Self-Narratives as Sources for the History of the Late Ottoman Empire

Supervised by: Dr. Richard Wittmann

Main collaborator: Prof. Dr. Christoph Herzog (University of Bamberg)

Duration: Since 2010

Previous historiography of the late Ottoman Empire relies heavily on documents in the Ottoman language and records from public archives, most of which were written by state officials. In contrast, in this field of research special attention is paid to self-written autobiographical texts from the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural population of Istanbul in languages such as Ottoman Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Arabic, Ladino, and a number of others that were in use in the Ottoman capital. The focus of the field of research on the late Ottoman self-narratives are diaries, memoirs, letters and other “ego-documents” (Jacques Presser) or “life narratives” (Sidonie Smith/Julia Watson) of the inhabitants of the Ottoman capital Istanbul in the second half of 19th century through the early years of the Republic of Turkey. By examining texts of this genre, this research aims to contribute to the study of the social history of Istanbul in the late phase of the Ottoman Empire, also in the context of current research on empires and global empires. Through the inclusion of Ottoman primary sources, it hopes to stimulate the hitherto heavily Western-dominated or Eurocentric self-narrative research. The processing of this material, especially the non-Turkish language part, promises to be a significant contribution to overcoming the predominant (if not in the area of theory, then in the research practice) national historical bias and linguistic-disciplinary narrowness of Ottoman Studies. The research field includes individual research at the Orient-Institut Istanbul, an interdisciplinary and international research context within the scope of the “Istanbul Memories” project, the expansion of a collection emphasis on this topic at the library of the Orient-Institut Istanbul, the organization of scholarly events, and the publication of relevant texts.