Season 7 Report

Season Overview
by Nir Shafir

The seventh season of the Ottoman History Podcast came to a close in May 2018. Over the course of 50 podcasts we continued pushing forward new research on the Middle East. As many of our listeners know, our ambit goes far beyond the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire, and we now cover Islamic history at large throughout the Middle East and South Asia. This year, like the past seven years, our podcast's community has continued to grow, reaching over 33,000 followers on Facebook.

Episode Overview

We continued to feature new studies detailing unknown corners of the Ottoman past and revisiting well-tread ground. Leslie Peirce discussed her new biography of Roxelana or Hürrem Sultan, the wife of Süleyman I who became one of the most influential political figures of her day. Didem Havlioğlu talked to us about women as authors of Ottoman poetry through the life of works of Mihri Hatun. Zeynep Oktay Uslu spoke about dervish piety and Alevism in late medieval Anatolia and its legacy in the Ottoman Empire, and Renata Holod brought the often ignored archaeology of the Ottoman world to the podcast with her work on Tunisia’s Jerba Island.
A mosque on Jerba island, discussed in our interview with Renata Holod
On a more modern note, we had many guests who discussed the intellectual and social transformations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Rana Issa delved into the development of  Modern Standard Arabic, Will Hanley looked at how nationality figured into emergent understandings of identity in turn of the century Alexandria, Aylin de Tapia examined the Tanzimat period in Ottoman Cappadocia, and Noemi Levy-Aksu tackled the timely tale of states of emergency under Abdulhamid II. Kalliopi Amygdalou compared Thessaloniki and Izmir both under and after the Ottoman Empire, and Kenan Tekin looked at the translation of Ibn Khaldun and its reception by late Ottoman intellectuals. Tolga Cora & Dzovinar Derderian introduced a new edited volume on shared aspects within the histories of different communities in Eastern Anatolia. Cemil Aydin looked at the creation of the concept of the Muslim World, and in a collaboration with the Southeast Passage Erik-Jan Zürcher offered a history of Kemalism and the early Republic of Turkey in light of their late Ottoman roots. Finally, Arthur Asseraf returned to the podcast, this time in French, to discuss the circulation of information in Algeria with our friends from Tout/MO.

In addition to the above, we added a number of episodes to our offerings on the subjects of gender and sexuality. Hanan Hammad talked about her award-winning book on the “industrial sexuality” that emerged in Egypt’s factories, and Sara Rahnama studied the significance of headgear between Turkey and Algeria. Meanwhile, Marilyn Booth & Nova Robinson discussed the lives of important Arab feminist writers.

"Workers Leaving the Factory," Amil al-Mahalla, 1940s. from our interview Hanan Hammad
We continued to focus on the history of science and technology in the Middle East, a field that is now witnessing a burst of new interest and work. Elise Burton spoke about population genetics in Turkey and other states of the Middle East, Tamar Novick shared her work on the transformation of beekeeping in late Ottoman Palestine, Sebouh Aslanian told us about the advent of print among early modern Armenians, and Khaled el-Rouayheb talked about his research on intellectual resurgence in the seventeenth-century Ottoman Empire. 

The latter two joined a number of episodes about encounters in the early modern world and their intellectual effects, often challenging the established scholarship on the formation of Orientalism in early modern world. Pascale Barthe did so for the French-Ottoman encounter in the sixteenth century, while Seth Kimmel looked at the intellectual impact of Morisco assimilation on Iberian thought. Natalie Rothman spoke about the role of dragomans as intermediaries, and Alexander Bevilacqua looked at how early modern European scholars attempted to understand Arabic texts.
European visitor to the Ottoman court. Boiserie, detail. Photo by the Archives départementales du Tarn. from our interview with Pascale Barthe
Many of our new episodes focused on migration and its histories. Ella Fratantuono discussed the administration of muhacirs or migrants in the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire, while Devin Naar spoke about the post-Ottoman history of Thessaloniki’s Jews and their untimely end. Ronald Grigor Suny likewise talked about the events leading up to the Armenian genocide and its commemoration. Lily Ballofet shared her research on Argentina’s Arab diaspora, while three students, Evyn Le Espiritu, Margaux Fitoussi, & Kais Khimji, spoke about their respective projects on history and diaspora, examining Vietnamese refugees in the State of Israel, the once-thriving Jewish community of Tunis, and the relationship between the Ismaili community and the Canadian government.

We continued to have episodes that examined oceans and seas as spaces of inter-imperial encounters. Josh White spoke about the legal dimensions of piracy in the Ottoman Mediterranean, while Emrah Safa Gurkan explored the world of early modern espionage between the Ottoman Empire and neighboring states. Nidhi Mahajan & Jeff Dyer talked about Indian Ocean connections both past and present. M’hamed Oualdi and Hayri Gokşin Özkoray discussed Mediterranean slavery from the perspective of Tunisia in another episode from the Southeast Passage.

Emrah Safa Gürkan poses with his new book "Sultanın Casusları (Spies of the Sultan)", photo by Chris Gratien

Quite a few episodes expanded beyond the frontiers of Ottoman history. Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim described the connection with Tibet and Islam. Thanks to Ousmane Kane, the podcast ventured into West African history, while Manan Ahmed and Jan Haenraets fielded episodes on medieval and early modern South Asia and Teena Purohit looked at Islamic modernist debates surrounding including and exclusion of the Ahmadi community. Casey Lurtz and Lina Britto offered a stimulating and enjoyable conversation about the history of commodities like coffee and cannabis in Latin America.

We featured a number of episodes dealing with contemporary issues. With Gershon Shafir, we reflected on the Israeli occupation in its 50th year. Taieb Belghazi & Abdelhay Moudden discussed the phenomenon of disillusionment within Morocco’s Februrary 20th movement. Anna Cruz talked about representations of al-Andulus in contemporary Arabic literature, and Hikmet Kocamaner discussed the politics of the family in Turkey. We also hosted a roundtable about Emek Cinema, a landmark Istanbul building that was demolished in 2013.

Finally, we were excited to release a few more experimental episodes, such as a tour of Ottoman New York with Bruce Burnside & Sam Dolbee and our interview with Peter McMurray, which started with a sample of his sound composition on Islamic Berlin. We had a new installment on using podcasts in the university classroom with Michael Talbot and the students of the University of Greenwich, and we featured classroom student projects from University of Greenwich and Boston College.

Zeinab Azarbadegan and Taylan Güngör chat with University of Greenwich students featured in our podcast with Michael Talbot entitled "Podcasting the Ottomans II", photo by Michael Talbot
Upcoming Podcasts

We have a number of upcoming podcasts already recorded and in the editing room awaiting the beginning of Season 8 this summer. We will kick off the season featuring Lauren Davis's research on on Istanbul's olfactory history. Sarah Stein will talk about the history of extraterritorial Jews, Zoe Griffith will meditate on Mediterranean trade of the eighteenth century, and John Chen will highlight historical connections between China and Egypt. We'll feature an interview with sociologist and historian of Palestine Salim Tamari as well a conversation with Greg Thomas on George Jackson and the "Sun of Palestine" exhibition. Ümit Kurt & Owen Miller will discuss approaches to studying violence in the late Ottoman Empire and Ohannes Kılıçdağı will shed light on the ignored experience of Armenians with military conscription in the Ottoman Empire. Also keep an eye out for Fahad Bishara on law and commerce in the Indian Ocean, Konrad Hirschler on the libraries of medieval Damascus, Olly Akkerman on conducting research in secret archives, Sooyong Kim on Ottoman poets of the sixteenth century, an exhibit with Deniz Türker and Ahmet Ersoy on  Ottoman Arcadia, Ayse Özil on Greek Orthodox community formation, Panayotis League on Ottoman Greek music, and Kathryn Babayan on family anthologies of seventeenth century Isfahan. On more contemporary notes, Sumayya Kassamali will share research on migrant workers in Beirut, Samhita Sunya will explore cinematic adaptations of the 1001 Nights, and Nadim Shehadi will reflect on the Lebanese experience of migration and diaspora.

Sam Dolbee with Salim Tamari in Cambridge, MA
Behind the Scenes

A lot has changed behind the scenes at the Ottoman History Podcast over the seventh season. The main shift was that we moved to a new and more sustainable organizational model where each interviewer is responsible for editing and preparing her or his own podcasts. Before, this work was primarily undertaken by our longstanding editor-in-chief, Chris Gratien. We worked out this new model beginning with a podcast training retreat held on Burgazada near Istanbul during the summer of 2017. Chris wrote a number of guides to train all the contributors in preparing podcast posts, and thanks to Chris Gratien, Matt Ghazarian, Onur Engin, and Shireen Hamza we are training all the major contributors to the podcast in the basics of audio editing. As of the end of Season 7, Nir Shafir, Emily Neumeier, Sam Dolbee, and Maryam Patton have completed this training. Each episode takes about 10-15 hours of work, from the initial email setting up an interview to putting the final touches on the podcast audio and photographs. By the more evenly distributing this labor, we are laying the groundwork for the podcast to continue for years to come.

Susanna Ferguson edits podcast audio with Taylor Moore and Matthew Ghazarian at Burgazada Podcast Training Retreat. Photo by Chris Gratien

In January 2018, Nir Shafir became the new editor-in-chief, a rotating position changes each year. Susanna Ferguson and Shireen Hamza assumed the roles of managing editor. We also relied heavily on the labors of our many contributors, scattered across North America, Europe and the Middle East. We are making efforts to reviving the Turkish-language podcasts and have trained a number of new podcasters, with many more to come hopefully. We are looking forward to syndicating and distributing our content through allied websites next year and further developing tools for integrating the podcast into teaching. Finally, we also have a new website layout, thanks again to the work of Chris Gratien.

by Chris Gratien

Podcast traffic increased significantly over the course of Season 7. Between May 14, 2017 and June 14, 2018, the Ottoman History Podcast received over 650,000 plays and downloads. Over the same period for the previous year, we logged around 630,000 plays and downloads. Episodes of Season 7 have so far comprised over 350,000 plays and downloads. This was slightly less than the total number for Season 6, but whereas we released 50 episodes during Season 7, Season 6 had encompassed 69 episodes. This amounts to almost 2000 extra plays and downloads per episode, bearing in mind that for both years, some episodes had not yet run their full course of significant traffic due to the recentness of their release.

All plays and downloads by month for May 2017-May 2018

The increase in web traffic at was also similar. Episodes of Season 7 attracted roughly 250,000 pageviews; episodes of Season 6 had attracted roughly 264,000. Therefore, our Season 7 average of about 5000 pageviews represented an increase of roughly one-third over the Season 6 numbers. 4 of the all-time top 10 performing pages on belong to episodes from Season 7, and "The Republic of Arabic Letters" with Alexander Bevilacqua far surpassed the performance of any prior or subsequent post with over 20,000 pageviews. The number of pageviews for a particular post are heavily influenced by likes and shares on Facebook but only moderately related to actual numbers of plays and downloads. The vast majority of pageviews occur during the first days after episode release.

In the Season 7 Report, I have introduced a further metric for tracking the performance of each episode and overall trends in plays and downloads by including the total plays and downloads for each episode approximately one month after its release date. Plays and downloads for a particular episode tend to trickle off substantially after a week or two, so one month figures offer a pretty safe appraisal of the relative immediate impact of an episode's release (some episodes garner far greater traffic numbers over months and years than others).

The graph below charts the first-month performance of each episode by episode number. The number of first-month plays and downloads per episode ranged from roughly 3000 to 6500 during Season 7, with the average for the season standing at approximately 4500. The graph shows great fluctuations and an overall upward trend in the median amounting to roughly 25% growth. The data is not perfect, however, since we must account for the possibility of different levels of traffic during different parts of the year. Likewise, Ottoman History Podcast receives substantially more overall traffic if more episodes are released in a particular month, while during the occasional long periods of break, the most recent episode may accrue more plays and downloads simply because it sits at the top of the feed for a longer duration. When plotted according to release date (instead of episode number), the data looks slightly different, but the overall growth trend in traffic is nearly identical.

The complete statistics for all 50 episodes of Ottoman History Podcast Season 7 are compiled in the table below. The top 20% in pertinent categories are marked in bold.

DateGuestEpisodePlays1st MonthViews
5/16/2017Cemil AydınThe Idea of the Muslim World988244997688
5/19/2017Devin NaarJewish Salonica and the Greek Nation811041648358
5/23/2017Pascale BartheEarly French Encounters with the Ottomans729142363353
6/15/2017Kenan TekinLate Ottoman Translations of Ibn Khaldun769741673684
6/19/2017Tamar NovickBeekeeping in Late Ottoman Palestine678633542179
6/20/2017Nidhi Mahajan & Jeffery DyerIndian Ocean Connections655831582511
6/22/2017Teena PurohitInclusion and Exclusion in Islamic Modernist Thought618537982304
6/24/2017Sam Dolbee & Bruce BurnsideOttoman New York796041006291
6/27/2017Peter McMurrayThe Sounds of Islamic Berlin614232652354
7/1/2017Yaşar Tolga Cora & Dzovinar DerderianShared Histories of the Ottoman East636634302550
7/6/2017Erik-Jan ZürcherKemalism and the Making of Modern Turkey881143556221
7/15/2017Elise BurtonGenetics and Nation-Building in the Middle East1014244714688
7/18/2017Sebouh AslanianPorts and Printers Across the Armenian Diaspora710433312664
7/20/2017Casey Lurtz & Lina BrittoCoffee & Cannabis783141313182
7/25/2017Conference ParticipantsVisual Sources in Late Ottoman History873448773895
8/19/2017Khaled El-RouayhebIntellectual Currents in Early Modern Islam785541878194
8/22/2017Ousmane KaneIslam in West African History678637572734
8/25/2017Manan Ahmed AsifMuslim Origins in South Asia745341692718
9/1/2017Ella FratantuonoMigrants in the Late Ottoman Empire782942703228
9/10/2017Evyn Lê Espiritu, Margaux Fitoussi, & Kais KhimjiHistory, Diaspora, and Politics711239353382
9/16/2017Joshua WhitePiracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean861945068054
9/15/2017Emrah Safa GürkanSpies of the Sultan1128065356981
10/8/2017Marilyn Booth & Nova RobinsonArab Feminism in Periods of Transition872952597340
11/4/2017Ronit Yoeli-TlalimMedicine Along the Musk Route672143514186
11/23/2017Kalliopi AmygdalouIzmir & Thessaloniki: from Empire to Nation-State805348349206
11/27/2017Anna CruzThe Lyrical Archive of al-Andalus621840114968
12/3/2017Aylin de TapiaThe Tanzimat in Ottoman Cappadocia746146505274
12/12/2017Leslie PeirceHürrem Sultan or Roxelana, Empress of the East11735634610623
1/17/2018Sara RahnamaHats and Hijabs in Algeria and Turkey836661878151
1/23/2018RoundtableEmek Cinema748355013307
1/26/2018Taieb Belghazi & Abdelhay MouddenDisillusionment in Morocco's February 20 Movement835863902380
2/5/2018Gershon ShafirA Half Century of Occupation799059862478
2/9/2018Will HanleyNationality and Cosmopolitanism in Alexandria668448235515
2/12/2018Jan HaenraetsThe Gardens of Mughal Kashmir539139432524
2/16/2018Rana IssaThe Bible and Modern Standard Arabic599545585886
2/23/2018Alexander BevilacquaThe Republic of Arabic Letters7647602722623
2/27/2018Noémi Lévy-AksuStates of Emergency in the Late Ottoman Empire640749645491
3/5/2018Hanan HammadIndustrial Sexualities in Twentieth-Century Egypt661551894506
3/13/2018Seth KimmelMoriscos and Iberian Thought516142044774
3/16/2018Lily Pearl BalloffetThe Argentine Mahjar545945105868
3/28/2018Renata HolodJerba: an Island in Time433536672990
3/30/2018Natalie RothmanDragomans and the Routes of Orientalism514543146762
4/4/2018Arthur AsserafCirculation de l'information dans l'Algérie coloniale409434501470
4/7/2018Ronald Grigor Suny"They Can Live in the Desert"511643423823
4/12/2018Didem HavlioğluLove Poems of an Ottoman Woman: Mihrî Hatun605050615494
4/17/2018Hikmet KocamanerPolitics of the Family in the New Turkey525146363921
4/20/2018Zeynep Oktay UsluDervish Piety and Alevism in Late Medieval Anatolia555748756795
4/29/2018Michael Talbot & Students of U GreenwichPodcasting the Ottomans II429339162956
4/30/2018Student ContributorsExploring the Early Modern Ottoman World569951793601
5/13/2018M’hamed Oualdi & Hayri Gökşin ÖzkoraySlavery and Servitude in the Ottoman Mediterranean547854784638

*Update 14 June 2020*

The chart below represents the play total for each episode of Season 7 one year after its release.

Based on the play count data represented above, the highest performing episodes of Season 7 in terms of plays/downloads were:

Hürrem Sultan or Roxelana, Empress of the East (with Leslie Peirce)
Spies of the Sultan (with Emrah Safa Gürkan)
Genetics and Nation-Building in the Middle East (with Elise Burton)
Slavery and Servitude in the Ottoman Mediterranean (with M’hamed Oualdi & Hayri Gökşin Özkoray)
Hats and Hijabs in Algeria and Turkey (with Sara Rahnama)
Love Poems of an Ottoman Woman: Mihrî Hatun (with Didem Havlioğlu)
Disillusionment in Morocco's February 20 Movement (with Taieb Belghazi & Abdelhay Moudden)
The Idea of the Muslim World (with Cemil Aydın)

Season 7 Credits

Hosts and Co-Hosts (by number of appearances)

Chris Gratien
Shireen Hamza
Nir Shafir
Susanna Ferguson
Seçil Yılmaz
Matthew Ghazarian
Taylor Moore
Abdul Latif
Michael Talbot
Taylan Güngör
Andreas Guidi
Oscar Aguirre-Mandujano
Zeinab Azarbadegan
Elif Becan
Graham Cornwell
Sam Dolbee
Ella Fratantuono
Huma Gupta
Aslıhan Gürbüzel
Polina Ivanova
Dorothée Myriam Kellou
Emily Neumeier
Nilay Özlü
Maryam Patton
Aurélie Perrier
Işın Taylan

Audio Editing

Chris Gratien
Matthew Ghazarian
Shireen Hamza
Susanna Ferguson
Taylan Güngör
Onur Engin
Nir Shafir
Emily Neumeier
Maryam Patton
Hikmet Kocamaner
Ella Fratantuono
Andreas Guidi
Seçil Yılmaz

Series Curators (in alphabetical order)

Kalliopi Amygdalou
Samuel Dolbee
Susanna Ferguson
Chris Gratien
Zoe Griffith
Taylan Güngör
Hadi Hosainy
Faisal Husain
Emily Neumeier
Ünver Rüstem
Nir Shafir
Seçil Yılmaz

Guests (In alphabetical order)

Burçak Özlüdil Altın
Kalliopi Amygdalou
Leyla Amzi-Erdoğdular
Manan Ahmed Asif
Sebouh Aslanian
Arthur Asseraf
Cemil Aydın
Zeinab Azerbadegan
Lily Pearl Balloffet
Pascale Barthe
Lorans Tanatar Baruh
Taieb Belghazi
Alexander Bevilacqua
Marilyn Booth
Lina Britto
Elise Burton
Bruce Burnside
Burçin Çakır
Özde Çeliktemel-Thomen
Yaşar Tolga Cora
Selcen Coşkun
Andrew Cottis
Anna C. Cruz
Dzovinar Derderian
Sam Dolbee
Jeffery Dyer
Evyn Lê Espiritu
Michael Ferguson
Margaux Fitoussi
Ella Fratantuono
Chris Gratien
Emrah Safa Gürkan
Jan Haenraets
Dotan Halevy
Hanan Hammad
Will Hanley
Didem Havlioğlu
Renata Holod
Rana Issa
Ousmane Kane
Mehmet Kentel
Kais Khimji
Seth Kimmel
Hikmet Kocamaner
Noémi Lévy-Aksu
Casey Lurtz
Nidhi Mahajan
Peter McMurray
Abdelhay Moudden
Devin Naar
Tamar Novick
Leslie Peirce
Teena Purohit
Sara Rahnama
Nova Robinson
Natalie Rothman
Megan Rowlands
Seda Kula Say
Gershon Shafir
Tanya Skyba-Bartholomew
Albert Stitt
Ronald Grigor Suny
Michael Talbot
Aylin de Tapia
Kenan Tekin
Maisie Theobald
Zeynep Oktay Uslu
Joshua White
Murat Yıldız
Seçil Yılmaz
Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim
Erik-Jan Zürcher


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