Workshop #3: ‘Visualising the Ottoman City’
Birkbeck Cinema, School of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London
41 Gordon Square (use entrance 43)
Friday 28 March 2014


1.00 pm   Welcome/Network Introduction
1.15 pm   Wendy M. K. Shaw (University of Bern):  ‘Dressing the Empire: Ethnic Diversity, Photography, and the Modernisation of the Ottoman Imperial Ideal’   Vazken Khatchig Davidian (Birkbeck, University of London): ‘The Artist and the Migrant Worker in Late 19th Century Constantinople: Simon Hagopian’s Hamal paintings’
2.15 pm – 2.45 pm   COFFEE BREAK
2.45 pm   Gabriel Koureas (Birkbeck, University of London): ‘Parallelotopia: Ottoman Assemblages’
3.15 pm  Yael Friedman (University of Portsmouth): ‘Reclaiming Jaffa’s past and present in contemporary Israeli/Palestinian visual Art’
3.45 pm   Laura Carderera (Curator and Arts Manager): ‘Speak, Memory: the role of the artist in the reactivation of cultural memory and the production of counter-narratives’
4.15 pm – 5:00 pm   COFFEE BREAK & Roundtable Discussion


Wendy M. K. Shaw:  ‘Dressing the Empire: Ethnic Diversity, Photography, and the Modernisation of the Ottoman Imperial Ideal’

‘Often understood as an era of decline as provinces came under European control or gained national independence, the nineteenth-century was also an era of modernisation and re-consolidation in the Ottoman Empire. No longer conceptualising itself in the mold of ancient Rome governing distant and culturally independent provinces, the modernised empire increasingly characterised its rule along the lines of modern European empires. Like them, it administered uniform modern bureaucratic and legal structures across its dominion. In the guise of pan-Islamism, it also promoted a beneficent ideology that might be compared to the Mission Civilatrice of France. Despite the cessation of many regions from the empire, it nonetheless retained a high degree of diversity which continued to correspond more to an imperial than to a national model of identity formation. This paper will explore how photography in the late empire functioned in relationship with shifting policies about diverse ethnicities. It will use photographic examples from the “Les costumes popularise de la Turquie en 1873,” prepared by Osman Hamdi and Marie de Launay in honour of the 1873 world exposition, and the photographic archives collected under Sultan Abdulhamid in the 1890s’.

Vazken Khatchig Davidian: ‘The Artist and the Migrant Worker in Late 19th Century Constantinople: Simon Hagopian’s Hamal paintings’

‘This paper presents two paintings in a Western mode, Hamals on the Bridge at Karakoy and Portrait of a Hamal (both undated), by the native Constantinopolitan artist Simon Hagopian (1857-1921) through the prism of Edhem Eldem’s conceptualization of the Ottoman imperial capital as ‘point of contact’ (Eldem, 1999). Playing with the idea that Constantinople/Istanbul was unique among Ottoman cities, simultaneously portus (port), porta (gateway) and Porte (seat of government), Eldem’s concept renders this city, an entry point for goods, ideas and people, as interface in the realms of politics, culture, economics and power in all its forms.

The paper focuses on one such specific encounter – that between the urban Ottoman artist/intellectual and the rural migrant worker from Ottoman Armenia who worked as a porter (hamal) and lived in slum-like conditions in inns (hans) in the city. While both artist and subject under scrutiny belonged to the same Ottoman community, their interrelationship can best be understood within the context of the imperial megalopolis.

Finally, this paper examines how the indigenous ‘Eastern’ artist/intellectual has presented his environment, therefore challenging stereotypes. By engaging with and giving a voice to those excluded from official art-historiographies it provides a subaltern angle to Ottoman art history’.

Gabriel Koureas: ‘Parallelotopia: Ottoman Assemblages’

‘In recent years the idea of cosmopolitanism has undergone a revival in relation to globalisation and to a certain degree the Ottoman Empire although critics of the latter and especially of an Ottoman ‘grieving cosmopolitanism’ have drawn our attention to the drawbacks of such a model. This paper will attempt to work through an alternative theoretical framework drawing from Deleuze’s concept of ‘assemblage’ in order to question the visual culture of the Ottoman city in the late 19th century through the newly imported medium of photography. The paper will argue that the representation of the city and its people provided the means to naturalise spatial relations into a permanent landscape that appeared immutable and closed to contestation thus pre-empting the nationalisms that followed the fall of the Empire.

The paper will then move in parallel directions to the contemporary ex-Ottoman city and contemporary artistic interventions in the space of the city thus creating parallelotopia as opposed to utopian cosmopolitanisms in order to discuss the transformative politics of Ottoman cultural memories by separating, juxtaposing and recombining the dimensions of the Ottoman city’.

Yael Friedman: ‘Reclaiming Jaffa’s past and present in contemporary Israeli/Palestinian visual Art’

‘Jaffa (Yaffa), one the major ports in the Ottoman province of Palestine in the second-half of the nineteenth century, was an important centre of social and economic urbanity. In the aftermath of the 1948 war and the establishment of the state of Israel the city was driven into a state of marginality and decay.  Annexed to Tel Aviv, the epitome of Zionist modernity, governmental and urban policies have over the years turned it, materially and metaphorically, into the dark backyard of what is referred to in Zionist narratives as the ‘white city’. Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in Jaffa’s history, its beautiful buildings and picturesque seashore, although this is often manifested in the form of gentrification projects informed by neo-liberal politics that disenfranchises Jaffa’s local inhabitants and obscures its Palestinian past.

This talk will look at several recent political visual art projects, emerging from within the Jaffa locality, which subvert and challenge official narratives of the city, resist processes of  marginalization and neoliberal gentrification and give an image and a voice to its lived-in geography, its mixed inhabitants and its Palestinian past and present.  These include the works of the filmmakers Kamal Aljafari and Scandar Copti, the insulations and video art of the visual artist Raafat Hattab, the photographer Ariela Ushpiz and exhibitions curated by Rona Sela’.

Laura Carderera: ‘Speak, Memory: the role of the artist in the reactivation of cultural memory and the production of counter-narratives’

‘Over the last decade, the Middle East has witnessed the proliferation of archival, historiographic and research projects seeking to question, document or shed light on the region’s 20th century cultural history, each of them adopting their own particular strategy or methodology. The plethora of players involved in this “scramble for history” include institutions such as universities and museums but also independent and private initiatives led by collectors, curators and artists.  Examples include the Arab Image Foundation, the Modern Art Iraq Archive (MAIA) or the History of Arab Modernities in the Visual Arts Study Group initiated by Beirut-based researchers Rasha Salti and Kristine Khouri. Although these new initiatives are laudable on may levels, the artistic community is wary of the risks of replicating hegemonic models of knowledge production that perpetuate specific historical narratives. This presentation will examine the role that artistic archival practices can play in the reactivation of cultural memory and the production of counter identities, counter narratives and counter memories, looking at specific examples such as Susan Meiselas’ archival project on the visual history of the Kurds, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s project on the Egyptian surrealism movement and Hrair Sarkissian’s Istory project delving into the erasure of Armenian history from Turkish archives and libraries’.

Workshop #2: ‘Ottoman Memories: Transculturalism and Empires in Comparison’
Birkbeck Cinema, School of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London
41 Gordon Square (use entrance 43)
Friday 1 November 2013


Roundtable: (left) Gabriel Koureas, Sami Zubaida, Jay Prosser, Claire Launchbury, John McLeod

Roundtable: (left) Gabriel Koureas, Sami Zubaida, Jay Prosser, Claire Launchbury, John McLeod

1.30 pm   Welcome/Network Introduction
1.45 pm   Sami Zubaida (Birkbeck, University of London): ‘The Peculiarity of the Ottomans’
2.15 pm   Jay Prosser (University of Leeds): ‘Mahallah memories:  An Ottoman Jewish family in the British Empire’
2.45 pm – 3.15 pm   COFFEE BREAK
3.15 pm   John McLeod (University of Leeds): ‘Working with transculturalism’
3.45 pm   Claire Launchbury (University of Leeds): ‘Imperial Topographies: Navigating Beirut in Time and Space’
4.15 pm – 5:00 pm   COFFEE BREAK & Roundtable Discussion


Sami Zubaida: ‘The Peculiarity of the Ottomans’Sami Talk2

‘All empires create cultural syntheses of the different territories and peoples they rule, but the patterns of these syntheses and whom they reach and include vary. The Ottoman, in common with some other pre-capitalist empires, was not a ‘national’/Turkish hegemony, but embraced and absorbed elites from various ethnicities from its very beginning: the Janissary slave corps, Greek diplomats and administrators, Arab, Kurdish and Balkan aristocracies, and so on. The hegemony was not of Turks over others, but of the askari (military/ruling) class over ra`aya (subjects) Its official identity was as a Muslim power, defending the faith and maintaining its integrity. Yet, it embraced a great diversity of Islamic doctrines and practices, sometimes verging on syncretism. Its cultural syntheses, however, did not reach far beyond its elites and cities, and much of its population rural and tribal, remained isolated. In all these respects, the Ottoman was different from the later capitalist empires, the British, the French and the Dutch, which rapidly transformed the territories and populations under their rule in markets and economic dynamism, transport and communications, breaking up old modes of production and the households and communities that sustained them. It is interesting to trace patterns of cultural syntheses and transformations under the different forms of empire, looking at examples of language, music and food’.

Jay Prosser: ‘Mahallah memories:  An Ottoman Jewish family in the British Empire’JP Talk

‘Mahallah is a transcultural word.  An Arabic term meaning ‘neighbourhood’ or ‘quarter,’ it came to be used in the Ottoman Empire, translated into the Turkish mahalle, to describe the smallest administrative ward or area.   Under the Ottoman millet system, religious/cultural groups had distinct mahallah, among them Jews, throughout Ottoman cities from Baghdad to Sarajevo, in which the Jewish quarter was known as the Jewish Mahallah.  Mahallah was not just a term of geographical zoning, however, but was thoroughly forming of identity and community – of family, social, religious and cultural life.  When Ottoman Jews migrated from the Ottoman Empire – not infrequently into other empires (the British Empire for instance) – they often took the mahallah with them:   the term, the geographic organisation, and more inextricably, the deep connotations of mahallah life.  This talk looks at how a family of Baghdadi Jews, my own, took the mahallah with them, from Ottoman Baghdad to British Bombay and then on to British Singapore.  The Ottoman organisation of space, driven by ease of taxation and minimal intervention and  accepted by the community as way of preserving traditions, demands comparison with the British Empire’s planning of urban zones based on its imperial concept of divide-and-rule segregation of communities (whitetown, greytown; European town; Chinese village, etc.).  Reading the personal via a series of public court cases and newspaper articles, I discover two empires encountering each other at the very end of the Ottoman Empire period to produce pressures and perceptions in a family to make a choice, between assimilating into the British Empire, and clinging to an archaic Ottoman Jewish past; between the Mahallah, and the metropolis’.

John McLeod: ‘Working with transculturalism’John Talk

‘This paper explores the productive opportunities that transculturalism present for research into global, cosmopolitan and intercultural contexts.  It approaches critically the central concerns of transculturalism as a meaningful concept of cultural critique, initially by comparing it to a number of other competing and prevailing conceptual tools for which it is often mistaken (such as postcolonialism and cosmopolitanism).  In particular, it considers the fruitfulness of transculturalism’s multi-axial comparative potential that recognises how discrete transcultural trajectories are often cross-hatched with others which invisibly shape those trajectories; the possibilities for recognising how minoritised transcultural agency can resource, and be resourced by, seemingly unrelated activities in disparate contexts (times and places); and the incommensurability within the transcultural contact zone which inflects all transcultural encounters and deflects transculturalism from manifesting itself as a neoliberal strategy of prizing/pricing cultural distinctiveness while dominating it.  The discussion draws upon examples from my own research – diasporic critique, transcultural adoption – and seeks to support the workshop by supplementing its exploration of the conceptual energy of transculturalism as a key term’.

Claire Launchbury: ‘Imperial Topographies: Navigating Beirut in Time and Space’Claire talk

‘In the 1890s, Yusuf Aftimos designed a clocktower for the Ottoman barracks in Beirut. Only the second such structure in an Arab city space, Samir Kassir observed that ‘in a piece of supreme sophistication, the time was given in both the French and Turkish manner, as though to acknowledge the city’s hesitation between the time of the world, dominated by European expansion, and that of an empire that refused to die.’ (Samir Kassir, Beirut, p. 145). This co-existence of Ottoman and French imperial temporalities can be seen to imprint upon the topography of Beirut and even into the subsequent rebuilding of the city following the end of the civil war. Transcultural layers of memory then are revealed through wartime destruction and reconstruction. In this paper, I argue that navigating Beirut in time and space is a palimpsestic tour of different memory cultures that antagonise and provoke, particularly in contesting the globalising trend of neo-liberalism, especially when we look at clocks, railways and trams’.

Official Launch Workshop: ‘How was the Ottoman Empire Transcultural?’
Room 112, School of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London
41 Gordon Square
Friday 21 June 2013


Henghameh Saroukhani (left) and Sahar Hamouda (right)

Henghameh Saroukhani (left) and Sahar Hamouda (right)

1.30 pm   Welcome/Network Introduction
1.45 pm   Sahar Hamouda (Alexandria University) “‘Five Races, Five Creeds, a Dozen Languages”: The Multiculturalism of Cosmopolitan Alexandria”
2.15 pm   Colette Wilson (Institute of Germanic Studies and Romance Studies, University of London): ‘Jacques Hassoun’s Alexandries: Voices in Time, Space and Text’
2.45 pm   Panel Q&A
3.15 pm – 3.45 pm COFFEE BREAK
3.45 pm   Fred Anscombe (Birkbeck, University of London): ‘The End of Empire and the Origins of Ottoman Nostalgia’
4.15 pm   Yair Wallach (SOAS, University of London): ‘Jerusalem Between Segregation and Integration: Reading Urban Space Through the Eyes of Justice Gad Frumkin’
4.45 pm   Panel Q&A
5.15 pm – 5.45 pm COFFEE BREAK
5.45pm – 6.45 pm ROUNDTABLE

One thought on “workshops

  1. Pingback: Ottoman Cosmopolitanism Network workshop: Visualising the Ottoman City | Imagining Jerusalem

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s