Nov 29, 2016

Insularity and Empire in Ottoman Cyprus

with Antonis Hadjikyriacou

hosted by Michael Talbot

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The history of Mediterranean islands offers a dynamic paradox of insularity engendered by geographical isolation and connectivity fostered by access to ports and maritime networks. In this podcast, we discuss those themes through a conversation about the transformation of Cyprus over the centuries of Ottoman imperial rule. Our guest Antonis Hadjikyriacou has studied the history of Cyprus from the earliest years of Ottoman rule during the late 16th century into the 19th century. In the interview, we explore agricultural production and political economy in Cyprus through geo-spatial analysis of early Ottoman documentation and consider how the local politics and economy of Cyprus were situated in a changing Mediterranean.

Nov 25, 2016

Narratives of Slavery in Late Ottoman Egypt

with Eve Troutt Powell

hosted by Susanna Ferguson

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The epithet "abid," Arabic for "slave," still follows those with dark skin as they move around today's Cairo. The word and its negative connotations, however, have a long history. In this episode, Professor Eve Troutt Powell explores this history by tracing the many lives of slaves and slavery in late Ottoman Egypt. She draws on the narratives of Ottoman Egyptian elites, Sudanese slave traders, and slaves themselves to show how the practice of owning people with dark skin shaped a regional Ottoman-Egyptian-Sudanese economy, gendered patterns of elite household life, and prominent forms of textual and visual culture. She reads representations of slavery and slaves' lives in the late nineteenth century to show how practices of Egyptian and Sudanese slave trading and owning, developed far from the decks of Atlantic slavers, nevertheless produced their own forms of racist thinking that have persisted into the present in Egypt as elsewhere.

Nov 16, 2016

Compiling Knowledge in the Medieval Islamic World

with Elias Muhanna

hosted by Chris Gratien and Zoe Griffith

readings by Nora Lessersohn

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Classical encyclopedias and compendia such as Pliny’s Natural History have long been known to Western audiences, but the considerably more recent works of medieval Islamic scholars have been comparatively ignored. In this episode, we talk to Elias Muhanna about his new translation of a fourteenth-century Arabic compendium by Egyptian scholar Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri, which covers everything from astrological and natural phenomena to religion, politics, food, animals, sex, and of course history. Al-Nuwayri’s compendium, entitled The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition (Nihayat al-arab fi funun al-adab), is rare glimpse into not only the worldview of a 14th century scholar but also the centuries of texts and learning available to the literati of the Mamluk Empire and the medieval Islamicate world.

Nov 12, 2016

Nouveau Literacy in the 18th Century Levant

with Dana Sajdi

hosted by Chris Gratien and Shireen Hamza

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In the conventional telling of the intellectual history of the Ottoman Empire and the Islamicate world, there has been very little room for people outside the ranks of the learned scholars or ulema associated with the religious, intellectual, and political elite of Muslim communities. But in this episode, we explore the writings of Shihab al-Din Ahmad Ibn Budayr, an 18th-century Damascene barber, as well as a host of writers that our guest Dana Sajdi has described as representatives of "nouveau literacy" in the Ottoman Levant. We discuss how non-elite writers left records of the people and events they encountered during a period of socioeconomic transformation in Greater Syria, and we listen to readings from the text of Ibn Budayr--the barber of Damascus--that bring to life the literary style of the unusual and extraordinary authors who wrote from the margins of the learned establishment in early modern Ottoman society.

Nov 8, 2016

Architecture and Late Ottoman Historical Imagination

with Ahmet Ersoy

hosted by Susanna Ferguson

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What happens when we encounter "Orientalist" aesthetics outside the West? In the late nineteenth century, a cosmopolitan group of Ottoman architects turned to modern forms of art history writing to argue that synthesis and change stood at the heart of a particularly "Ottoman" architectural aesthetic. Working together, these writers produced the first text of modern art history writing in the Ottoman empire, the Usul-ı Mi’marî-yi Osmanî or The Fundamentals of Ottoman Architecture. This volume was published simultaneously in Ottoman Turkish, French and German for the Universal Exposition or World's Fair in Vienna in 1873. In this episode, Ahmet Ersoy explores the making of this text, its arguments, and its implications for understanding the relationship of the late-Tanzimat Ottoman Empire with Europe, its own cosmopolitan "hyphenated-Ottoman" intellectuals, and historical imagination.

Nov 6, 2016

Dark Humor from Algeria's "Dark Decade"

with Elizabeth Perego

hosted by Graham Cornwell and Soha El Achi

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Between December 1991 and February 2002, Algeria experienced a protracted civil war, which earned the period the designation of the "dark decade." In this episode, we explore how Algerians experienced and coped with the violence and trepidation of the civil war through the lens of humor. Our guest Elizabeth Perego has studied to role of humor, jokes, and caricatures in the politics of Algeria since the struggle against French colonialism in the 1950s. In our conversation, we focus on the dark humor of the dark decade, retelling some of the most widespread jokes of the period in a discussion of how humor provided a source of relief and platform for commentary on the unsettling realities of the war.

Nov 3, 2016

Development, Race, and the Cold War in Algeria

with Muriam Haleh Davis

hosted by Chris Gratien and Aurelie Perrier

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The French military struggle to maintain control over Algeria throughout the war period (1954-1962) is remembered for its violent and destructive impacts. But during the war, the French administration also sought to maintain control over Algeria by attempting to build the rural economy and deepening the structures of colonial rule in the countryside. In this episode, we talk to Muriam Haleh Davis about the Constantine Plan, a project of social and economic development carried out within the context of the Algerian War and the rise of Cold War developmentalism. In our conversion, we explore the understandings of race embedded in French development in Algeria and situate the context of the Algerian War within the broader history of decolonization, the rise of the social sciences, and the making of the European Community.