Jul 25, 2017

Visual Sources in Late Ottoman History

Episode 327

with contributions by Zeynep Çelik, Leyla Amzi-Erdoğdular, Özde Çeliktemel-Thomen, Mehmet Kentel, Michael Talbot, Murat Yıldız, Burçak Özlüdil Altın, Seçil Yılmaz, Burçin Çakır, Zeinab Azerbadegan, Dotan Halevy, Chris Gratien, and Michael Ferguson

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Visual sources such as photographs, maps, and miniatures often serve as accompaniment or adornment within works of Ottoman history. In this episode, we feature new work that interrogates methods of analyzing and employing visual sources for Ottoman history that go beyond the practice of "image as decoration." Following a conversation with the organizers of the "Visual Sources in Late Ottoman History" conference held at Columbia University in April 2017, we speak to conference participants about the visual sources they employ in their work and how these visual sources allow us to understand the history of the Ottoman Empire and post-Ottoman world in a new light.

Jul 20, 2017

Coffee & Cannabis

Episode 326


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Commodities, their circulation, and their consumption have long been favorite topics of cultural and economic historians alike. In this episode, we build on the historiography of commodities by studying further the social and political context of two particular commodities: coffee and marijuana. Our guests, Casey Lurtz and Lina Britto, have each studied these commodities in their Latin American contexts, and following a global discussion of coffee and marijuana with some focus on the Middle East, we talk to each of these scholars about their respective research projects. We examine how the arrival of coffee impacted local political economies in Mexico, and we explore how the history of marijuana as a "drug" has had political consequences for modern Latin American countries. We conclude with a roundtable discussion on the history of commodities like coffee and marijuana and what they tell us about the changing cultural context surrounding both these items today.

Jul 18, 2017

Ports and Printers Across the Armenian Diaspora

Episode 325

hosted by Nir Shafir

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A perennial question in Ottoman history is why printing was not fully adopted in the Middle East for the production of books until the late nineteenth century. Armenians, however, did start to print their books as early as the sixteenth century. In this episode, Sebouh Aslanian explains this rather sudden shift by telling the story of how the twin traumas of the Celali Rebellions and Shah Abbas’s scorched-earth campaigns against the Ottoman Empire spurred the mass migration of Armenians away from their traditional centers in the Eastern fringes of Anatolia, the Armenian Plateau and the Caucasus and toward major cities of Western Anatolia and Iran. As the traditional centers of Armenian manuscript production were disrupted by war and banditry, Armenians turned to printing presses in the European diaspora to satisfy their needs for books.

Jul 15, 2017

Genetics and Nation-Building in the Middle East

Episode 324


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Genetics have emerged as a new scientific tool for studying human ancestry and historical migration. And as research into the history of genetics demonstrates, genetics and other bioscientific approaches to studying ancestry were also integral to the transformation of the very national and racial categories through which ancestry has come to be described over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. In this podcast, we speak to Elise Burton about her research on the development of human genetics in the Middle East. Burton has studied the history of genetics within a comparative framework, examining the interrelated cases of human genetics research in Turkey, Israel, Iran, and elsewhere. In this episode, we focus in particular on the history of genetics in Turkey and its relationship to changing understandings of nation and race within the early Republic. In a bonus segment (see below), we also look under the hood of commercial genetic ancestry tests to understand present-day science within the context of these historical developments.

Jul 6, 2017

Kemalism and the Making of Modern Turkey

Episode 323

hosted by Andreas Guidi and Elif Becan

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In this collaboration with The Southeast Passage, we discuss the emergence of the Turkish nationalist movement under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the establishment of a sovereign Republic of Turkey in 1923. As our guest Prof. Erik-Jan Zürcher notes, Kemalism can be studied both as a political transformation from armed struggle to a one-party state administration system and as a repertoire of discursive symbols based on the imaginary of nation, civilization, and modernity. This installment is structured along a series of lectures that Prof. Zürcher has given at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, in which he has framed Kemalism’s activism and worldview within its contemporary international context as well as along a broader chronological axis continuing into the 1950s.

Jul 1, 2017

Shared Histories of the Ottoman East

Episode 322



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This episode examines historical approaches to Armenians, Kurds, and Turks in the eastern provinces of Ottoman Anatolia. "Shared history" has been offered up as a corrective to the existing historiography's nationalist and often exclusionary approaches, but what does writing a "shared history" actually look like? Yaşar Tolga Cora and Dzovinar Derderian talk about their approaches in their recent 2016 edited volume, The Ottoman East in the Nineteenth Century: Societies, Identities and Politics. The volume discusses Trans-regional Connectivity; the fluidity of identities and loyalties, state and local politics; and the social history of space. They draw on the work to unpack the political and scholarly challenges of writing a "shared history" for an area that has been and still is marked by deep conflicts.