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Reassessing Late Ottoman Literatures within a Mediterranean Framework

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - OttMed (Reassessing Late Ottoman Literatures within a Mediterranean Framework)

Période du rapport: 2018-06-01 au 2020-05-31

OttMed has analyzed nineteenth-century Ottoman Turkish and Arabic literary texts as part of Mediterranean literatures, as these texts received little attention in Mediterranean studies. I focused on the nineteenth century because many historians have claimed that this period witnessed crucial transformations that gave arise to current political and cultural dynamics within the Mediterranean, including the dissolution of the Mediterranean cosmopolitanism due to the emergence of nation-states. Thus, my project gave a close reading of literary works from diverse linguistic traditions such as French,Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, and Karamanlı (Turkish written in Greek letters). Each close reading generated a particular vision of the Mediterranean and its history by describing the region from one vantage point such as Algeria, Istanbul, or Malta. For further enriching the literary analysis, this project has used archival research and digital humanities techniques to map out travel itineraries of authors who composed these texts. By building upon various fields and disciplines such as postcolonial studies, world literature, and art history, I have examined issues that still shape the modern Mediterranean, such as exile, modernization, and migration. Overall, my project has brought together different vantage points that were not studied together for generating a more multilayered vision of the Mediterranean Sea and its basin. OttMed has contributed to H2020 Societal Challenge “Europe in a Changing World” through three means: (i) It has demonstrated that the political and social transformations throughout the Mediterranean in the nineteenth century have played a crucial role in shaping what Europe, Middle East, and Mediterranean designate today. (ii) It has revealed that the key issues that have shaped the modern Mediterranean such as exile and the rise of Islamism, partly stem from key transformations of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries such as the impact of global capitalism on the modern Mediterranean and the demise of the Ottoman Empire. (iii) It has emphasized that literary analysis can steer attention to factors that social quantitative analysis often overlooks, as literary criticism points out the emotional impact of key political transformations and reveals the concepts and ideas that have shaped the cultural and political elite.
I have written five sole-authored articles for this project. Two of them have already appeared in top international journals of my fields such as Journal of Mediterranean Studies and Journal of Arabic Literature. I also plan to submit articles based on the project research to two high-impact journals, Convivium and Expressions Maghrebins. This project also helped me to write a substantial portion of two monographs. I will contact international university presses such as Liverpool University Press, Oxford University Press, and Fordham University Press for book contracts in the next academic year. I have conducted extensive archival research in Beirut, Lebanon and Istanbul, Turkey. I have conducted the following dissemination and exploitation events: (i) I have presented or was invited to present my research in different conferences throughout the world such as Xiamen in China, New Orleans and Chicago in the USA, and Gibraltar in the UK. (ii) I co-organized a international conference entitled “Currents and Currency: Cultural Circulations in the Mediterranean and Beyond” with my advisor, Megan MacDonald, in Antalya, Turkey at AKMED (Suna &İnan Kıraç Center for Mediterranean Civilizations) in June 2018. (iii) I have co-organized an events series entitled “Istanbul from the Perspective of Mediterranean Writers” with İpek Şahinler at Sabancı University at the Istanbul Research Institute in June 2019. (iv) I contributed to the organization of another event, Marie Curie Alumni Association Turkish Chapter annual conference in 2018 and 2019 and was recently elected as the chair of the Marie Curie Alumni Association Turkish Chapter. (v) I have collaborated with Gözde Ünal, who is a professor of computer science and the head of the AI center at the Istanbul Technical University, to charter the travel trajectories of around 20 authors who wrote in different languages, such as Arabic, Italian, Turkish, and Armenian. We created 139 digital maps and one video that charters these interactions. (vi) I spent July 15-August 15, 2019 at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Beirut, Lebanon to conduct archival research and became acquainted with several scholars from the departments of Arabic literature and history at AUB such as Bilal Orfali. (vii) I provided a summary of my research in the Project Repository Journal, which disseminates important EU projects to a wide range of organizations, such as government agencies and departments in Americas, Asia, and Europe. The article was published in April 2020.
My project makes three scholarly contributions. First, it has provided new insights on the relationship between space and memory in the Mediterranean. Although the earlier scholarship also paid attention to this relationship, it has viewed places as the property of one particular cultural community only. My project has demonstrated how places such as Marseilles and Algeria are nodes of overlap for different literatures and historical trajectories. Second, it proposes new concepts for understanding the relationship between space and memory. Second, my project reassesses how we categorize literature today. Ottoman literature has often been studied either as the precursor of modern Turkish literatures or as a part of Islamic Middle Eastern literatures. By examining Ottoman literature as Mediterranean literature, my project has revealed that characteristics of Islamic literatures are often defining features of Spanish and French literatures as well. Third, and finally, OttMed has reassessed areas, such as Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, that divide the world. While the earlier research has often analyzed the Mediterranean and Europe through the prism of national literatures and cultures, recent works study global cultural and literary networks. My project proposes that scholars shift their attention to areas such as the Mediterranean to study these networks. Projects that examine global cultural networks sometimes receive criticism because these projects can have an unattainable scope and ignore important nuances in each linguistic and cultural tradition. To study areas such as the Mediterranean provides a more feasible goal for researchers and helps them to see connections among geographical areas that were often thought to be incompatible. My project also makes two key societal contributions. First, by examining nineteenth and early twentieth-century literary works of authors who have played a key role in shaping the perspectives of their cultural communities, my project steers attention to underlying causes behind issues that shape the modern Mediterranean today such as migration and environmental crisis. Second, my work also reveals the importance of humanities scholarship for a more nuanced awareness of issues that shape the world today. Literary analysis is one of the few scholarly areas that can lay out traumas that still shape the communal memory of various societies and ultimately lead them to rationalize the current political and cultural decisions that these societies make.
"""Currents and Currency"" workshop in Antalya, Turkey"
"""Istanbul from the Perspective of Mediterranean Writers"" events series"
"""Currents and Currency"" workshop in Antalya, Turkey"
MESA New Orleans (USA) panel photo
"""Istanbul from the Perspective of Mediterranean Writers"" events series"
AUB Library (Lebanon) photo
MCAA Turkish Chapter conference in ITU
Image 1 (Digital map for the project)
Mediterranean mobilities workshop in Orient-Institut, Istanbul
"""Currents and Currency"" workshop in Antalya, Turkey"
Xiamen University (China) conference photo
"""Istanbul from the Perspective of Mediterranean Writers"" events series"
"""Currents and Currency"" workshop in Antalya, Turkey"
"""Currents and Currency"" workshop in Antalya, Turkey"
Image 2 (Digital map for the project)