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Ottoman-Safavid Frontiers, Real and Imagined

Eurasian Empires Seminar Series Lecture by Kaya Sahin, History, Indiana University

Tuesday, February 11, 2014
2:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall

The word "frontier" is closely associated with early Ottoman history, and the Ottoman expansion into the Balkans. The Eastern frontiers of the Ottomans, on the other hand, failed to attract significant scholarly attention, even though the Ottomans always had a checkered relationship with their Turko-Muslim neighbors. Particularly with the rise of the Safavid dynasty to power around 1500, the area extending from the Caucasus through Eastern Anatolia/Western Iran to the Persian Gulf became a zone of conflict and competition between the two empires, a competition that most notably extended into the empires’ politicized Sunni and Shiite identities. In my presentation, I will discuss the Ottoman-Safavid frontier as a physical space  as well as a mental construct. The physical space presented logistical challenges, while the demographic and cultural diversity of the frontier zone posed political and cultural ones. At the same time, at least in the minds of the Ottoman and Safavid elites, there began to emerge various notions of religious and cultural disparity between the two sides, which led to the fabrication of an ideological frontier in the form of a discourse of difference.

Kaya Sahin is a historian of the early modern Ottoman Empire, with a particular interest in history writing, governance, religious/confessional identity, and the construction of discourses/fictions around the question of what it meant to be an Ottoman. His current research projects deal with issues such as the cultural and religious aspects of the Ottoman-Safavid rivalry in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the European views/representations of the early modern Sunni-Shiite divide, and the fabrication of consent and legitimacy in early modern Eurasian empires. He is the author of Empire and Power in the Reign of Süleyman: Narrating the Sixteenth-Century Ottoman World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

The 2013-2014 seminar series, Eurasian Empires & Central Asian Peoples: The Backlands in World History, is co-sponsored by the UCLA Program on Central Asia and the Center for Near Eastern Studies. Click here for more information about the series.

Cost : Free and open to the public.

Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, Program on Central Asia

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