Engaging the State: Petitions as sources in Ottoman studies and beyond

Engaging the State: Petitions as sources in Ottoman studies and beyond
Activity Date: 
Thursday, Jun 12, 2014

As a medium of communication between rulers and the ruled, petitions have received growing attention from among historians interested in social history over the past few years. The workshop „Engaging the State. Petitions as Sources in Ottoman Studies and beyond“, which took place on June 12, 2014 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem provided a space for scholars from several disciplines to discuss their their approaches to this genre.
Heike Winkel (Freie Universität Berlin, Peter-Szondi Institute for Comparative Literature) opened the workshop with an analysis of several public letters from 1930s Russia, a form of writing that was strongly encouraged during the Stalinist era in order to promote the creation of a new, Soviet form of subjectivity. Yuval Ben-Bassat (University of Haifa, Department of Middle Eastern Studies) presented his work on late Ottoman petitions from Palestine, contextualizing the phenomenon within the wider context of Ottoman bureaucratic and technological modernization. Elke Hartmann (Freie Universität Berlin / Houshamadyan.org) dealt with the Young Turk Era, discussing the arguments brought forward by the religious scholars (ʿulema) of Mecca in a petition against their conscription into the Ottoman army. Deborah Bernstein (University of Haifa, department of sociology) presented her an Badi Hasisi's (Hebrew University, faculty of law) work on British mandate period petitions which were submitted in connection to cases of „family honor“ killings. She showed that petitions of family members who would ask for mitigation were a well-established part of the judicial process which helped to harmonize the mutually contradictory understandings of justice in law on the one hand and custom on the other. Ellinor Morack (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Martin Buber Society of Fellows in the Humanities) provided a close reading of two petitions from early Republican Turkey, paying particular attention to the changes of register and the strategic use of colloqiual language in those texts.

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