Call for Papers
“Nature and the supernatural in Ottoman culture” International workshop, Istanbul December 2019
From the point of view of cultural history, one may describe reality as a continuum, ranging from tangible objects to natural phenomena, from things of everyday experience to things felt but unseen, up to things (commonly) unfelt and unseen but, nevertheless, considered to exist. All these categories are divided by most human cultures into different spheres, some explicable, some ordinary, but with causes unattainable for the human intellect, and some completely inexplicable as pertaining solely to the will and actions of a supreme being. We name these spheres, whose borders and extent shift in history (e.g. through a “disenchantment” process) or even within a given culture at a given moment, as nature, the preternatural and the supernatural; and Islamicate cultures have seen the world through similar categories (aja’ib, ghara’ib, al-ghayb, kharik al-‘ada and so forth). Furthermore, cultures throughout history have developed technologies aiming to exercise some control over things considered beyond the grasp of the ordinary mind (magic, divination and other occult sciences).
Whereas not only European but also non-Ottoman (and especially pre-Ottoman) Islamicate perceptions and techniques dealing with the supernatural have been the object of intense study for more than a century now, very little work has been done with respect to Ottoman culture. No more than a handful of scholars have touched questions related to perceptions on what is supernatural and what is not, what can be explained and controlled and what is dependable only on God’s will, to what extent everyday reality is intermingled with supernatural elements. Nor do we have more than very few studies of Ottoman occult sciences; while it is true that historians of Islamic magic often reach as far as Taşköprüzade and Kâtib Çelebi, they only do so through their works in Arabic and without examining their historical context.
The international workshop “Nature and the supernatural in Ottoman culture” seeks to explore this research potential, gathering together scholars interested in the topic with the aim of future collaboration. The workshop is organized by the research project “GHOST: Geographies and Histories of the Ottoman Supernatural Tradition: Exploring Magic, the Marvelous, and the Strange in Ottoman Mentalities”; the project, funded by the European Research Council Consolidator Grant scheme (CoGr2017 no. 771766), is led by Dr. Marinos Sariyannis (Institute for Mediterranean Studies/FORTH, Rethymno, Greece) whereas the research team includes Drs Tuna Artun (Rutgers University, USA), Feray Coşkun (Özyegin University, Turkey), Güneş Işıksel (Medeniyet University, Turkey), Bekir Harun Küçük (University of Pennsylvania, USA), Ethan L. Menchinger (University of Manchester, GB), Aslı Niyazioğlu (Oxford University, GB) and Ahmet Tunç Şen (Columbia University, USA). The two-day workshop, which will take place at the Columbia Global Centers | Istanbul in mid-December 2019, invites paper proposals on:
- Ottoman occult sciences (divination, oneiromancy, magic, science of letters, astrology, alchemy etc.) or specific treatises thereof;
- Ottoman theological or philosophical discussions on hermetism, the limits of knowledge, the reality of miracles, the existence of natural laws and so forth;
- Ottoman collections of strange stories and phenomena and their epistemological background;
- history of Ottoman science with emphasis on new explanations of phenomena previously considered inexplicable or supernatural.
Accommodation and most of travel expenses will be covered by the organizers. Please send proposal titles and abstracts to Marinos Sariyannis (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 15 February 2019.
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