Population and Reproduction in the Late Ottoman Empire

Episode 421

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How did the experience of pregnancy and childbirth change in the Ottoman Empire in the context of nineteenth-century reforms? In this episode, we discuss how the question of managing a "population" become a key concern for the Ottoman state, bringing new opportunities and difficulties for Ottoman mothers and midwives alike. Questions about childbirth also became enmeshed in late-imperial demographic and cultural anxieties about the relationship between the Empire and its non-Muslim populations. As pregnancy and childbirth drew the attention of medical men, state bureaucrats, and men and women writers in the emerging periodical press, new technologies, regulations, and forms of medical knowledge changed what it meant to give birth and raise a child.

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Contributor Bios
Gülhan Balsoy is Associate Professor of History at İstanbul Bilgi University. She is the author of The Politics of Reproduction in Ottoman Society, 1838–1900 (Routledge, 2013). The Turkish translation of this book, Kahraman Doktor İhtiyar Acuzeye Karşı, won the 2016 Yunus Nadi Social Sciences and Research Award. Dr. Balsoy's research interests include late Ottoman social history, history of women and gender, and history of medicine. Currently she is working on a book project that explores the urban experiences of destitute women in late nineteenth-century Ottoman Istanbul.
Tuba Demirci is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Altınbaş University. Her research focuses on the making of gender regimes, history of family and social policy, feminist movements, feminist historiography, and women's lives in the Middle East in general and Ottoman-Republican Turkey in particular.
Suzie Ferguson received her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University in 2019 with a dissertation entitled "Tracing Tarbiya: Women, Gender and Childrearing in Egypt and Lebanon, 1865-1939."


Episode No. 421
Release Date: 7 August 2019
Recording Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Audio editing by Susanna Ferguson
Music: Ze Trigueiros, Sombra
Images and bibliography courtesy of Gülhan Balsoy and Tuba Demirci. Cover image courtesy of the Getty

Select Bibliography

Gülhan Balsoy, The Politics of Reproduction in Ottoman Society, 1838-1890 (Routledge, 2013).

Liat Kozma, Policing Egyptian Women: Sex, Law, and Medicine in Khedival Egypt (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2011).

Ruth A. Miller, "Rights, Reproduction, Sexuality, and Citizenship in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey", Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 32 (2007): 347–375.

Tuba Demirci and Selçuk Akşin Somel, "Women's Bodies, Demography, and Public Health: Abortion Policy and Perspectives in the Ottoman Empire of the Nineteenth Century."Journal of the History of Sexuality, 17/3 (2008): 377-420.

Tuba Demirci, "Body, Disease and Late Ottoman Literature: Debates on Ottoman Muslim Family in the Tanzimat Period (1839–1908)" (PhD Dissertation, Bilkent University, 2008).


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