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When It All Falls Apart: Arab-Ottoman Imperialists of Istanbul at the End of Empire

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

In this talk, I will discuss my work in progress, a micro-history of Arab-Ottoman imperialists who were deeply invested in the success of the empire, with a vision of a future that favored their survival as non-Turkish imperial citizens. Following the personal and professional trials and tribulations of one military diplomat who represented the sultan in negotiations with regional powers in Africa, and one palace advisor-turned-parliamentarian, I am able to provide a micro-historical narrative of their lived experience as the world changed around these two Arab-Ottomans, ultimately forcing them and their family members to make difficult decisions about their loyalties, national belonging, and identification. Based on interviews with descendants of these families, collected a large number of archival records, newspaper articles, travelogues, personal letters, diaries, and photos that have never been used before. I am now able to provide an intimate history of the life-world of the men and women of these families living between Istanbul and Damascus over several generations, from the time of the absolutist rule of Abdülhamid II (1876-1908), through the second constitutional period (1908-1914), World War One, and finally the breaking up of the Ottoman Empire.