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Migration and urban institutions in the late Ottoman Reform Period

Lafi, Nora
Riedler, Florian
Fuhrmann, Malte
Freitag, Ulrike

The project investigates the changes which Ottoman cities underwent in the 19th and early 20th centuries. During this period of reform new forms of urbanity emerged in these cities. Urban institutions evolved in a process which will be reconstructed critically and will take into account the merger of older and new types of government that set the framework for the new urbanity. At the same time, social processes, notably migration, prompted change which in itself influenced the structure and social life in Ottoman cities.
Through linking the institutional and the migratory perspective and highlighting their interconnectedness, we hope to gain new insight into the processes of modernisation in cities belonging to the Ottoman Empire and its successor states. The common focus of our interest is the influence of translocal flows of people and ideas which furthered these processes. Thus, we like to look at late Ottoman urbanity from a perspective which transcends the common opposition of exogenous and endogenous modernisation.

sub-project 1

Urban government in the Ottoman Empire

Dr. Nora Lafi

The project at deals with the structures of urban government in the Ottoman Maghreb and Middle East during the reform period, and focuses in particular on the relationship of guilds to urban governance from Old Regime to modernity. A more comprehensive knowledge of social structures, unsatisfactorily summarized by the term pre-modern, is crucial to the understanding of reforms and modernity. As guilds and confessional communities were frequently the basis of urban government structures in the merchant cities of the Ottoman Empire, they were a key point in the implementation of reforms, not unlike the social milieu whose interests they reflected. The aim of this study is to consider the work of Ottoman and local urban reformers, the inclusion of traditional local elites in the new municipal and Ottoman imperial governance, and the reform of the guild system and the work-trade market in relation to urban social control (from Old Regime-like guilds to modernised institutions with work and trade regulations). A further aim is to trace the evolution of Old Regime institutions, although formally dismantled, up to the period of modernization. From a translocal point of view, it is important to study the trajectories of such ideas and reforms to ensure that Ottoman urban reform is not simply regarded as imported from Europe. Under the Ottoman Empire, local to local and local to central circulations were probably just as important as those from the centre to the local, particularly in the case of urban reforms. The reform context during the period of urban growth at the end of the Ottoman Empire was translocal. Reformers were faced with the problem of ruling a society whose components were changing as a result of migration. The study of urban government during the reform period is essential to exploring the governance of a society shaped by migration. Migration challenged urban organisation at the precise moment of its reform, i.e., guilds for control of the labour market and confessional communities for wider social control.

Related seminar at the ZMO

sub-project 2

Dr. Florian Riedler

"Where all the streets are paved with gold…" Seasonal workers from Anatolia in late Ottoman Istanbul.

Seasonal work migrants from different geographical, ethnic or religious backgrounds represented a big group among the inhabitants of the larger Ottoman cities. At the same time they played a crucial role in the day to day economic life of these cities being employed mainly as unqualified labour. Already before the nineteenth century there were well established systems of work migration in place that brought young men (bekar) from the rural provinces of the empire to the cities. It was their aim to earn as much cash as possible before returning to their families at the end of a work cycle that could last for several years.
The project examines the changes that this traditional social institution of work migration underwent from the nineteenth century onwards. A basic focus of interest lies on the living and working conditions of the labour migrants in the city. In accordance with the overarching research questions the project is especially interested in the migrants' interaction with the urban administration and their contribution to the modernisation of Ottoman cities and the new forms of urbanity developing in the nineteenth century.

sub-project 3

Dr. Malte Fuhrmann

European and Balkan Working Migrants in the late Ottoman Port Cities

The sub-project aims to analyze on the one hand the attempts by consulates and trade representatives to influence some of the working migrants in order to increase their respective states’ influence in the late Ottoman port cities. The effects of such demands by the ‘national’ representatives on the translocal life-forms of the ‘European’ working migrants as well as of Slavonic-speaking working migrants of Central Balkan origin and on late Ottoman maritime urbanity will be discussed. On the other hand, the migrants’ agency and views will be reconstructed as part of a ‘societal field of force’ – i.e. changes in their views of themselves and the world around them, sociabilities within and beyond their social sub-group, will be analyzed in the context of persistence, ‘Eigen-Sinn’ (obstinacy/self-will, Lüdtke 1993), and accommodation. Their constructive and/or destructive effects on the urban sphere will be highlighted. For this, the documents of the German and Austro-Hungarian consulates in Salonica and Smyrna as well as of the Bulgarian representative in Salonica will be studied according to Arlette Frage’s methodology, aiming to pinpoint the consulates’ strategies towards the working migrants as well as articulations by the migrants themselves.

sub project 4

Migration and the constitution of urbanity in Jeddah in the 19th century

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Freitag

The city of Jeddah in the Hijaz was and is the first port of call for Muslim pilgrims to Mecca. During the 19th century, it also served as the major economic centre of the region and, periodically, as seat of the Ottoman governor. These functions attracted migrants who settled in Jeddah.
The project investigates the history of migration, and the integration of the migrants into the urban fabric during a period of rapid change. The rapid expansion of transport and trade in the wake of the introduction of steamshipping, the opening of the Suez-Canal and European expansion as well as the Ottoman reforms are only some of the most significant changes. The project aims to investigate the mechanisms through which migrants from Yemen, Iran, India and the Horn of Africa became part of the city, and the conflicts caused by migration. Can Jeddah be considered a model of cosmopolitanism?

Related seminar at the ZMO