Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Sabanci University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago
Chaghatay Oration, Ottoman Eloquence, Qizilbash Rhetoric: Turkish Literature in Safavid Iran

My dissertation will focus on the history of Turkish literature in Iran during the Safavid period from the beginning of the 16th century to the end of the reign of Shah ‘Abbas I (r. 1587-1629) placed within its historical and literary context, and in comparison with Ottoman literary and cultural patronage practices. I address the question of what role Turkish played as a literary idiom in the Safavid religious, political and cultural realm, and try to illuminate how literature reflected the process of the separation of Iran from Anatolia. Focusing on three Safavid Turkish litterateurs, Shah Ismail, Fuzuli and Sadiqi Kitabdar, I examine how the use of Turkish reflected changes in religious ideology and cultural perceptions in the period from the emergence of the dynasty through the centralization of the Safavid state under Shah ‘Abbas I and the complementary process of state supported clerical Shiism supplanting earlier Safavid millennial Shiism. By examining Safavid-Ottoman rivalry in the literary scene in conjunction with Safavid religious propaganda in the Ottoman Empire and the reception of that propaganda in popular literature, I will compare the increasing importance of Persian in the Safavid imperial venture to the emergence of Ottoman Turkish as a similarly imperial literary language. I analyze the works of authors of Safavid background who continued their career as Ottoman subjects, looking at how the nascent and increasingly separate Safavid and Ottoman identities translated into language choice and the rivalry of Persian vs. Turkish. Through a comparison of Persian and Turkish literary practices in the Safavid and Ottoman realm, my project aims to shed light on the role literature played in the formulation of political and cultural identity as well as territorial, religious and cultural frameworks in early modern Islamicate empires. I will study what Sheldon Pollock calls vernacularization, i.e. the process in which the cosmopolitanism of (in this case) Persian in the Islamic world was supplanted by local vernaculars as the language of culture and political power. My project is of a literary, socio-linguistic and historical character. While in Western scholarship, the study of Turkish literature in Safavid Iran has largely been neglected, Republican Turkish, Azeri and Iranian scholars view Turkish primarily through a nationalistic prism. My project is intended to transcend such biases and bridge these gaps. This is a greatly neglected field of inquiry with most of the primary sources being unpublished and accessible only in a manuscript format. My work in Turkish, Iranian and Azerbaijani manuscript collections and archives will therefore form the basis of my dissertation project.