The Legal Work of Empire: Managing Europe and Religious Difference in the Late Ottoman Empire (CURA Colloquium)

Abstract: Between the 1880s and the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, the role of international law in Ottoman intellectual thought and state practice transformed dramatically. In the late nineteenth century, Ottoman lawyers and intellectuals viewed international law as a tool of the weak and as an instrument to establish sovereign equality with Europe. Military interventions in the Balkans and Arab lands, coupled with European imposed administrative and economic interference in imperial affairs, stimulated institutional development in the fields of international law, administrative law, and domestic legislation. While Ottoman lawyers used international law arguments to demonstrate the empire’s level of “civilization” for foreign audiences, at home recourse to international law was justified on religious grounds. Ottoman Foreign Ministry lawyers and professors at the Imperial Law School (mekteb-i hukuk) argued that Islamic law and international law were not only compatible, but that that the Islamic Law of Nations (siyar) anticipated the uneven codification of the law of war in Europe. This paper considers the ways in which Ottoman bureaucrats, international lawyers and imperial subjects wrote about international law as a natural development out of Islamic and Ottoman imperial practices, rather than a foreign imposition. The paper concludes with a brief reflection on how the legal work of empire inspired broad public interest among the empire’s subjects in international law.

Reading the paper in advance is required for attendance. In order to receive the paper, please register for this workshop.

Co-sponsored by the School of Theology

When 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm on Friday, February 2, 2024
Building Pardee School of Global Studies, 154 Bay State Road
Room 2nd floor (Eilts Room)
Contact Name Jennifer Hunter
Phone 617-353-5241
Contact Email
Contact Organization Institute on Culture, Religion & World Affairs
Fees Free
Speakers Aimee M. Genell, Assistant Professor of History, Pardee School of Global Studies