Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of Chicago

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago
Locating 19th-Century Ottomanism in the Global History of Ideas

In the 1860s and 1870s, Ottoman intellectual life underwent a dramatic change as the first independent journals appeared in Istanbul. Their authors, the Young Ottomans, represented the first coherent group of dissident intellectuals the empire had ever seen. While initially casting themselves as the Ottoman wing of a broad European movement for liberal reforms, their writings soon revealed a far more ambitious set of aims: to push for a radical overhaul of Ottoman state and society while preserving and defending the legitimacy of Ottoman sovereignty within both European and Islamic discourses. This broad and perhaps paradoxical mandate yielded one of the most complex and interesting intellectual movements of the 19th century, yet it remains among the least studied and understood. My project seeks to fill this lacuna with a year of archival research to recover the broader intellectual context out of which the Young Ottoman movement arose, and to which it belongs. Drawing on abundant yet underutilized state records held in French and Turkish archives, as well as journals, private papers, and library records, my project aims to use these documents to reconstruct the transregional and transnational networks that gave shape and meaning to the Young Ottoman project. My research will seek to identify their interlocutors in Europe, the Arab world, and beyond, and to use these connections to situate the Young Ottomans in the various currents of political and social thought in the late 19th century. A further aim of my project will be to explore the relationship of the Young Ottoman movement to the state bureaucracy out of which they emerged. My research aim to present a fuller picture of the Young Ottomans in their various guises as bureaucrats, dissidents, exiles, and informal agents of the state, and through this inquiry to shed light on how their thought was subverted by the state it sought to transform.