In-Person Lecture – "The Külliye as Hypotext: A New Reading of Histories of Imperial Mosques and Tombs," Nebahat Avcıoğlu – October 25

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Submitted on behlaf of Avinoam Shalem:

Lecture by Nebahat Avcıoğlu, Hunter College and Graduate Center/CUNY

Date: October 25th 2022, 6:15 to 8:00 pm

Place: Columbia University, 612 Schermerhorn Hall

The Külliye as Hypotext: A New Reading of Histories of Imperial Mosques and Tombs

Universally described as a ‘city of mosques and minarets’, Istanbul is invariably symbolized in literature and visual arts by its Ottoman skyline as a means to make people see and imagine the glorious or oppressive histories and cultures of the empire. Nowhere are these two classic city-features, urban landscapes and iconic shapes, so tightly knit than in Istanbul. But when and how exactly did this form—the mosque—, once an integral part of a building complex commonly known as külliye, the Ottoman version of an urban unit combining three key functionalities for nomadic conquerors—the spiritual (a praying room), the practical (lodgings for travellers and sufis) and the communal (soup-kitchen)—become the sum and substance of an entire city? By the end of the eighteenth century, külliyes were everywhere and everything to the city, however, the proliferation of this ideal type, highly codified, could not be replicated without modification or distortion. As ‘Istanbul’ became the key-metonym of the Ottoman empire itself, its cityscape and urban fabric evolved into the new scale of the külliye-practice, and came to be reimagined mostly through self-standing singular buildings amidst growing neighborhoods and ceremonial sites, with the mosque and the tomb in particular becoming separated and made self-sufficient. Focusing on imperial complexes exemplary of Istanbul’s urban expansion from the conquest to the Tanzimat, this talk will make use of Gérard Genette’s theoretical toolbox and show how this process of reduction took place through excision, condensation, and concision of the original külliye prototype. In turn, this methodology activates a critical paradigm of Istanbul as palimpsest.