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Conference: Panel, Ottoman Inter-Confessional Dialectics in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, MESA Annual Conference, Denver, 17-20 November 2012‏

Call for Papers: “Ottoman Inter-Confessional Dialectics in the 19th and early 20th Centuries”

A panel proposed for the 2012 MESA Annual Conference in Denver, CO, November 17-20.

Organizer: Scott Rank, Ph.D. Candidate, Central European University, Department of History

Deadline: February 1, 2012

This is a call for papers for a pre-organized MESA panel concerning Ottoman inter-confessional relations in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The historiography of this phenomenon has traditionally followed one of two tracks. The first track examined inter-confessional relations through the 1839 and 1856 reform edicts that promised non-Muslims security of their rights and property. The Islamic empire’s trajectory aimed at secularization and universal liberty; however, Abdülhamit II jettisoned these efforts following his 1876 ascension. The second track depicted inter-confessional relations in a state of hostile acrimony, in which outside actors such as European diplomats and Protestant missionaries empowered Ottoman Christians at a time when nationalist movements threatened to break apart the Empire. In recent years historians have moved away from this binary model and explored the zones of contact between Ottoman confessional groups in the political, economic, and judicial arenas.

Yet essentialized understandings of these actors linger within historical studies. Due to an over-reliance on state administrative sources, accounts of this period still allow the view from Istanbul to sharply delineate the categories of orthodox/heterodox and Muslim/Christian. Muslim beliefs that fell outside of the state discourse of Sunni-Hanefi Islamic “orthodoxy” receive the blanket term “heterodox,” despite a variety of belief falling into the latter category. Likewise, the labels of Muslim and Christian apply clumsily to groups such as the highly syncretistic Yezidis, whom religious leaders on both sides rarely claimed as their own. And even “orthodox” Muslims at this time were not hesitant to borrow liberally from non-Muslim intellectual movements, even if their purposes were such ostensibly pious acts as writing anti-Christian religious polemics.

This panel will explore the complicated issue of Ottoman inter-confessional relations and problematize the concepts of official discourses of belief; alternate programs of modernity disputed among (but not limited to) secularists, Muslim intellectuals, non-Muslim leaders, and Protestant missionaries; and contested notions of heterodoxy and orthodoxy. In order to do so it will reject essentialized categories created at the state-administrative level that could apply arbitrarily and even incorrectly to the provinces. Instead, it will examine how inter-confessional encounters were not necessarily antagonistic but could have reciprocal effects that produced hybrid identities. Furthermore, it will make use of sources that provide alternate accounts of these encounters, such as writings by local literati, missionary sources, regional administrative accounts of heterodox groups, and European diplomatic sources. It will also consider the influence of environmental factors in shaping confessional identity.

Please submit an abstract of your proposed paper, your contact information, and your CV to Scott Rank at by February 1, 2012. Decisions and acceptance notifications will be sent out by February 10, 2012.

Below are the paper abstract guidelines for the 2012 MESA Conference. Potential contributors should adhere to these guidelines to ensure the acceptance of this panel to the MESA review committee.

“The abstract should be 300-400 words, typewritten and single-spaced. The name of the author cannot appear in the abstract. If it does, the proposal automatically will be disqualified. The program committee will be looking for abstracts that are scholarly, with a strong, focused statement of thesis or significance, clear goals and methodology, well-organized research data, specified sources, and convincing, coherent conclusions.”

Scott Rank ( Ph.D. Candidate, Central European University Department of History, Nádor utca 9

1051 Budapest, Hungary

Phone: +36 06-705-376-139Email: