Ottoman Footprint

The Eurocentrism of Post-Colonial Studies

Posted by dianamuir on October 12, 2012
Imperialism, Medieval nationhood, Ottoman Footprint / Comments Off on The Eurocentrism of Post-Colonial Studies

Happened on this very interesting article  seeking  “to connect with the broader postcolonial project of decolonizing the mind by exposing and deconstructing its Eurocentric frames of reference”   on the grounds that the phenomena of conquest and colonization can be more usefully studied as a group that includes earlier empires.

“It would have been beyond the scope of this article to more fully illustrate the economic continuities be- tween premodern and modern colonialism in this article, but we defer to others who have argued and shown that most economic activities that are commonly associated with modern, capitalist colonialism-profitable mercantile activity (Wheatley 1966; Duncan-Jones 1974; Mann 1986); the extraction and import of raw materials from colonies and export of manufactured goods in profitable return (Polanyi 1977); the control and exploitation of colonized land (Mayer 1988) and labor (Hawkes 1973); the taxation of colonized peoples (Given 1989); the appropriation of land and direct resettlement-predate the modern, capitalist period.”

The subtext for many post-colonial authors “is that the modern period witnessed a fundamental shift in the ways in which society was organized. Furthermore, the ideological and organizational forms of the premodern and modern periods are characterized by significant qualitative differences. In effect, the group senses of identity, the polities, the economic forms, and the ways of thinking of the modern period are fundamentally different from those that existed in the premodern period. In its most extreme form, it can lead social scientists to argue that the new social and spatial formations of the modern period could not conceivably have existed during premodern times (with regard to nationalism, see Gellner 1983; in the context of rational bureaucracy and the state, see Giddens 1985; Dandekar 1990, 1-2).

“We vigorously contest such views. As Latour (1993) has shown, there has been much continuity between the premodern and modern periods (on another broad note, see Dodgshon 1999). More specifically, Tilly (1990) has demonstrated that the state was “consolidated” from its earlier inchoate form in Europe during the modern pe- riod. It was not formed anew and, therefore, did not represent the first territorialization of power within Eu- ropean society. Similarly A. D. Smith (1986) has ex- plored the way in which modern nations were based on earlier ethnic communities or ethnie. Nations are there- fore not wholly fabricated modern social phenomena. Indeed, A. D. Smith’s (1996, 386) assertion that nihil ex nihilio, or “nothing comes from nothing,” is a clarion call for more sustained analysis of group senses of identity, but also state forms, rationalities, modes of production and, we argue, colonial practices over the long term. Students of nationalism and the state have learned much from expanding their temporal horizons, and we suggest that the same may well be true for those who wish to examine imperialism in all its forms. The challenge must be to engage with the premodern and the non-European and to explore what lies beyond: to unsettle geographical horizons.”

Unsettling Geographical Horizons: Exploring Premodern and Non-European Imperialism
Author(s): Rhys Jones and Richard Phillips,  Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 95, No. 1 (Mar., 2005), pp.141-161Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Association of American GeographersStable URL: .Accessed: 12/10/2012



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Ottoman Depopulation

Posted by dianamuir on September 30, 2012
Ottoman Footprint / Comments Off on Ottoman Depopulation

Making a list of sources on depopulation in Ottoman lands, mostly due to failure to maintain or restore infrastructure (i.e., irrigation systems) and to administrative failure that permitted banditry and piracy (Aegean) to become so bad that population declined.

Collecting these for my own purposes as I come across them.  Sharing freely.   Glad to have examples added to this list.

Moab – a geographic designator for the arable plateau east of the southern part of the Dead Sea, now part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  The region has “dense settlement and intensive agriculture in the Byzantine period” and under the Hashemites, but “year round settlement was sparse and agriculture sporadic” in the late Ottoman period. Bruce Routledge, Moab in the Iron Age: Hegemony, Polity, Archaeology, 2004, University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 57. 


Armenian Genocide Now Undeniable

Posted by dianamuir on July 08, 2012
Armenian genocide, Demographic engineering, Ottoman Footprint / 1 Comment

Is a law against denial really necessary?  Facts are facts, and the facts of genocide speak for themselves.

Armenian civilians, escorted by armed Ottoman soldiers, are marched through Kharpert to a prison in the nearby Mezireh district, April 1915

The founding crime of the Turkish nation was genocide.   A deliberate, and thoroughly effective genocide of Turkey’s indigenous Armenian Christians and  a genocidal ethnic cleansing of Syrian Christians was carried out in 1915.   The genocidal ethnic cleansing of Greek Christians peaked just after the First World War.   These were  genocides of forced marches, starvation, and Einsatzgruppen, not gas chambers.   But they were directed from the highest level of the government, carried out by military and civilian officials, and they were thoroughly effective.

Taner Akçam’s The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity; The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire is a landmark in genocide scholarship, and a fitting successor his two earlier books on the subject, his  2004 From Republic to Empire; Turkish Nationalism and the Armenian Genocide, and his 2006  The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility .    Akçam’s goal in Crime Against Humanity is to refute the denialist claim that the only evidence of genocide comes from biased sources: Armenians and their Western supporters, and, therefore, that nothing has been proven.   Some scholars have assumed that Turkish concealment and destruction of government records makes countering this argument directly impossible.   Akçam used Ottoman files that do survive and are open to scholars to demonstrate that the deliberate and official nature of the “ethnic cleansing of the Ottoman Greeks and the genocidal policy against the Armenians can be demonstrated through these documents alone.”[1]   Case closed.

A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire, (Oxford, 2011) is a different kind of book, the product of a ten-year series of meetings convened by historians from Turkish and Western universities to produce a shared understanding of the events of 1915.   Among Turkish scholars willing to attend and to contribute chapters, “There was no dispute that deportations and massacres had occurred, that the forced movement of the Armenians had been ordered by the Young Turk government, that the mass killing was the result of both government and party actions, and that while there were several moments of Armenian resistance (most notably at Van), there was no civil war. The two opposing nationalist narratives were replaced by a single shared account based on evidence.”[2]

These two books settle the debate over whether the events of 1915 were a deliberate, officially ordered genocide for everyone except politically inspired denialists and members of the Flat Earth Society.

[1] Akçam, Taner, The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity; The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire,  Princeton University Press, 2010, p. xxv.

[2] Suny, Ronald Grigor, “Truth in Telling: Reconciling Realities in the Genocide of the Ottoman Armenians”, American Historical Review, vol. 4, no. 4, Oct. 2009.


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The Last Time Ankara and Damascus had a Stare-down

Posted by dianamuir on July 04, 2012
Ottoman Footprint / Comments Off on The Last Time Ankara and Damascus had a Stare-down

In 1936 Ataturk and the Kemalists had reasons to want to wag the dog.   To be fair, they also had genuine reason to worry about Mussolini’s Eastern ambitions; Italy had conquered the Ottoman-held Dodecanese islands in 1912, and Italian fascists felt that they had been cheated out of their rightful opportunity to acquire a large chunk of Anatolia  at the close of WWI.   Il Duce was hungry for Empire.   So when Italy began to fortify the Dodecanese islands in 1934, Turkish fears that this presaged an invasion were not unreasonable.   Whether  Turkish fears that Italy was about to grab part of Anatolia justified Turkey’s grabbing of the Sanjak of Alexandretta is a different question.

The piece of land that Turkey decided to grab is the bit that juts into Syria.   Iskenderun is the Turkified version of Alexandretta.   All of the Greek and Armenian place names were Turkified by the Kemalists.


File:Turkey map.svg
Here you can see where the Sanjak of Alexandretta  fit into the northwest corner of the French Mandate of Syria.

Which brings us back to Turkey’s fear of being invaded by Italy.   It provided a pretext for Turkish annexation of Alexandretta.   Especially after Mussolini invaded and annexed Ethiopia.

The population of the prosperous Sanjak included Greeks, Armenians, Assyrian Christians, Jews, Maronites, Kurds, Alawis, Arabs, Circassians and Turks.   Turks were  as much as 40% of the population.   More if you counted the Alawis and Circassians as Turks, a tactic that  Turkey found useful in presenting its case to the world.

The Turkish argument was that the Sanjak was a Turkish province that had mistakenly been placed outside the fatherland and that Turkey had a right, even a duty to reunite Alexandretta’s Turks with Turkey.

In May 1937 a  League of Nations  “Committee of Experts” disingenuously accepted a Statue and Fundamental Law of the Sanjak of Alexandretta recognizing the Sanjak as a majority Turkish region and declaring it autonomous.

With Italy creating alliances in the Balkans and a Civil War being fought in Spain, France pushed the deal though because it wanted to secure its dominion over Mandatory Syrian by appeasing Turkey.

The Germans stood up and cheered.  First the League of Nations had violated it’s own principles by failing to defend Ethiopia from invasion by fascist Italy.   Now it was willing to allow Turkey to grab an unwilling province.  This augured well for the Nazi intention to claim the “right” to reunite the ethnic Germans of the Sudetenland, Austria, Poland and other lands with the German fatherland.

Pierre Arnal, French Deputy Chief of Mission in Berlin, was appalled, “If Turkey obtains satisfaction in some way, what encouragement for the Reich!”   Arnal was a prophet without an audience.   A massive European peace movement demanded peace at any price, and got it.

The people of Alexandretta protested in every way they could, but they were facing daunting odds, not to mention Kemalist thugs.

France and Turkey came to a “private arrangement” to rig an election that would decide the future of the Sanjak.   Upon being informed of the details, the responsible official at Whitehall summarized the agreement, “Its substance was that the elections, somehow or other (presumably by fair means or foul), should result in a Turkish majority.”

The means used by Turkey were foul, thugs and troops were sent into the Sanjak, the fraudulent vote was held and counted,   and Alexdretta was handed over to Turkey and  renamed Hatay Province.  Many pious Muslims left, fearing the Kemalist program of secularization and Turkification; eighty percent of the Sanjak’s Christians fled.

And the regimes in Turkey and Germany were reinforced in their belief that might makes right.



The best source on the incident period is Fezzes in the River: Identity Politics and European Diplomacy in the Middle East on the Eve of World War II, Sarah D. Shields, Oxford University Press.



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