Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History, University of California / San Diego

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of California / Los Angeles
The Road to Damascus: Travel and Knowledge in the Seventeenth-Century Ottoman Empire

Did travel play a significant role in the intellectual world of the early modern Ottoman Empire? In the late seventeenth century, major Ottoman intellectuals began to undertake and record detour-rich pilgrimages. My research explores how these travels functioned not only as a pilgrimage itinerary but also as a forum for social commentary and as a means for claiming the validity of experiential and even empirical or naturalistic knowledge. I argue that these multiple and intersecting meanings of travel emerged as a response to a burgeoning piety movement that spurred these intellectuals to set out on pilgrimages and comment on contested phenomena such as the miracles of saints and prophets and the botanical qualities of plants. I compare the works of four travelers and one geographer and situate them in the intellectual debates of the time in order to both understand the significance of travel and to open to more serious inquiry the understudied field of Ottoman intellectual history. I do so by engaging with history of science scholarship which has shown that new methods and ways of knowing are not simply abstract intellectual constructs but concrete solutions to the social and political crises of a society and thus deeply connected to a particular society's intellectual, social, and material conditions. To understand this transformation, I plan to reconstruct the intellectual world of these travelers through research in the manuscript libraries and archives of Istanbul and Cairo from July 2013 to June 2014