Living Together in the Ottoman City: Rules, Norms and Conflict Management
Patterns in Cairo, Aleppo and Tunis
PD Dr. Nora Lafi
The aim of this research programme is to discuss the fundamental elements of social order in an Ottoman urban context and, on this basis, to address the global panorama of urbanity. On a theoretical point of view, the Ottoman city is to be considered as a basis for reflections on the nature of urbanity in a changing world where tensions between local and global, but also between the present and the past do constantly modify fragile equilibriums, themselves object of complex identity investments and reinterpretations according to the context. The general framework is the study of explicit or implicit rules for living together. Among these rules, the focus is to be put on the one hand on legal and administrative ones, such as the organisation of a legal system which regulates the relationship between individuals or groups (status and identity of the individual in his relation to power, community, guild…) or the organisation of a governance scheme (municipal order, State order and policing, institutional framework of public order, institutional regulation of the use of the urban space). But the aim is also on the other hand, in order to avoid the ambiguities that a top-down perspective might carry, to consider more implicit rules, which can be detected with an approach pertaining to historical anthropology, such as behavioural rules (for example: how to behave when crossing a part of the city dominated by another group, how to build family links outside of your group, how to integrate dominant social groups for individuals with a migrant background…).
Each time, the aim will be to understand the rules that apply to a single individual in his relationship to his local microcosm, to the space of the city, to the general urban society and to the global dimension of the Empire. The focus will be put not only on what constitutes a more or less mythical golden age of the Ottoman governance of diversity in old regime times, but also on the challenges to this social order brought in by the impact with modernity, with external influences, with migration, with reforms, with the redefinition of a new dimension of globality at the turn of the XXth c.