Christine Philliou

Senior Fellow
Columbia University, US
Project Title: 
Authority displaced: Ottoman intellect in a modern world
Project Abstract: 

I would like to examine the phenomenon of intellects that were formed in the final years of the Ottoman Empire and were thus imbued with the culture and manners that went with Ottoman hegemony, but found themselves in a post-Ottoman, often ostensibly national or colonial, cultural and political milieu after 1923. Rather than instantly adapting to the "modern" national or colonial reality around them as was the supposed norm, I intend to argue that there was an important, if disparate, group of writers and artists that continued to live by an "Ottoman authority" in their intellectual lives, well into the "post-Ottoman" period. This seemed to have helped determine their perceptions of their new national or colonial homes, and while it brought about an experience of estrangement and exile it did not stop them from engaging with the forms and mental frameworks of modernity. Their "Ottoman" intellect, that is, did not ossify them, but it did cause them to create art—mostly literature—that was out of sync with, ignored by, and often censored by, the new national/colonial authorities under which they lived. I intend to explore that literature as one of several sources for the intellectual history of Ottoman authority in a post-Ottoman world.

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