Historians have long sought to understand the transition from empire to nation-states across the region, particularly elaborating on the theme of continuities and ruptures. While this debate has certainly been instructive, existing accounts have tended to focus on the experiences of the empire’s elites, insofar as they relate to the course of politics in new national capitals. This workshop will examine the lives and experiences of a generation of “ordinary” Ottomans, whose voices, paths, and personal trajectories are often left out in these existing top-down historical narratives on political transition. Focusing on the realms of culture, religion, law, and economy, the workshop seeks to explore how these “ordinary” individuals and groups experienced the collapse of the empire in which they lived. How did peasants, townspeople, merchants, families, communities, companies, or markets, respond to the fluid futures and uncertain contexts brought about by the end of the First World War and the establishment of new states in the Middle East? What were the ways in which they relinquished their imperial practices and attachments, and came to terms with the national and colonial present? How did the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire disrupt time-hardened imperial networks? By attempting to find answers to these questions, this workshop will provide opportunities for scholars to overcome methodological problems associated with the persistence of nationalist narratives in historical scholarship, as well as incorporate the insights of social history into re-thinking the dynamics of transition from empire to nation-states.
The workshop is supported by the Universities of Neuchâtel and Basel, the Fondation Pierre du Bois pour l’histoire du temps présent, the Swiss National Science Foundation (Scientific Exchanges, and Eccellenza), and the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) for migration and mobility studies.
Professor Jordi Tejel
Professor Aline Schlaepfer
Dr. Juan Carlos Castillo Quiñones