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Ottoman Cosmopolitanism

International Two-Day Conference

June 26, 2014 – June 27, 2014
Entry is free but please reserve your place with Eventbrite

Birkbek College, University of London, Malet St WC1E 7HX United Kingdom

Ottoman Pasts, Present Cities: Cosmopolitanism and Transcultural Memories AHRC Research Network

Plenary speakers include Professor Karen Barkey, Columbia University; Professor Edhem Eldem, Boğaziçi University; Professor Ulrike Freitag, Free University of Berlin; and Claudia Roden, Chef, Writer and Cultural Anthropologist

One of the largest and one of the longest, the Ottoman Empire is still relatively understudied. Running from the early 1300s to 1922 and stretching East to West, it included key sites of present or recent conflict, such as Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Gaza, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Nicosia, Sarajevo and Belgrade. Yet for centuries these cities were largely characterised by dynamics mostly forgotten: cultural exchange, ethnic cohabitation, and religious tolerance. These transcultural exchanges manifested themselves in fusion and cross-pollination in architecture, art, food, music, literature, language, family stories, memories and lives. The network through a series of three workshops – ‘How was the Ottoman Empire Transcultural’, ‘Ottoman Memories: Transculturalism and Empires in Comparison’, and ‘Visualising the Ottoman City’ – brought together rich examples of transcultural memories spearheaded by Gayatri Spivak’s contention that modern nationalism ‘now effaces the incessantly negotiated multinationality that was the Ottoman Empire’ (1993). Our time frame is mostly from the 1780s to the present: a time of transformation and of multiple colonialisms, resulting in the end of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s, and the mandates, post-colonialisms, nation states and conflicts that have followed. This is a particularly rich period for excavating the range of artefacts that show the ‘incessantly negotiated multinationality’ that was the Ottoman city.

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