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Being European in the Late Ottoman Prot Cities

Dr. Malte Fuhrmann

A Socio-Cultural Transformation Process within a Politically Contested Terrain
The so-called Westernization or Europeanization of the Ottoman Empire (1838-1908) is usually discussed politically or sociologically, as an adaptation of new principles of administration and governance or as changes in the social structure. These analyses primarily concern themselves with questions of autochthony or heteronomy of the adaptation process, the vitality of the old and new political institutions, as well as distinctive features and integrative and disintegrative aspects of the new social strata. This study aims to enhance these discussions by adding a new dimension, i.e. by combining social history and discourse analysis to study the meaning of ‘Europe’ in norms, social practises, and political conflict of the urban population in the late Ottoman Empire.
According to the working hypothesis, ‘Europe’ was not only an ideal of the reform-oriented bureaucracy or a provider of material benefits for trade. Europe also signified an important source of “cultural capital”. Access to or exclusion from this capital played a major role both in international and inner-Ottoman rivalries for power, acceptance, and material status. Accordingly, many social conflicts revolved around the acceptance or denial of a European character for particular individuals, communities, practises, and spaces. Resident and itinerant individuals of direct origin from the assumedly politically, militarily, economically, intellectually, and culturally successful states of Western and Central Europe played an important role in these conflicts. They served as immediate models and links for how to “be European”, but in later years increasingly as negative examples justifying the renunciation of Europe’s symbolic and practical dominance.
The relevance of the discourses on “Europe” in everyday life can only be reconstructed in the cities, which seem to constitute a place of concrete experience. The study is restricted to three cities in which ‘Europe’ played an important role in norms and practices, because of their politico-economical importance, location, and population: Salonica, Izmir, and Istanbul.