Jul 31, 2016

The Life and Art of Ceramicist David Ohannessian

with Sato Moughalian

hosted by Chris Gratien and Seçil Yılmaz

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The styles of Iznik and Kütahya porcelain, which have become synonymous with excellence in Ottoman-Turkish ceramics, adorned and renovated buildings in a radius extending beyond the Anatolian heartland and including Damascus, Mecca, and Cairo. They bear a striking resemblance to the colorful and ornate tiles on many buildings in the city of Jerusalem today, including the Dome of the Rock. This is due to the fact that the iconic ceramics industry of Jerusalem was founded after the First World War by Armenian ceramists who had gotten their start in the resurgent tile industry of late Ottoman Kütahya. As we learn from our guest in this episode, Sato Moughalian, the transfer of this celebrated ceramics tradition from Kütahya to Jerusalem was largely through the figure of David Ohannessian (1884-1953), a master ceramist who came up in the local ceramic arts of the western Anatolian region and received commissions from the likes of Ottoman governors, revivalist architects, and European notables, including Sir Mark Sykes. He survived the travails of deportation to the Syrian desert during WWI only to recreate his art and business in Mandate Palestine. In the podcast, we trace the material history of Ottoman Armenians through the life and journeys of Ohannessian and reflect on the history of Armenian music through some pieces recorded by Moughalian and her colleagues. 

Jul 29, 2016

Tracing Plague in the Ottoman Empire

with Nükhet Varlık

hosted by Nir Shafir

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Geneticists and historians are generally considered strange bedfellows. However, new advances in bio-archaeology and genetics are facilitating this odd coupling. In this episode, we speak to Nükhet Varlık, author of Plague and Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean World : the Ottoman experience, 1347-1600 (Cambridge University Press), about how genetic evidence has transformed the study of the plague in the past ten years, allowing geneticists to more readily identify the presence of Yersinia pestis bacteria in human remains. Whereas before historians had been hesitant to diagnose diseases posthumously, they can now speak with greater certainty about the presence of plague. We then discuss the life of plague in the early modern Ottoman Empire in particular, focusing on the creation of ‘plague capitals’ in the urban centers of the Ottoman Empire following the conquest of Constantinople and how integrating the Ottoman experience of plague changes the story of how historians of medicine approach the topic. To inspire future collaborations among our listeners, we end with a peek at the process of working with geneticists and what such approaches can contribute to the study of the history of the Middle East.

Jul 27, 2016

Ottoman Commentaries on Islamic Philosophy

with Eric van Lit

hosted by Nir Shafir and Chris Gratien

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Commentaries are a common, even a nearly ineluctable, part of the textual landscape of the early modern Ottoman Empire. Especially when it came to philosophy, commentaries were perhaps the main venue of discussions. An earlier generation of scholars believed these commentaries to be derivative but we now see them as a major piece in the development of the philosophical tradition in the Middle East. In this podcast, we speak with L.W.C (Eric) van Lit about how to approach these commentaries and their effect on the intellectual life of the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth and sixteenth century.

Jul 24, 2016

Bobovius and the Republic of Letters

with Michael Tworek

hosted by Nir Shafir, Polina Ivanova, and Shireen Hamza

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A man known as Wojciech Bobowski to some, Albertus Bobovius to others, and Ali Ufki to yet others, is one of the prime examples of an early modern intermediary operating in the seventeenth-century Ottoman Empire. In this podcast, we discuss with Michael Tworek the fascinating figure of the Bobovius, from his childhood in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, to his capture in a Tatar slave raid, to his numerous translations both from and to Ottoman Turkish. These included musical treatises, the translation of the New Testament, the Genevan Psalter and more. In particular, we focus on how Bobovius mediated and developed his image as an inter-imperial mediator to his correspondents in the Republic of Letters.

Jul 15, 2016

A New History
of Print in Ottoman Cairo

with Kathryn Schwartz

hosted by Nir Shafir

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We often regard print as a motor of social change, leaving revolutions in its wake, whether political and religious. For historians of the Middle East, this line of thought always leads to the (predictable) question: why didn’t Muslims or Ottomans or Arabs adopt print? In this episode, Kathryn Schwartz discusses why this question is often poorly posed and then delves into an in-depth look at how and why people used print in one particular historical context—nineteenth-century Cairo. Touching upon topics such Napoleon, Mehmed Ali, and the Bulaq press, we explore how print slowly and haphazardly embedded itself into various aspects of Egyptian learned life. This fresh history casts nineteenth-century Egypt in a new light by examining the technological adaptation of print not as an act of unstoppable and transformative modernity, but as a slow and incremental expansion of already existing practices of book production.

Jul 13, 2016

Marginalized Women in Khedival Egypt

with Liat Kozma

hosted by Chris Gratien and Susanna Ferguson

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With political and economic developments in 19th century Egypt, the lives of women began to change in dramatic ways. From the rise of wage labor and the restructuring of rural households to the emergence of women's movements and publications, pre-colonial Egypt witnessed numerous transformation in the realm of gender. In this episode, Liat Kozma shares her research regarding some of the most marginalized women in Egyptian society during this period of change. Manumitted slaves, doctors and midwives, factory employees, and sex workers were some groups of women who left many historical traces in the police, court, and medical records of the Khedival government.

Jul 11, 2016

Literacies and the Emergence of Modern Egypt

with Hoda Yousef

hosted by Graham Pitts

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During the late nineteenth century, Egyptian society witnessed the rise of new debates and practices concerning reading and writing in the Arabic language. In this episode, Hoda Yousef explores the discources surrounding literacy in Egypt, which is the subject of her first book entitled Composing Egypt (Stanford University Press, 2016). This work examines how different actors from Islamic modernists and feminists to journalists and officials sought to produce particular kinds of Egyptians through language politics. Dr. Yousef demonstrates that emergent practices of reading and writing had impacts well beyond the conventionally-defined literate circles.  Even for those who did not read and write, the written word became an important part of daily life. Through the medium of public exchange created by the writing, different segments of Egyptian society could engage in discussions regarding nation, home, and belonging.

Jul 8, 2016

The German Imperial Fountain in Istanbul

with Lorenz Korn

hosted by Emily Neumeier and Sotirios Dimitriadis

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The fountain standing in the Hippodrome (At Meydanı) in Istanbul, located just a few steps away from some of Turkey’s most famous tourist attractions like Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, doesn’t attract much notice these days. But wrapped up in this monument, gifted to the people of the city by the German Emperor Wilhelm II, is a story that sheds some light on the bilateral relations between the Ottoman Empire and their European neighbors before WWI. What is the role that the arts play in this diplomatic relationship? Under what conditions could such an object be inserted in the topography of Istanbul’s historic monuments? In this episode, Emily Neumeier and Sotirios Dimitriadis speak with Lorenz Korn about his research on the imperial fountain, tracing the process of its design, construction and reception.

Jul 5, 2016

Landscapes of the Eastern Question

with Paolo Girardelli

hosted by Emily Neumeier

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In the classical Ottoman period, European embassies in Istanbul pretty much looked like any other residential building. At the end of the eighteenth century, however, a period of dramatic geo-political and social change, official foreign residences likewise underwent a process of transformation. Architectural designs shifted from Ottoman to Western styles, and these landmarks became increasingly prominent and visible in the urban landscape. In this episode, Emily Neumeier speaks with Paolo Girardelli about how Pera became the “district of diplomacy” in the Ottoman capital, the subject of his forthcoming book project, Landscapes of the Eastern Question: Architecture and Identity in Galata, Pera, and the Bosphorus, 1774-1919.

Jul 2, 2016

Neo-Ottoman Architecture and the Transnational Mosque

with Kishwar Rizvi

hosted by Chris Gratien

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As spaces fundamental to Muslim religious and communal life, mosques have historically served as sites of not just architectural but also ideological construction. As our guest Kishwar Rizvi argues in her latest book entitled The Transnational Mosque (UNC Press 2015), states operating in transnational contexts have taken a leading role in the building of mosques and in doing so, they forge political, economic, and architectural networks that span the globe. In this episode, we discuss the architectural exports of the four states covered in Prof. Rizvi's monograph: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates. In addition to situating and comparing transnational mosques of different states, we give special attention to the rise of Neo-Ottoman architecture in modern Turkey and its role in re-branding Turkey's image on the global stage.