Dr. habil. Nora Lafi

Mapping and Scaling Urban Violence in the Ottoman Era: an Historical anthropology of Tunis, Aleppo and Cairo

This project deals with violence in Tunis, Aleppo and Cairo in the 18th and 19th centuries, cities where collective violence ranged from bread riots to inter-confessional strife. Using Ottoman archival resources located in Istanbul, particularly petitions of protest sent by local notables to the central administration. Nora Lafi investigates perceptions of group and individual identities as well as the different local and international factors which precipitated street violence, from the evolving world economic system to the emergence of new ideologies of communal and sectarian identification. She also explores local archives in order to analyse the responses to these protests by local administrations. Other sources will include chronicles which are used not only as narratives of the traumatic moments experienced by the city, but also as accounts of its complex sphere of governance. This study is conceived as an investigation into the social construction of violence, the social responses to violent actions and the degree of social control exercised by local Ottoman urban administrations. Further, attention is devoted to the social meaning of street space in order to introduce a dynamic element in the reading of popular violence and state responses to it in the urban context. Urban violence is indeed studied in this programme under the aspect of historical anthropology, with the intent furthermore of mapping and scaling such phenomena, as well as perceiving social mechanisms of mediation and accommodation.