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The Fashioning of a Sunni Orthodoxy and the Entangled Histories of Confession-Building in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire, 15th-17th Centuries

Periodic Reporting for period 5 - OTTOCONFESSION (The Fashioning of a Sunni Orthodoxy and the Entangled Histories of Confession-Building in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire, 15th-17th Centuries)

Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2022-02-28

How and why did the Ottoman Empire evolve from a fourteenth-century polity where “confessional ambiguity” prevailed into a state concerned with defining and enforcing a “Sunni orthodoxy” by the early sixteenth century? How did the Ottoman notions of “Sunni orthodoxy” subsequently evolve in the late sixteenth and 17th centuries? Recent historiography attributes the growing concern with “orthodoxy” in the Ottoman Empire to the rise of the rival Shii Safavid Empire beginning in the first decade of the sixteenth century. However, the OTTOCONFESSION project is based on the premise that the evolution of Ottoman discourse on Sunni orthodoxy can be understood only in a longer perspective that spans the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries and that it was shaped by religio-political dynamics not only among the Ottoman and Safavid Muslims, but also among Christian communities in the Ottoman Empire and in Europe as well. The project sets out to demonstrate that although the polarization between Sunni and Shii Islam on the one hand, and Catholic and Protestant Christianity on the other, resulted from the dynamics specific to the Turco-Iranian world and Europe, respectively, the subsequent processes of confession- (and in some cases state-) building were related and constitute an entangled history of confessionalization that spanned Europe and the Middle East. The project will investigate the evolution of confessional discourses in the Ottoman Empire (focusing on the “core provinces’ of Rumeli and Anatolia) in both community-specific and entangled, cross-communal perspectives between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries by focusing on a) the agents and strategies; b) textual genres; and c) sites of confessionalization.
Conference #1 entitled "Rethinking Ottoman Sunnitization, c. 1450-c. 1700" took place in Budapest on August 25-26, 2017 (https://tamasmail.wixsite.com/ottomansunnitization). The conference brought together 18 junior to mid-career scholars together with 5 senior scholars who commented on their work to start the conversation that eventually resulted in the Edited volume #1.

Conference #2 entitled "Entangled Confessionalizations? Dialogic Perspectives on Community- and Confession-Building Intiatives in the Ottoman Empire, 15th-18th Centuries" took place in Budapest from June 1 to 4, 2018. (https://cems.ceu.edu/entangled-confessionalizations-dialogic-perspectives-community-and-confession-building-initiatives). The conference brought together 29 junior to mid-career scholars and 6 senior scholars who commented on their work to start the conversation that eventually resulted in Edited volume #2.

Edited volume #1 entitled Historicizing Sunni Islam in the Ottoman Empire, c. 1450-c. 1750, edited by Tijana Krstic (PI) and Derin Terzioğlu (Senior Researcher) was published by Brill (Leiden) in October 2020 in Open Access and is available at https://brill.com/view/title/58970. This volume presents the result of the project’s research team along the “vertical” or “Sunnitization” axis, as outlined in the original proposal. It consists of 13 research articles plus an introduction, and has 530 pages, including Index.

Edited volume #2 entitled Entangled Confessionalizations? Dialogic Perspectives on the Politics of Piety and Community Building in the Ottoman Empire, 15th18th Centuries, edited by Tijana Krstic (PI) and Derin Terzioğlu (Senior Researcher) was published by Gorgias Press (Piscataway, NY) in April 2022 and is available in Open Access at https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.31826/9781463243586/html. This volume presents the results of the project’s research along the “lateral” or “entangled” axis, as outlined in the original proposal. It consists of 21 research articles, an introduction and an Afterword, and has 798 pages, including Index.

Edited volume #3 (Sourcebook) entitled Ottoman Communities in the Confessional Age (c. 1450-c. 1750): A Sourcebook is in the final stages of editing (the editorial team consists of T. Krstic, D. Terzioğlu, P. Ivanova, and H. Umut) and will be published in Open Access by Gorgias Press in 2022. All postdocs, junior researchers, the PI, the Senior Researcher, and many external contributors submitted translations for the sourcebook. Featuring many of the primary sources in translation from Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Greek, Armenian, Latin and Hebrew, referenced and explored by the papers in the the two edited volumes, the sourcebook is designed to connect them and make them ideal for teaching.

Dissertation#1 by Emese Muntán (Junior Researcher) entitled “Negotiating Catholic Reform: Global Catholicism and Its Local Agents in Northern Ottoman Rumeli (1570s-1680s)” was defended at Central European University in June 2021 and is available at https://www.etd.ceu.edu/2021/muntan_emese.pdf

Dissertation# 2 by Damla Gürkan-Anar entitled "Isfahan and Istanbul in the Early Seventeenth Century: Masjed-e Shah and Sultan Ahmed Complexes" was submitted to the committee at Bogazici University in April 2022 and the defense will take place in June 2022.
1) The volume entitled Historicizing Sunni Islam in the Ottoman Empire, c. 1450-c. 1750, edited by the PI and the Senior Researcher (Brill, 2020), which emerged after two years of conversations that started at the first project conference organized in Budapest in August 2017, is a flagship publication of the project.

2) Anna Ohanjanyan’s (postdoc) research and subsequent articles on early modern Armenian polemical literature, are among the most important achievements of the project because they opened a previously untouched topic and drew attention to the wealth of early modern Armenian sources on this subject.

3) The volume entitled Entangled Confessionalizations? Dialogic Perspectives on the Politics of Piety and Community Building in the Ottoman Empire, 15th–18th centuries, edited by the PI and the Senior Researcher (Gorgias Press, 2022), which was the result of three years of conversations with colleagues from different fields that started at the eponymous conference in 2018.

4) Ottoman Communities in the Confessional Age: A Sourcebook, edited by T. Krstić, D. Terzioǧlu, P. Ivanova and H. Umut (Gorgias Press, forthcoming 2023). Featuring many of the primary sources in translation from Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Greek, Armenian, Latin and Hebrew, referenced and explored by the papers in the edited volumes mentioned above, the sourcebook is designed for teaching and bringing the issues at the core of the project to life for readers and students of various background.

5) Webinar on the OTTOCONFESSION project within the W’OTSAp in Ottoman and Turkish Studies? Webinar Series, organized by the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association, which took place on February 28, 2022, and was entitled Ottoman Religious Politics in the Confessional Age, with the participation of the PI, Senior Researcher, Polina Ivanova, Anna Ohanjanyan, Emese Muntan, Nir Shafir, and Hasan Umut. We had an audience of over 140 people (see https://youtu.be/tcVGDrwsdps)
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