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Title: To Gather Together: Cultural Encounters in Sixteenth-Century Ottoman Literary Salons
Authors: Pfeifer, Helen
Advisors: Greene, Molly
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Ethnicity
Literary Salons
Ottoman Empire
Sixteenth Century
Subjects: History
Middle Eastern history
Islamic culture
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The Ottoman conquest of the Mamluk Sultanate in 1516-7 precipitated profound transformations in the social, religious and intellectual life of the Ottoman Empire. Throughout the sixteenth century, exclusive literary salons allowed Turkish-speaking elites and their Arab counterparts to exchange ideas and manage difference in a large and diverse empire. Imperial expansion into Syria, Egypt and the Hijaz accelerated the diffusion of Arab-Islamic learning across Ottoman lands. Although fifteenth-century Ottoman men of letters were increasingly integrated into regional networks of Islamic scholarship, they enjoyed less prominence than their Mamluk-based counterparts. After the conquest, Ottoman judges and governors sought legitimacy amongst learned Arabs by demonstrating their command of Arab-Islamic thought and refashioning their own language and culture in its image. The increased currency of Islamic traditions that resulted underpinned the sixteenth-century concern with orthodoxy often called confessionalization. Social gatherings known as majalis (sing. <italic>majlis<italic>, Tur. <italic>meclis<italic>, <italic>mecalis<italic>) were key venues for encounters between Turkish- and Arabic-speaking scholars and for the incorporation of the new territories. Already before the conquest, literary salons had facilitated the transmission of an Islamic-inspired etiquette from Persian and Arab lands into Anatolia and the Balkans. Their significance increased with the surge in regional travel after 1516-7. As arenas of intellectual debate, <italic>majalis<italic> facilitated the development of a shared scholarly canon. As hubs of patronage, they helped Arabs acquire positions and a stake in the imperial project. As centers of sociability, they allowed men to formulate a polite language bridging educational and regional divides. Yet salons were also spaces of exclusion. Turkish-language gatherings in Istanbul fostered an urbane Rumi culture circumscribing the imperial elite. By the end of the sixteenth century, Arabs had lost their preeminence within the Ottoman scholarly community, and Rumis exported intellectual traditions they had once imported from abroad. Viewing imperial incorporation as a social and cultural process shows that sixteenth-century Ottoman governance depended as much on networks of trust and obligation as on the formal bureaucracy. It suggests that imperial culture emerged not only from the Ottoman center, but from live contests staged across the empire. Ultimately, the conquerors emerged from these contests most changed.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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