EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 14 Jul 2021 | 17:00–18:30

Security Perceptions and Ottoman Passports (1876-1908)

İlkay Yılmaz (Freie Universität Berlin), Chair: Önder Çelik (EUME Fellow of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation 2020-22)

Online event via ZOOM

This study aims at exploring the relation between the Ottoman government’s threat perceptions, security policies and control over geographical mobility by analyzing the passport regulations with using archival materials. The study tries to explain the disciplinary modern power mechanisms developed by the Ottoman political elite through the analysis of the administrative practices and regulations on geographical mobilization in everyday life as surveillance techniques.
In the Hamidian Era (1876-1908), the geographical mobility is one of the burning issues of the Ottoman political elite as part of the security policies. The new threat perceptions of the political elites, mainly based on political problems, directed their attention to the Armenians, Bulgarians, seasonal workers, foreign workers and members of secret societies. Besides this, the new legislative and administrative security reforms were also influenced by the anarchist fear in Europe and the anti-anarchist regulations against “propaganda by deed”. The threat perceptions thus shaped the security discourse of the political center.


The new articulations of “vagrant” (serseri) and “agitator/seditous” (fesad) create a discursive link to pejorative understandings of “anarchism” and “anarchist” in official correspondences. It also refers to the security ideology which dwells on the intention of unifying the Empire against “internal and external enemies”. The aim of the study consists in examining the relation between these emergent threat perceptions of the political center, the new regulations on geographical mobilization and criminalization process of certain population groups.

İlkay Yılmaz is Einstein guest researcher at the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut at the Freie Universität, Berlin, and a research fellow at Europe in the Middle East – The Middle East in Europe at the Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien, 2020–2021. She was a research fellow at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, 2014–2015 and 2017–2019. Until 2017, she was an assistant professor at Istanbul University. She has published on passport history, inter-imperial collaboration on policing, public order, state formation and security in Journal of Historical Sociology, Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association, PhotoResearcher. In 2014, she published a book in Turkish: Serseri, Anarşist ve Fesadın Peşinde: II. Abdülhamid Döneminde Güvenlik Politikaları, Mürur Tezkereleri, Pasaportlar ve Otel Kayıtları (In Pursuit of Vagrants, Anarchists, and Agitators Security Policies, Passports, Internal Passports, and Hotel Registries In The Hamidian Era), Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları, 2014.

In accordance with the measures against the spread of the coronavirus, this seminar session will be held virtually via ZOOM. Please register in advance via eume(at) to receive the login details. Depending on approval by the speakers, the Berliner Seminar will be recorded. All audio recordings of the Berliner Seminar are available via the account of the Forum Transregionale Studien on SoundCloud.

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