EUME Berliner Seminar
Wed 17 Nov 2021 | 17:00–18:30

The Road around Serfdom: Land and Armenian Labor in late Ottoman Dersim

Toygun Altıntaş (EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 2021-22), Chair: Elke Shoghig Hartmann (Freie Universität Berlin)

The mid-decades of the nineteenth century witnessed the commencement of ambitious and open-ended projects of social and political transformation throughout the globe. During these years, the Ottoman Empire announced a new stage in its “Reorganization,” affirming the legal equality of all of its subjects and their basic rights to the security of life, property and honor -- regardless of religion. At the same time, the government redoubled its efforts to expands its extractive infrastructure for taxes and conscripts, a process in which the imperial army played a central role. Officials in the imperial center and the recently conquered/incorporated frontiers sought to manage the expectations of peasants, laborers and other commoners throughout the Empire about the arrival of a new regime while remaking social and ethno-confessional hierarchies without causing mass upheaval.
My current project explores these processes in the southern plain of Ottoman Dersim in the nineteenth century. From the first forays of the modern Ottoman state into the region to the Hamidian Massacres of the fin-de-siecle, I trace the struggles over land, labor and status between Armenian sharecroppers/serfs, Sunni lords and Ottoman officials. I also explore how these processes became entangled with the making of the so-called “Armenian Question”. Specifically, I examine the challenges and possibilities afforded to the serfs/sharecroppers as a result of their mobilization as Armenian subjects of the sultan and constituents of a corporate millet formally represented by the Apostolic Patriarchate and Armenian National Assembly.

Toygun Altıntaş works on the social and political history of minoritization, supremacism and inequality in the late Ottoman Empire. He received his MA (2010) in Middle Eastern Studies and PhD (2018) in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. Entitled “Crisis and (Dis)Order: Armenian Revolutionaries and the Hamidian Regime in the Ottoman Empire (1887-1896),” his dissertation explores the spread of Armenian revolutionary committees and the contemporaneous minoritization of Armenians by the Ottoman state. It also investigates the processes by which boundaries of subjecthood and nationality for Armenians were constructed and constricted during the reign of sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1909). Altıntaş worked as an MA Preceptor at the University of Chicago (2017-2018). He taught courses on Middle Eastern history and Ottoman language and paleography at Bilgi and Boğaziçi Universities (2018-2020). He is a EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation between 2020 and 2022, affiliated with the Center for Global History at Freie Universität Berlin.

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