African Diaspora in Ottoman Izmir

with Michael Ferguson

hosted by Chris Gratien and Saghar Sadeghian

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The Ottoman slave trade, which was part of an increasingly globalized trafficking network of the early modern period, brought millions of people from the surrounding regions of Europe, Asia, and Africa to the Ottoman Empire. While abolition and emancipation movements occurred in various forms throughout the last century of the empire's history, slavery remained in practice until its very end. In recent decades, the ignored history of the Ottoman slave trade has received more attention, but there has been considerably less discussion of how enslaved people brought to the empire contributed to its socioeconomic and cultural transformation and where the descendants of such people can be found today. In this episode, we talk to Michael Ferguson about his research on the African diaspora in modern Turkey, especially around the city of Izmir. We discuss the origins of Izmir's Afro-Turk community, their historical experience during the late Ottoman and early Republican periods, and the ways in which the Afro-Turk identity has been transformed and revived in recent years. We also delve into shared aspects of history and culture between diasporic African communities in other parts of the Middle East.

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Michael Ferguson is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, UK. Michael’s research focuses on questions of identity, marginalization, and minorities in the late Ottoman Empire and early republican Turkey. His current book project examines the relatively unknown social and cultural history of enslaved and emancipated Africans and their descendants in Izmir in the late Ottoman Empire. 
Chris Gratien holds a Ph.D. from Georgetown University's Department of History. His research focuses on the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region from the 1850s until the 1950s.
Saghar Sadeghian is currently Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Willamette University. She is a former Henry Hart Rice Family Foundation Fellow and Lecturer at Yale University's MacMillan Center. Her research focuses on the ideas of nationality, constitution, and modern institutions in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She is specifically interested in minority groups in the Middle East and the question of gender, race, religion and ethnicity.


Episode No. 257
Release Date: 10 August 2016
Recording Location: Yale University
Editing and production by Chris Gratien
Sound excerpts: Istanbul'dan Ayva Gelir Nar Gelir - Azize Tozem and Sari RecepHarmandali - Recep Efendi, Cemal Efendi; Esmeray - 13.5 (digitized vinyl)
Special thanks to Kara Güneş for allowing us to use the composition "Istanbul" in the intro music
Bibliography courtesy of Michael Ferguson


Çakmak, Ezgi. “Siyah= Yabanci = Göçmen: Afrikali Göçmenlerin İstanbul Deneyimine Dair Bir Okuma” in Lülüfer Körükmez and İlkay Südaş, eds., Göçler Ülkesi İstanbul: Ayrıntı Yayınları, 2015: 169-178.

Erdem, Y. Hakan. Slavery in the Ottoman Empire and Its Demise, 1800-1909. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996

Ferguson, Michael. “Abolitionism and the African Slave Trade in the Ottoman Empire (1857- 1922)” in Gwyn Campbell and Alessandro Stanziani, eds., Human Rights in Afro- Eurasia from the Seventeenth Century to the Present, Vol.1, The Longue Durée of Bondage in Afro-Eurasia, 1600-1900. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. [forthcoming, Fall 2016]

Ferguson, Michael, and Ehud Toledano, “Slavery and Emancipation in the late Ottoman Empire” in David Eltis and Stanley L. Engermen, eds., The Cambridge World  History of Slavery, Volume 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [forthcoming, Fall 2016]

Ferguson, Michael. “White Turks, Black Turks, and Negroes: the Politics of Polarization” in Umut Özkırımlı and Spyros Sofos, eds., Occupy Gezi: The Making of a Protest Movement. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014: 77-88.

Ferguson, Michael. “Clientship, Social Indebtedness and State-Controlled Emancipation of Africans in the Late Ottoman Empire” in Gwyn Campbell and Alessandro Stanziani, eds., Debt and Slavery in the Mediterranean and Atlantic Worlds, London: Pickering and Chatto, 2013: 49-62.

Ferguson, Michael. “Enslaved and Emancipated Africans on Crete,” in Terence Walz and Kenneth M. Cuno, eds., Race and Slavery in the Middle East: Histories of Trans-Saharan Africans in Nineteenth-Century Egypt, Sudan, and the Ottoman Mediterranean. Cairo and New York: The American University in Cairo Press, 2010: 171-95.

Karamürsel, Ceyda, “Ottoman slavery as a tool for historical analysis: A review of recent literature” New Perspectives on Turkey, no. 50 (2014): 193-203.

Toledano, Ehud R., As If Silent and Absent: Bonds of Enslavement in the Islamic Middle East. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Zilfi, Madeline C., Women and Slavery in the Late Ottoman Empire: The Design of Difference. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.


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