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UC Multicampus Faculty Group on Ottoman and Post-Ottoman World presents:

Talk Title: The Many Makings of Martyrs in the Early Modern Ottoman World


Speaker: Jonathan Parkes Allen (University of Maryland)

Host: Nir Shafir (UCSD)


Date: October 29, 2020

Time: 12:00 PM PST

Location: Online

Register here



The role of violence and the importance of martyrdom are both widely recognized, even in popular historical memory, as central aspects of early modernity in Western Christendom. However for the early modern Islamicate world the place of martyrdom and of religiously-oriented or interpreted violence more broadly remains under-studied and under-theorized. While my overall goal is to bring together and analyse histories of martyrdom and religious violence from across the breadth of the Islamicate, this talk will focus specifically on the Ottoman world, examining narratives of martyrdom from seventeenth century Armenian, Ottoman Turkish, and Arabic sources. I am particularly interested in identifying the interaction of different ‘regimes of martyrdom’ as understood (and contested by and within) different religious communities of the Ottoman lands, exploring the extent to which even contested martyrdoms could be mutually commensurable across confessional and other boundaries even as acts of violence and resulting commemorations could serve to re-inscribe those boundaries. Closely related is the role of the political in martyrdom, both in the actual acts of violence themselves but even more importantly in how martyrs were commemorated (or not). I hope that this prelimary work will in time lead towards an integrated examination and understanding of the interplay of violence, religious life, and formation of identity and community in the Ottoman world and beyond, issues whose long historical afterlives continue to have powerful presences in the world of the present.


Image Caption: The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, The Walters Art Museum, Ms. W.547, Hymnal


We thank the University of California Humanities Research Institute for their generous support of this speaker’s series