblance to the Yıldız Mosque in Istanbul, the imperial foundation of Sultan Abdülhamid II. [7]

[7] Close-up view of the facade of the Yıldız Mosque in Istanbul (1884-86),
 the imperial mosque of Sultan Abdülhamid II. Photo by author.

[8] Original mechanism for the double-clock
towers. Photo by author.

A brief glance at the facade shows that the Yıldız Mosque also features a six-pointed star embedded in the center of the upper decorative crest, as well as on the marble bands wrapping around the building (to the right of the crest)--this all suggests that the same craft specialists who worked on the mosque at Yıldız may very well have been brought in to decorate the facade of the Yeni Camii in Thessaloniki. In short, if stars of David prominently feature on the imperial mosque in Istanbul (as well as in many mosques throughout the world), it becomes tricky to ascribe their appearance in the Yeni Camii to the mosque's particular relationship with the Dönme community. Suffice to say that the wealthy and influential residents of the new Hamidiye neighborhood preferred to construct their new mosque in an eclectic style because they wanted to access the latest fashions in architecture. The Yeni Camii also reflected in many ways the aggressive push toward modernization that at the time affected almost every aspect of urban life in Thessaloniki. The mosque not only included a sundial fixed to the outside of the building with Ottoman Turkish instructions on setting personal pocket-watches according to the markings ("Saatlerinizi on dakika'ya geri olarak dönleriniz," "Turn back your watch 10 minutes [from the indicated time on the dial]"), but also a double-clock tower that was operated by a complex mechanism that is still in situ, and, even in a state of disrepair, still a work of fine craftsmanship. [8]

[9] One of the double-clock towers of the
Yeni Camii, with Greek soldiers
billeted on the top of the roof, 1915.
The Yeni Camii was only in service as a mosque for a decade before the city became part of Greece in 1912. After this, the building has gone on to serve a wide variety of functions: a lookout post for Greek soldiers in 1915 [9], then for a short while a place to house refugees from the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey in 1922, and from 1925 to 1963 home to Thessaloniki's archaeological museum (hence the "Archaeological Museum" sign in Greek above the doorway [6]). Today, the courtyard of the Yeni Camii still belongs to the museum, with ancient tombstones and columns littering the garden surrounding the building, while the structure itself belongs to the municipal government, a complicated bureaucratic arrangement that I am sure is a constant source of amusement to both parties. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, although the Yeni Camii is not always open to the public, it is today frequently being used as an exhibition space for art festivals as well as avant-garde theater productions. In a country that has often struggled to come to terms with its Ottoman past, it is gratifying to see such a prominent historical monument from that time period being preserved and serving a role in the city's growing art scene. What's more, under the initiative of Thessaloniki's new--and very popular--mayor Yiannis Boutaris, the Yeni Camii was opened for prayer as a mosque for the first time in 90 years in March of this year (you can watch it on youtube). Turkish diplomats commended this step, but stated that they were waiting for Athens to be next, a veiled reference to Prime Minister Erdoğan's assertion that he would only consider re-instituting the Greek Orthodox seminary in Istanbul if the Greek government consented to opening a mosque in Athens to prayer.

If you get the chance to visit Thessaloniki, don't miss the Yeni Camii--a fin-de-siecle gem that speaks to the urban transformation of the late Ottoman port city, and continues to play center stage as an arts venue as well as a bargaining chip in international relations. 

The 4th Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art is on view until January 31, 2014. 

BAER, Marc. "Globalization, Cosmopolitanism, and the Dönme in Ottoman Salonica and Turkish Istanbul." Journal of World History 18/2 (June 2007): pp 141-170.

MAZOWER, Mark. Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950. London: HarperCollins, 2004.
Sabah 4616 (7 Eylül 1902). Found in SAKAL, Baki Sarı, "Selanik'te Yaptırılan Son Cami Hamidiye Camisi (Yeni Cami)."

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Dec 11, 2013

Water Security in Post-War Iraq and Turkey

with Julia Harte & Anna Ozbek

hosted by Chris Gratien

For the past decade, media coverage of politics and life in Iraq has been dominated by the issues of the destructive American invasion and its aftermath. Often lost among these images are the stories of how life persists. In this episode, Julia Harte and Anna Ozbek discuss a journey up the Tigris (partially funded by a National Geographic Young Explorers grant) and their investigations of the local policies, politics, and problems surrounding water usage and management in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. We discuss the effects of recent policies and the anticipated impacts of ongoing projects from the restoration of the Iraqi marshes to the construction of the Ilısu Dam in Eastern Anatolia.

Dec 9, 2013

Ottoman Wireless and the World's Postmen

"Let's accept that there is nothing outside of possibility." These 59 characters are not a tweet from some San Francisco techie in 2013, but a part of an article from an Ottoman student named H. Rauf in Paris in 1911. Writing in the journal Servet-i Fünun, the self-described student of electricity clarified this vision of the, shall we say, impossibility of impossibility. Rauf said so "because today as a result of people's earnest endeavors (sa'y ve ghayretleri)...they are able to discover and invent everything." Rauf did not attribute this wondrous power to the almighty. Instead, the student seemed to think that elbow grease was the almighty. "Earnest endeavor is the mother of all human products," Rauf declared.  

So what had dear Rauf talking like Icarus? Two words: wireless telegraph. Homeboy was real excited about this.  But not in the way you, or at least I, might expect. He didn't imagine, for instance, kicking back in Paris and lighting up a Papier d'Arménie while also keeping tabs on the latest political intrigues of Istanbul thanks to the wireless telegraph. No, Rauf was far more utilitarian than that.  He imagined instead how a boat far away from the shore would be able to stay in contact with both the shore and other boats around it in even "the most foggy and stormy conditions." You see? Anything is possible! 

And if you're still an unbeliever, Rauf has some further advice for you. The vast majority of the article explains in technical detail exactly how a wireless telegraph works. It will likely mean little to people out there who aren't engineers, though I for one was happy to learn that the Ottoman term for "Hertz oscillator" was apparently "herç alet-i ihtizaziyesi."  

Yet by far the best part of this article is not the technological confidence of a young Ottoman far away from home nor is it the artwork (above) depicting the herç alet-i ihtizaziyesi. The best part of the article is an utterly unexplained visual accompaniment to H. Rauf's dreams of boats finding safe harbor thanks to wireless telegraphs: pictures of postmen from all over the world! There's absolutely no mention of Norwegians on skis, Manchurians with mules, or Canadians with dog sleds in the article. But nevertheless there they are directly adjacent to H. Rauf's article, in all their glory, all in the name of the mail.  

 From left: "Russian postman," "English postman," and "Austrian postman"

"Norwegian postman" 

 From left: "Postman in North America's tundra" and "Postman in America's deserts"

 "Ottoman postman"

 "Indian postman"

 "Iranian postal courier"

 "Postman on the island of Jamaica"

"Postman in Manchuria"

Given that these men and their occupation might become obsolete in a world of wireless communication, was their depiction the editors' way of demonstrating the human cost of Rauf's technological cheerleading? Maybe. Or maybe the pictures are just a way to fill up pages. In spite of all of my "earnest endeavors" to know why, I can only conclude that - contrary to H. Rauf's axiom - I must accept that explaining this choice is outside of possibility. 

Source: Servet-i Fünun No. 1031, 24 Şubat 1326 (9 March 1911), 390-394, 396.