The Ottoman Red Sea

with Alexis Wick

hosted by Susanna Ferguson

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The body of water now known as the Red Sea lay well within the bounds of the Ottoman Empire's well-protected domains for nearly four centuries. It wasn't until the 19th century, however, that this body of water began to be called or conceived of as "the Red Sea" by either Ottomans or Europeans. In this episode, Professor Alexis Wick argues that we have much to learn about how history (and Ottoman history in particular) "makes its object" by studying not only the emergence of the concept of the Red Sea, Ottoman or otherwise, but also the surprising absence of such a history in previous scholarship. His new book The Red Sea: In Search of Lost Space (University of California Press, 2016) is both a conceptual history of the Red Sea as seen through both Ottoman and European eyes, and a reflection on the methodologies, tropes, and preoccupations of Ottoman history writ large.

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Alexis Wick is is Assistant Professor of history at the American University of Beirut. His first book, The Red Sea: In Search of Lost Space (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016), presents an innovative account of the Ottoman Red Sea world even as it traces the genealogy of the concept of the sea. His current research explores the history of coffee, the poetics and practices of space in the Islamic tradition, and the introduction of a new concept of humanity in 19th century Ottoman and Arabic discourse. He is also writing a collection of essays on the various embodiments of the idea of Palestine in different times and places.
Susanna Ferguson is a Ph.D. Candidate in Middle Eastern History at Columbia University. She is currently working on a dissertation entitled "Tracing Tarbiya: Women, Gender and Childrearing in Egypt and Lebanon, 1865-1939."  


Episode No. 258
Release Date: 16 August 2016
Recording Location: American University, Beirut
Audio Editing by Onur Engin
Sound excerpts: Müzeyyen Senar - Gülsen-i Hüsnüne Kimler Varıyor
Images and bibliography courtesy of Alexis Wick


Source: Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi, A-DVN-MSR-MHM.d, no. 9

Ottoman Map of the Red Sea
Source: Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi, HRT 0717
Click here for the full size, high resolution composite image of this map

Alexis Wick
The Red Sea: In Search of Lost Space
UC Press, 2016
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Casale, Giancarlo. The Ottoman Age of Exploration. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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Ho,  Engseng. The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility Across the Indian Ocean. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2006.

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White, Hayden. The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

Wick, Alexis. The Red Sea: In Search of Lost Space. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2016.

Wigen, Kären. “Oceans of History: Introduction.” AHR Forum. American Historical Review 111, no. 3 (June 2006): 717–21.


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