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28-30/6/18: New Perspectives on Slavery: The Ottoman Empire

 University of Bonn, 28–30 June 2018

Find the Conference Program here.

International Conference 

Organized by Prof. Dr. Stephan Conermann & Dr. Gül Şen
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Keynote speakers: Prof. Dr. Suraiya Faroqhi (Munich/Istanbul)
Prof. Dr. Ehud R. Toledano (Tel Aviv)

The Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies aims to promote research on the various forms of dependency. It questions the classical binary of ‘slavery’ and ‘freedom’ derived from the transatlantic experience. In the interest of developing alternative approaches the focus is on transcultural and interdisciplinary research, particularly in relation to non-European pre-modernity as an alternative frame of reference.

The Center is happy to be able to organize a special conference on slavery issues in the Ottoman world and bring together researchers from the field, thus to stimulate international cooperation. We consider agency a useful tool to analyze asymmetric dependency structures on various levels of the Ottoman social order. By agency we understand the room for maneuver or options for action in situations of extreme individual or group dependency.

We strongly recommend to build on the comprehensive scope of a previous initiative Mediterranean Slavery Revisited 500–1800 (edited by Stefan Hanß and Juliana Schiel, 2014). Based on a 2012 conference, it addresses the semantics, practices and transcultural perspectives as well as first considerations of agency. Until then, practices of slavery in the Mediterranean had often served as a negative foil to the transatlantic counterpart. With its explicitly exclusive and more granular focus on the various dimensions of the Mediterranean forms of servitude, the interest shifted to opening a horizon for transcultural comparative analysis via interdisciplinary dialogue. The conference aims to continue the work of the initiative that is to go beyond the normative and universalizing model of slavery.

Slavery in the Ottoman Empire as a research field deserves special attention for various reasons. One, it connects to neighboring dominions, from Central Europe to the Black Sea region and beyond. Second, with the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, it encompasses the two water surfaces which played a crucial role in enslavement practices and the slave trade. Third, the Ottoman Empire spans the longest time frame of any empire between the 14th–20th centuries. Last, but not least, the abundance of sources available warrants a more detailed investigation of the topic. The state of research demonstrates a predominance of certain subjects: domestic slavery with a focus on female slaves; courtly slaves, again with an emphasis on women and/or eunuchs and their power. The most recent publications on Ottoman slavery by Suraiya Faroqhi Slavery in the Ottoman World: A Literature Survey (2017) and the forthcoming study by Ehud R. Toledano Ottoman and Islamic Enslavement from a Global Perspective: Theory, Methodology, Practice (2018) illustrate the recent move beyond these classical topics for the entire period of Ottoman rule.

Chronologically, the organizers hope to cover the entire life span of the Ottoman Empire (1299–1922) in order to trace a complex phenomenon from its beginning to the formal abolition and beyond. What remains to be investigated are the economic, socio-cultural and diplomatic dimensions. The organizers therefore encourage and welcome interdisciplinary approaches. Participants are challenged to address the concept of agency in their papers.

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