Ohio State nav bar

Im/Mobilities at the End of Empire: People and Ideas in Flux

The image features a title text that reads "CENTERING THE GLOBAL PERIPHERY Im/Mobilities at the End of Empire: People and Ideas in Flux" set against a background that includes a map with parts of Europe highlighted and a teal overlay with a wavy pattern.
May 16, 2024
3:30PM - 5:30PM
The Graduate, Jesse Owens Room (Thursday/Saturday) & Derby Hall 1039 (Friday)

Date Range
Add to Calendar 2024-05-16 15:30:00 2024-05-16 17:30:00 Im/Mobilities at the End of Empire: People and Ideas in Flux Workshop ProgramWorkshop PosterOrganizers: Yiğit Akın and Theodora DragostinovaThis workshop brings together scholars working on imperial and post-imperial transitions in the Ottoman Empire and its successor states in the Balkans and the Middle East from the nineteenth century through the 1920s. We put into conversation new research-in-progress based on original indigenous sources that engages with various geographical fields and methodological approaches. We propose the intertwined notions of “mobility” and “immobility” to emphasize the fluidity of the transitions while exploring multiple aspects of their manifestations. In the period under consideration, ideas of statehood, sovereignty, and citizenship fluctuated as state-building, violence, and war reshaped territories, environments, and communities. We recognize that different chronologies in various geographical and political contexts make a unitary narrative impossible. Yet, overlapping regimes of mobilities and immobilities—military, demographic, political, intellectual, cultural, environmental—reshaped empires, states, societies, families, and individuals. To think about an overarching framework, we choose to focus on two angles: people and ideas. We also incorporate a vigorous discussion of research and writing methodologies: comparative, transnational, or global; case-study or big picture narratives; intellectual, biographical, or micro-historical perspectives; or anthropological and literary approaches. Our overall goal is a comparative discussion on historiographies, sources, and methodologies related to the (post-)Ottoman transitions. This workshop is based on pre-circulated papers. Please contact akin.16@osu.edu and dragostinova.1@osu.edu with any questions.Conceptual partners:Peter Holquist, University of PennsylvaniaLaura Robson, Penn State UniversityPaper presenters:Yiğit Akın, Ohio State UniversityMustafa Aksakal, Georgetown UniversityEvguenia Davidova, Portland State UniversityTheodora Dragostinova, Ohio State UniversityLerna Ekmekçioğlu, MITMiloš Jovanović, UCLAMilena B. Methodieva, University of TorontoAyşe Parla, Boston UniversityIpek Yosmaoğlu, Northwestern The Graduate, Jesse Owens Room (Thursday/Saturday) & Derby Hall 1039 (Friday) Mershon Center mershoncenter@osu.edu America/New_York public
May 17, 2024
9:00AM - 5:00PM
The Graduate, Jesse Owens Room (Thursday/Saturday) & Derby Hall 1039 (Friday)

Date Range
Add to Calendar 2024-05-17 09:00:00 2024-05-17 17:00:00 Im/Mobilities at the End of Empire: People and Ideas in Flux Workshop ProgramWorkshop PosterOrganizers: Yiğit Akın and Theodora DragostinovaThis workshop brings together scholars working on imperial and post-imperial transitions in the Ottoman Empire and its successor states in the Balkans and the Middle East from the nineteenth century through the 1920s. We put into conversation new research-in-progress based on original indigenous sources that engages with various geographical fields and methodological approaches. We propose the intertwined notions of “mobility” and “immobility” to emphasize the fluidity of the transitions while exploring multiple aspects of their manifestations. In the period under consideration, ideas of statehood, sovereignty, and citizenship fluctuated as state-building, violence, and war reshaped territories, environments, and communities. We recognize that different chronologies in various geographical and political contexts make a unitary narrative impossible. Yet, overlapping regimes of mobilities and immobilities—military, demographic, political, intellectual, cultural, environmental—reshaped empires, states, societies, families, and individuals. To think about an overarching framework, we choose to focus on two angles: people and ideas. We also incorporate a vigorous discussion of research and writing methodologies: comparative, transnational, or global; case-study or big picture narratives; intellectual, biographical, or micro-historical perspectives; or anthropological and literary approaches. Our overall goal is a comparative discussion on historiographies, sources, and methodologies related to the (post-)Ottoman transitions. This workshop is based on pre-circulated papers. Please contact akin.16@osu.edu and dragostinova.1@osu.edu with any questions.Conceptual partners:Peter Holquist, University of PennsylvaniaLaura Robson, Penn State UniversityPaper presenters:Yiğit Akın, Ohio State UniversityMustafa Aksakal, Georgetown UniversityEvguenia Davidova, Portland State UniversityTheodora Dragostinova, Ohio State UniversityLerna Ekmekçioğlu, MITMiloš Jovanović, UCLAMilena B. Methodieva, University of TorontoAyşe Parla, Boston UniversityIpek Yosmaoğlu, Northwestern The Graduate, Jesse Owens Room (Thursday/Saturday) & Derby Hall 1039 (Friday) Mershon Center mershoncenter@osu.edu America/New_York public
May 18, 2024
9:00AM - 11:00AM
The Graduate, Jesse Owens Room (Thursday/Saturday) & Derby Hall 1039 (Friday)

Date Range
Add to Calendar 2024-05-18 09:00:00 2024-05-18 11:00:00 Im/Mobilities at the End of Empire: People and Ideas in Flux Workshop ProgramWorkshop PosterOrganizers: Yiğit Akın and Theodora DragostinovaThis workshop brings together scholars working on imperial and post-imperial transitions in the Ottoman Empire and its successor states in the Balkans and the Middle East from the nineteenth century through the 1920s. We put into conversation new research-in-progress based on original indigenous sources that engages with various geographical fields and methodological approaches. We propose the intertwined notions of “mobility” and “immobility” to emphasize the fluidity of the transitions while exploring multiple aspects of their manifestations. In the period under consideration, ideas of statehood, sovereignty, and citizenship fluctuated as state-building, violence, and war reshaped territories, environments, and communities. We recognize that different chronologies in various geographical and political contexts make a unitary narrative impossible. Yet, overlapping regimes of mobilities and immobilities—military, demographic, political, intellectual, cultural, environmental—reshaped empires, states, societies, families, and individuals. To think about an overarching framework, we choose to focus on two angles: people and ideas. We also incorporate a vigorous discussion of research and writing methodologies: comparative, transnational, or global; case-study or big picture narratives; intellectual, biographical, or micro-historical perspectives; or anthropological and literary approaches. Our overall goal is a comparative discussion on historiographies, sources, and methodologies related to the (post-)Ottoman transitions. This workshop is based on pre-circulated papers. Please contact akin.16@osu.edu and dragostinova.1@osu.edu with any questions.Conceptual partners:Peter Holquist, University of PennsylvaniaLaura Robson, Penn State UniversityPaper presenters:Yiğit Akın, Ohio State UniversityMustafa Aksakal, Georgetown UniversityEvguenia Davidova, Portland State UniversityTheodora Dragostinova, Ohio State UniversityLerna Ekmekçioğlu, MITMiloš Jovanović, UCLAMilena B. Methodieva, University of TorontoAyşe Parla, Boston UniversityIpek Yosmaoğlu, Northwestern The Graduate, Jesse Owens Room (Thursday/Saturday) & Derby Hall 1039 (Friday) Mershon Center mershoncenter@osu.edu America/New_York public

Workshop Program

Workshop Poster

Organizers: Yiğit Akın and Theodora Dragostinova

This workshop brings together scholars working on imperial and post-imperial transitions in the Ottoman Empire and its successor states in the Balkans and the Middle East from the nineteenth century through the 1920s. We put into conversation new research-in-progress based on original indigenous sources that engages with various geographical fields and methodological approaches. We propose the intertwined notions of “mobility” and “immobility” to emphasize the fluidity of the transitions while exploring multiple aspects of their manifestations. In the period under consideration, ideas of statehood, sovereignty, and citizenship fluctuated as state-building, violence, and war reshaped territories, environments, and communities. We recognize that different chronologies in various geographical and political contexts make a unitary narrative impossible. Yet, overlapping regimes of mobilities and immobilities—military, demographic, political, intellectual, cultural, environmental—reshaped empires, states, societies, families, and individuals. To think about an overarching framework, we choose to focus on two angles: people and ideas. We also incorporate a vigorous discussion of research and writing methodologies: comparative, transnational, or global; case-study or big picture narratives; intellectual, biographical, or micro-historical perspectives; or anthropological and literary approaches. Our overall goal is a comparative discussion on historiographies, sources, and methodologies related to the (post-)Ottoman transitions. 

This workshop is based on pre-circulated papers. Please contact akin.16@osu.edu and dragostinova.1@osu.edu with any questions.

Conceptual partners:
Peter Holquist, University of Pennsylvania
Laura Robson, Penn State University

Paper presenters:
Yiğit Akın, Ohio State University
Mustafa Aksakal, Georgetown University
Evguenia Davidova, Portland State University
Theodora Dragostinova, Ohio State University
Lerna Ekmekçioğlu, MIT
Miloš Jovanović, UCLA
Milena B. Methodieva, University of Toronto
Ayşe Parla, Boston University
Ipek Yosmaoğlu, Northwestern

Biographies

Yiğit Akın is an associate professor at the Ohio State University. His research interests include social and cultural history of the late Ottoman Empire and early Republican Turkey, with a particular focus on the First World War and its aftermath, war and society, necropolitics, nationalism, and social movements. Akın is the author of two books. The first, “Robust and Vigorous Children”: Physical Education and Sports in Early Republican Turkey (İletişim, 2004), offers a new framework for thinking about the relationship between sports and physical education, governmentality, public health, and nationalism in early republican Turkey. His second book, When the War Came Home: The Ottomans' Great War and the Devastation of an Empire (Stanford, 2018), examines the Ottoman Empire’s catastrophic experience of the First World War and analyzes the impact of the war on the empire’s civilian population. He is currently working on two book projects on the post-World War I years in the Ottoman Empire from a global perspective and the social and cultural history of death in the late Ottoman Empire and Republican Turkey. 

Mustafa Aksakal teaches Ottoman, Turkish, and Middle Eastern History at Georgetown University. He is the author of “The Division of the Ottoman Debt,” with Patrick Schilling, in The All Made Peace – What is Peace? The 1923 Lausanne Treaty and the New Imperial Order, eds. Jonathan Conlin and Ozan Ozavci; “Salvation through War? The Ottoman Search for Sovereignty in 1914,” with Aimee Genell, in The Justification of War and International Order: From Past to Present, eds. Lothar Brock and Hendrik Simon; “Inside the Ottoman Army: Two Armenian Soldiers Tell Their Story,” in Inside World War One? The First World War and its Witnesses, eds. Richard Bessel and Dorothee Wierling; and The Ottoman Road to War in 1914: The Ottoman Empire and the First World War

Evguenia Davidova is Professor in the Department of History at Portland State University. Her research interests focus on the late Ottoman and post-Ottoman Balkans: trade; travel; nationalism; social history of medicine; gender and public health. Davidova has published in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Slavic Review, European History Quarterly; CLIO Femmes, Genre et Histoire; Turcica; Balkanologie; Aspasia; and Journal of European Economic History, among others. She is the author of Balkan Transitions to Modernity and Nation-States through the Eyes of Three Generations of Merchants (1780s-1890s) (Brill, 2012) and the editor of Wealth in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman Balkans: A Socio-Economic History (I.B. Tauris, 2016). Davidova’s new project, with the provisional title, Nursing the Nation State: Public Health and International Exchanges in the Interwar Balkans, focuses on the intertwining processes of state and nation building wherein public health played a key role. 

Theodora Dragostinova is a Professor of History at Ohio State University. Her research focuses geographically on Modern Europe, the Balkans, and Bulgaria and thematically on comparative nationalism, migration and mobility, and the global Cold War. She is interested in how geopolitics, nationalism, war, shifting borders, and migration dynamics shape the choices of states, communities, and ordinary people. She writes history that considers larger structures, local dynamics, and human agency.  

Dragostinova is the author of Between Two Motherlands: Nationality and Emigration among the Greeks in Bulgaria, 1900-1949 (Cornell University Press, 2011), which was shortlisted for The Joseph Rothschild Prize in Nationalism and Ethnic Studies from the Association for the Study of Nationalities and The Edmund Keeley Book Prize from the Modern Greek Studies Association. Her second book, The Cold War from the Margins: A Small Socialist State on the Global Cultural Scene (Cornell University Press, 2021), was shortlisted for The Heldt Prize for best book by a woman-identifying scholar in any area of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, awarded by the Association of Women in Slavic Studies, and was a co-winner of The John D. Bell Memorial Book Prize from the Bulgarian Studies Association. Dragostinova is the coeditor of Beyond Mosque, Church, and State: Alternative Narratives of the Nation in the Balkans (CEU Press, 2016) and Re-Imagining the Balkans: How to Think and Teach a Region (De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2023). She is currently working on missing children and divided families in the borderlands of Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey, tentatively entitled “Spoils of War: The Repatriation of Children in the post-1918 Balkans.” 

Lerna Ekmekçioğlu is Associate Professor of History and the Director of Women’s and Gender Studies Program at MIT. Her first monograph, Recovering Armenia: The Limits of Belonging in Post-Genocide Turkey, came out from Stanford University Press in 2016 and in Turkish translation in 2021 (Bir Milleti Diriltmek: Toplumsal Cinsiyet Ekseninde Türkiye’de Ermeniliğin Yeniden İnşası, Aras Yayıncılık). In 2006 she co-edited a volume in Turkish on the first five Ottoman Armenian feminists (Bir Adalet Feryadı, Aras Yayıncılık). Her major articles include one on the treatment of minorities in the interwar period (IJMES, 2014) and another on the gendered aftermath of the Armenian Genocide (CSSH, 2013). In 2023 she published a research article on the Armenian demands at the Lausanne Conference for a “National Home” within Turkey (in They Made Peace – What is Peace?). Currently she is collaborating with Dr. Melissa Bilal for a book and digital humanities project titled “Feminism in Armenian: An Interpretive Anthology and Documentary Archive” (Stanford University Press, 2025). Two articles that will soon appear focus on two distinct themes: one is about Ottoman-Russian Armenian woman imprisoned in Constantinople Central Prison’s women’s section during World War I and the other is on communist feminist Armenian women in post-WWII Paris. 

Yana Hashamova is Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Slavic Studies and Core Professor in the Department of Theatre, Film, and Media Arts at the Ohio State University. In her interdisciplinary monographs and multi-disciplinary co-edited volumes, she strives to establish links between political ideology and constructs of national, ethnic, and gender identities in cultures, while analyzing power relations and post-socialist conditions. Her current work centers on diaspora identities and their discontents. Her most recent monograph is Screening Trafficking: Prudent and Perilous? (Central European University Press, 2018) and her most recent co-edited volume, with Oana Popescu-Sandu and Sunnie Rucker-Chang, Cultures of Mobility and Alterity: Crossing the Balkans and Beyond (Liverpool University Press, 2022). Together with Theodora Dragostinova, she also co-edited Beyond Mosque, Church, and State: Alternative Narratives of the Nation in the Balkans (Central European University Press, 2017).

Peter Holquist is a historian of the late Russian empire and revolutionary period, with interests in military, social and imperial history at the University of Pennsylvania.  He is the author of Making War, Forging Revolution: Russia’s Continuum of Crisis, and is completing a book on Imperial Russia’s role in the crystallization of the laws of war in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  In relation to this project, he has researched the conduct of Russian imperial armies in occupied territories in armed conflicts from 1877 to 1917.  He co-founded and served for ten years as editor of the journal Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History

Miloš Jovanović is a historian and urban studies scholar. His research interests include the Balkans, Ottoman and Habsburg Empires, capitalism, Marxist theory and history, and visual methods. I am interested in history as an emancipatory practice. His present book project, Cities of Dust and Mud, explores the post-Ottoman urban transformation of two Balkan capitals, Belgrade and Sofia. In many ways, this is monograph is about the social costs of urban change. One of his primary interests is the role of imperial formations in the transformation of urban space. This ongoing research trajectory explores the relationship between historicity, nostalgia, and the political economy of urban space. 

His work has been published in Cultural Studies, History of the Present, History & Anthropology, Urban Cultural History, and Godišnjak za društvenu istoriju. Collaborative work is an important part of his scholarly practice. In 2020, he co-edited the book Sharpening the Haze: Visual Essays on Imperial History and Memory. That same year, the final version of his documentary film about the transformation of Belgrade’s port district came out as “Waterfront: A post-Ottoman post-socialist story” (co-directed with KURS). Between 2019-2021, he worked with Adriana Qubaiova, a scholar of gender and sexuality in West Asia (Middle East), on the five-part podcast series “Comparative Waterfronts: Glass, Steel, and Capital in Beirut and Belgrade.” 

Milena Methodieva is a scholar of Ottoman, Balkan, and Turkish history, 19-20th centuries. She is Assistant Professor at the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto, Canada. She received her PhD from Princeton, MA from Bilkent University, Turkey, and BA from the American University in Bulgaria. She is interested in exploring history from the perspective of marginalized groups and showing their role in the historical process. Her work often looks at events in transnational context. 

Milena Methodieva is the author of Between Empire and Nation: Muslim Reform in the Balkans (Stanford University Press, 2021). Her articles include “Muslim Culture, Reform and Patriotism: Staging Namık Kemal in post-Ottoman Bulgaria (1878-1908),” in Ebru Boyar and Kate Fleet, Eds., Entertainment Among the Ottomans (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 208-24; “How Turks and Bulgarians Became Ethnic Brothers: History, Propaganda and Political Alliances on the Eve of the Young Turk Revolution,” Turkish Historical Review 5 (2014), 221-62; and “Keeping the Bonds: the Ottomans and Muslim Education in Bulgaria, 1878-1908,” Turcica 36 (2004), 141-65, with S. Akşin Somel. She is also the author of several Encyclopaedia of Islam entries including “Pomaks,” “Danube,” and “Gazi Osman Pasha.” 

One of Milena Methodieva’s current research project deals with migration from the Balkans to the late Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish republic. This project explores the social, political, and intellectual effects of these mass migrations, and the ways individuals of various backgrounds experienced them. 

Ayşe Parla is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Boston University. She received her BA from Harvard and her Ph.D. from New York University. Before joining BU, Parla taught at Sabancı University in Istanbul, and was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Her first book, Precarious Hope: Migration and the Limits of Belonging in Turkey (Stanford University Press, 2019) received an Honorable Mention from the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology’s Book Prize. Her work on movement and im/mobilities, the phenomenology and the politics of emotion, dispossession, haunting, and the governance of difference has appeared in such journals as Alternatives, American Ethnologist, Citizenship Studies, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Differences, History and Anthropology, International Migration & Public Culture. Her current book project is on the afterlives of the Armenian Genocide. 

Laura Robson is a scholar of international and Middle Eastern history, with a special interest in questions of refugeedom, forced migration, and statelessness. She is currently the Oliver-McCourtney Professor of History at Penn State University.  

She has published extensively on the topics of refugee and minority rights, forced migration, ethnic cleansing, and the emergence of international legal regimes around resettlement and asylum. Her most recent books are Human Capital: A History of Putting Refugees to Work (Verso, 2023), a wide-ranging investigation of the many twentieth century schemes to deploy refugees as labor migrants across the globe, and The Politics of Mass Violence in the Middle East (Oxford, 2020), a history of the relationship between violence and the state in the twentieth-century Eastern Mediterranean.  She is also the author of States of Separation: Transfer, Partition, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (University of California, 2017) and Colonialism and Christianity in Mandate Palestine (University of Texas, 2011), as well as the editor of Partitions: A Transnational History of 20th Century Territorial Separatism (with Arie Dubnov; Stanford, 2019) and Minorities and the Modern Arab World: New Perspectives (Syracuse, 2016). Her work has appeared in many prominent scholarly journals, including the American Historical Review, Past and Present, and the International Journal of Middle East Studies. She was a recent Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, and is an inaugural member of its Refugees and Forced Displacement Initiative.  

With Jennifer Dueck, she is co-founder and co-editor of StatelessHistories.org, a digital humanities project exploring the varied and multifaceted experience of statelessness in the modern era. 

İpek Kocaömer Yosmaoğlu (PhD Princeton, 2005) is associate professor of History and the Director of the Keyman Modern Turkish Studies Program at the Buffett Institute of Global Affairs, Northwestern University.  She taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a Mellon fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study before joining Northwestern faculty in 2010.  She is the author of Blood Ties:  Religion, Violence, and the Politics of Nationhood, 1878-1908 (Cornell University Press, 2014), and the co-editor, with Kerem Öktem, of Turkish Jews and Their Diasporas: Entanglements and Separations (Palgrave MacMillan, 2022).  Her research and teaching interests include nationalism, political violence, genocide, and ethnic cleansing at the intersection of empire and nation states. She is currently working on a project about notions of belonging, identity, and citizenship in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries based on the experiences of Ottoman Jews and Eastern European Jews who wanted to become Ottomans. 

Papers & Abstracts

Modern Turkey was established in 1923 on an unprecedented destruction of human life. Approximately 750.000 Ottomans died during the First World War, roughly 4 percent of the pre-war Ottoman population. The Balkan Wars of 1912-13 that preceded WW1 resulted in 125.000 Ottoman deaths while the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-22 that succeeded it led to some 50.000 fatalities. It was not only soldiers, however, who perished during these wars. Tens of thousands of civilian Ottomans died because of epidemic diseases, shortages of food, clothing, and shelter, as well as violence on the home front. During World War I, the imperial government’s genocidal campaign led to the annihilation of close to one million Ottoman Armenians. In other words, death loomed very large in the lives of the Ottomans who lived through this decade of successive wars, genocide, and nation-building.

To be sure, the Ottomans were deeply familiar with death and its gruesome impacts before this catastrophic decade as well. Waves of epidemic diseases such as cholera, typhus, and yellow fever blighted the existence of Ottoman communities in both the countryside and urban centers. Infant mortality rates remained shockingly high, even for the nineteenth century standards. Yet, however omnipresent death had been in daily life before, the Ottomans’ confrontation with mass death in the empire’s last decade shook them to the core. The premature loss of young men on such an unprecedented scale disrupted established norms and perceptions of death, leaving behind millions of people widowed, orphaned, and bereaved. By the end of the decade, there were very few families and virtually no villages and neighborhoods that had escaped its terrible effects. The impact and memories of mass death continued to haunt the Turkish society all the way to the 1950s.

This paper seeks to examine the question of how the prevalence of death influenced political culture, intellectual life, and social memory in Ottoman- and post-Ottoman Turkey? How did people, both elite and non-elite, react to the omnipresence of death in their lives? How did their relationship with death and the dead change over time and what can it tell us about broader socio-political and cultural changes that the society underwent? Studying death as a social and cultural construct would offer us a unique vantage point to think about the answers of these questions.

By 1914, the Ottoman state had a long history of policing mobility. It sought to control all movement in and out of the empire, but also movement within its boundaries, from one part of the empire to the next, or even from one district to a neighboring one. It did so by requiring travel documents – mürur tezkeresi or, later, seyahat varakası – and charging a tax for the issuance of such papers. In wartime, these documents provided state and government officials with tools for policing and restricting the mobility of its citizens across the Ottoman realm. While the state’s forced movement of populations has become a major area of research, the

state’s attempt to control all movement continues to raise an array of important questions. This paper draws on archival material to investigate the uses of the state’s methods and practices for controlling mobility in wartime. It also seeks to tell the story of those who found themselves locked in by such restrictive measures of the state, and their attempts to go around these limitations

“Around a month ago the administrator of the Alexander Hospital asked me to have sex with him. I refused and explained that I am here to work and not to flirt. Since then, he began persecuting me and even wrote a report against me.”

This is an excerpt from a complaint about sexual harassment lodged by nurse Gogova to the Director of the Red Cross School for Nursing in Bulgaria in October 1921. As a result, a mere month later, even though she did not ask for such solution, Gogova was transferred from the capital to the countryside. This is not an unusual incident of job mobility, though. Several other nurses had been relocated from hospital to hospital either serving the military needs of the new nation state and/or being reprimanded for their “incorrect behavior.” Other peripatetic examples abounded. These diverse movements include a plethora of international actors in times of war ranging from the Russian nurses during the wars of 1876-1878 to the Scottish Women’s Hospitals and the nurses from various Red Cross missions during the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) and WWI.

The aftermath of WWI witnessed another type of influx in the Balkans: globetrotting nurses from the American Red Cross, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the League of Red Cross Societies dispatched to set up new or modernize existing nursing schools as part of broader reorganization of healthcare services. One can find American or British nurses in royal Yugoslavia, Greece, and Romania in the 1920s. In addition, these transnational philanthropic agencies promoted nursing scholarships to Western Europe and North America. Thus, in contrast to the early 20th century “disciplinary” moves among hospitals, the 1920s grants were designed to transfer knowledge and to provide social mobility by creating local leadership as part of an international mobile nursing élite. This paper, therefore, focuses on multidirectional moves of nurses to and from the Balkans as well as intra-regional circuits.

Mobility is a complex phenomenon which is “imbued with meaning and power,” as Tim Cresswell (1995, p. 4) has aptly suggested. This paper, grounded on a variety of multilingual archival sources, explores the social, political, and cultural impact of nurses’ polysemic and asymmetric mobility. Through the lens of labor movement, gender, class, and nationality it analyses social history of nursing and employs comparative approach at several levels: national, regional, and transnational. Hence, the paper argues that the peripatetic jobs of both the rank-and-file and the élite, were intertwined and enabled by non-governmental interventions. While nursing opened new economic possibilities for women at the same time the close cooperation between the state, the army, and the domestic and international philanthropic societies reinforced (neo)traditional narratives and increased social and gender inequality. The influx of international “nightingales” also amplified the pre-existing Great Power influence and political hierarchies in the region. Thus, nursing serves as a window to explore larger issues of continuity and rupture as manifested through building nation states, establishing gendered public healthcare, expanding militarization, and adopting modern standards.

After the end of fighting in the Balkans in October 1918, Bulgarian officials faced an urgent task: to locate and hand over to the Command of Allied Troops in Sofia several hundred “girls and boys,” brought from occupied Eastern Macedonia to Bulgaria during the war. As families started looking for missing relatives, requests began snowballing throughout 1919. By mid-1920, the lists compiled by the Greek government reached about 1,000 “minor Greeks” (maloletni gûrcheta)—including many from Western Thrace (part of Bulgaria in 1913-1918) and Eastern Thrace (under shifting Bulgarian, Ottoman, and Greek control in 1912-1923). At least four French generals, representatives of the Allied Armies of the Orient in Bulgaria, mediated between Greek and Bulgarian military and civilian officials as they argued whether the children were “kidnapped” or “saved from famine” during the war. As the question became embroiled with the larger issue of interned and deported individuals, POWs, and those missing, the International Commission of the Red Cross and the League of Nations’ newly launched Commissioner for Prisoners of War offered expertise. Eventually, the Greek government tied the release of Bulgarian POWs to the repatriation of Greek minors, keeping captive two Bulgarian POWs from the officer ranks for each “missing” child. In 1922, there were still some 600 Bulgarian officers held in Greece. To resolve the impasse, a mixed commission of French, Greek, and Bulgarian representatives was set up, to interrogate and reach a decision for each child. Eventually, by 1923 some 800 minors were sent to Greece while another 200 stayed in Bulgaria.

This paper will reconstruct the evolution of the process of child repatriation between Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia after 1918, focusing on the notion of “forced repatriation” that eventually emerged as the guiding principle of deciding the fate of the minors and juggling the wishes of their (often divided) families. It will show how forced repatriation—guided by the presumption that a commission could determine the best interest of the minors—drew random lines of volition, consent, and age of adulthood. Patriarchal legal norms particularly affected young women aged 18 and 20 who, as legal minors in matters of marriage and family law, were stripped of their autonomy to make decisions for their themselves, their children, and their families. Class prejudices and national priorities also shaped the process, as male, upper-class, educated officials assumed they could speak for underage, lower-class, illiterate folks who happened to fall under their national jurisdictions after the war. In the end, while the process of “forced repatriation” was supposedly enforced to protect minors and facilitate family reunification, it often ended up dividing families, especially “mixed families” in Bulgarian, Greek, and Serbian borderlands.

This paper –which is in its very, very early stages—is about a group of Ottoman Armenian intellectuals who escaped from Istanbul in 1922 to find refuge in Bulgaria and Romania. This is

a generation of Armenian women of letters (and activism) who were born in the capital in the 1870s and 80s. They spent the war years in the Ottoman capital. Because they were women they were not deported on April 24th by the Ottoman authorities. During the post-genocide Armistice years, they actively worked for the survival of their nation such as by helping with refugees, orphan collection efforts, lobbying, and doing pro-Armenian propaganda. They also self-identified as feminists and were the core group that published Hayganush Mark’s women’s journal Hay Gin (Armenian Women, 1919-1933). In the fall of 1922 in fear of the incoming Kemalist forces’ potential retaliatory massacres against local Christians, most of them fled the city.

While I eventually want to write a broader prosopographical study of eight of these intellectuals, I will focus only on two women in this first iteration. First, Anayis (Yevpime Avedisian (1872, Constantinople- 1950, Paris). She was a poet, short story writer, political commentator, memoirist, girls’ education activist, and the chair of the Armenian Women’s Association in Istanbul (1919-1922). Anayis first escaped to Varna where she stayed for a year. Afterwards, she moved to Bucharest, where her newly married older daughter was living. After the sudden passing of her son-in-law, Anayis and her daughter moved to Paris in 1928 where she died in 1950. Second, Zaruhi Bahri (1880, Constantiople-1958, Paris) who was a novelist, memoirist, orphan collector, and education activist. Bahri and her four children escaped from Istanbul to Romania where they lived until 1928. They moved to Paris in 1928 where she died in 1958. While Anayis and Zaruhi Bahri were acquaintances and comrades back home in Istanbul they became best friends in the diaspora. And then they became archenemies…

The paper will (eventually) discuss the Armenian diasporic existence in Bulgaria and Romania at this time. Both places were heaven for Armenian refugees, and both Anayis and Zaruhi Bahri talk about these communities and cities and their institutions in their memoirs (and Bahri also includes these places in her historical novels). Despite the welcome they received in these countries, however, like many Armenians of their standing they eventually settled in France where they experienced the German occupation. It is not a coincidence that when Nazis came to claim the French capital, Anayis refused to leave for the safer south but vowed to stay put. She wrote in her memoir that “those who leave, loose it all.” She preferred to be immobile like many Armenians decades before in the Ottoman Empire.

This paper explores the aftermath of nineteenth-century urban transformation in Belgrade and Sofia. It examines photographs, watercolors, drawings and memoirs to trace the emergence of ambivalent currents of nostalgia for the lost Ottoman city. Borrowing from the work of Svetlana Boym and Joseph R. Allen, it employs the concept of “refractive nostalgia” to argue that the Ottoman past was a capacious repository for meaning in the two national capitals.

Bulgarian and Serbian photographers, architects, and writers mobilized the past to reflect upon the disorienting experience of urban transformation, inflecting dominant narratives of national progress with an impending sense of loss. This discourse evolved slowly. In the early watercolors of the architect Konstantin Jovanović, the designer of the Bulgarian and Serbian national assemblies, the Ottoman city seems to appear as a marker of the passage of time. Mosques and türbes are depicted with Orientalist flair, meant as anchors in a rapidly shifting world. By the late nineteenth-century, some of these discourses prevailed, particularly in the work of Joseph Oberbauer, a watercolorist and engineer employed by the Sofia municipality. Oberbauer’s work involved fantastical readings of Sofia’s purported Ottoman past, and was circulated in postcards. Yet, during the same period, the photography studio of the brothers Karastoyanov developed a more nuanced reading of Sofia’s rapid transformation, which documented the debris and destruction tied to the city’s rapid transformation. After the First World War, Belgrade graphic artist Luka Mladenović could employ urban markers of the Ottoman past as mnemonic devices employed in a critical reading of national modernity and its failing promises. In Mladenović’s work, the old Balkan city is juxtaposed to the shantytowns of WWI refugees, including the city’s largest informal settlement, the Jatagan-ma’ala.

As the paper argues, the visual language used to represent “old Belgrade” and “old Sofia” transformed by the turn of the century to use images of ruination and debris as stand-ins for a critique of modernity’s unstoppable time. In doing so, Balkan urbanites had much in common with their Turkish counterpart, the essayist Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar. The first quarter of the twentieth century involved widespread labor and social unrest against the national order inaugurated by bourgeois elites. This context informed how the Ottoman city came to be remembered. Refractive nostalgia articulated ambivalent sentiments towards the empire, serving both as a condemnation of bourgeois urbanism and a discursive affirmation of its inevitability.

The aftermath of the First World War was a time of far-reaching transformations: it signaled the end of multi-religious and multi-ethnic continental empires and the emergence of new nation-states; it precipitated revolutions and ushered possibilities for the realization of radical projects for social transformation; and it triggered large-scale movement of people. Refugees, economic migrants, stateless individuals, political emigres, and exiles were among those who were forced to move. At the same time these developments contributed to the spread of ideas and visions about various possibilities of a new social order.

This paper looks at the life and activities of Ali Haydar (Taner) (1883-1956), and the trajectory of one of the works he translated, In the Land of the White Lilies (Beyaz Zambaklar Ülkesinde) (1928). Born in the newly established Bulgarian nation-state, Ali Haydar ended up pursuing a distinguished career in the Turkish ministry of education. At the same time, he was a prolific author and translator. His most significant translation was In the Land of the White Lilies by Russian intellectual Grigoriy Petrov (1866-1925). The book became an inspirational text in the early Turkish republic, its qualities being extoled personally by Atatürk. The work may be immediately recognizable to many who are familiar with Turkey’s history. What is less known is how it ended up in translation in Turkey.

This paper seeks to trace how this came to be, along with the extraordinary stories of the book’s author, some of its translators, and their incidental and convoluted connections, which spanned geographically from Russia, Finland, and the Balkans to Turkey. So how did the work by a Russian refugee fleeing the Bolsheviks, whose ideological inspiration was a mix of Christianity

and socialism, turn out to be so popular in the Turkish secular republic? How did Finland emerge as a model country? What was the significance of Ali Haydar Taner’s connections with Bulgaria? More broadly, this paper asks the following: How did works, ideas, and projects come to assume new meanings in a particular context? How do people of migrant backgrounds act as mediators of ideas? The paper addresses these questions on the backdrop of the turbulent period of the 1920s when states, communities, and (emerging) nations sought to forge new paths for their future while searching for parallels with their own historical experiences.

The paper draws on an array of Bulgarian, Ottoman, Turkish, and Russian sources, as well as sources produced by Bulgaria’s Muslim and Turkish community.

The Armenian writer Hagop Mıntzuri arrived in Istanbul from his hometown of Armıdan, a village in Eastern Anatolia, at the age of eleven to work as a baker's apprentice, gained admission to Robert College, which he attended for a while but eventually dropped out, returned to his village to teach, and narrowly escaped the genocide by a coincidence of being briefly in Istanbul for an operation, while his entire family perished and his village was destroyed. I envision this book chapter/workshop paper as a journey alongside Mıntzuri’s Istanbul Memoirs (1897-1940), which depicts, almost in the fashion of an ethnographic monograph, the pre-WW1 everyday lives of shopkeepers, migrant workers, craftsmen, artisans, entertainers, and the sociabilities among diverse communities including Albanians, Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Kurds, Macedonians, Kurds and Turks. At the same time, I problematize what it means to undertake such a journey in ways that are not entirely invited by the author. Largely overlooked in the literary canon in Turkey until the 90s, Mıntzuri garnered sudden attention through the reprint of his memoir in 1993. Initially published by the History Foundation (it was later reprinted by the Armenian publishing house Aras), the memoir was nostalgically promoted as embodying the alleged cosmopolitanism of the period. In the book's blurb, the Foundation emphasized that “the author, without dwelling on the distinctions between Muslims and non-Muslims, or between Turks and Armenians, showcases the unified co-existence and intertwined lives that characterize that period.” Instead, I delve into the ways in which Mıntzuri‘s Istanbul memoir is about mobility and entrapment; about deliberate silences and perhaps less intentional omissions; about fleetingly mentioned dispossession, exile, poverty, and devastating personal loss. How do we dwell in the absent presences Mintzuri writes from within and writes himself into? What are the methodological, political, and ethical stakes of approaching the memoir as an ethnographic monograph of the transition from empire to nation-state, an account the attendant shifts in belonging, a quiet witness to genocidal violence, and a record of surviving unthinkable personal loss?

Groups of Eastern European Jews arrived at the borders of the Ottoman Empire in a steady trickle in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, asking to be settled in places where

they could make a living, minding their business, free and far from hostile neighbors and constant fear of expulsion. Some of these refugees were surprisingly fluent in the language of the “muhacirin komisyonu,” or the “refugee commission” of the empire, first established in 1860, and boldly demanded to be treated like Muslim refugees. As late as the early twentieth century, when Zionism had become an important political movement, they seemed to eschew the draw of the holy land in favor of other locations; some predictable such as Smyrna and Salonica, where Jews had historically been present, and some quite off the beaten path such as Bursa or Ankara. And for those who insisted on settling and staying put in Palestine, as it turns out, the Hamidian state, despite its own policies intended to minimize Jewish immigration to the empire, often looked the other way as long as the immigrants were naturalized as Ottomans. My presentation will explore what the stories of these migrations can tell us about sovereignty, citizenship, and belonging in the late Ottoman Empire and its European borderlands.

Events Filters: