Research

I work at the intersection of intellectual history, political theory, and international relations. What interests me most are struggles for individual and collective emancipation, and the ways that these struggles can alter both the material world and our broadly shared ideas about what is right and just. As a historian, I work within the vast archive of political writings published by Ottoman, British, and French authors throughout the second half of the 19th century, also drawing on diplomatic correspondence, treaties, and legal codes. I use these sources to trace the new configurations of sovereignty and legitimacy that accompanied the rise of a new global economic and political order, and to study how Ottoman political actors deployed these new configurations in pursuit of political emancipation.

My current book project, The Assembly Hall of the World: Ottomanism and the Birth of Global Politics, explores the global landscape that gave rise to Ottomanism, the breadth of ideas and agendas it encompassed, and the legacies left in its wake. Drawing on both diplomatic correspondence and popular press sources assembled from archives and libraries in Istanbul, London, and Paris, I argue for a new understanding of Ottomanism as a response to both European encroachments on Ottoman sovereignty and injustices perpetrated by the Ottoman state. My research highlights an array of dissidents who shaped Ottomanist thought during its formative decades in the 1860s and 1870s, ranging from well-known leaders of the Young Ottoman movement to lesser-known, non-Muslim participants whose contributions have previously been overlooked. In doing so, it challenges prevailing views of Ottomanism as an official imperial ideology conceived by sultans and ministers with the aim of “saving the state.” I situate the Young Ottoman movement and the democratic strain of Ottomanism it engendered as part of a transnational popular response to newly emerging modes of international governance, and identify Ottomanism as a crucial link between the democratic nationalism that reshaped Europe in the post-Napoleonic era and the Islamic internationalism that would emerge a century later.

The title chosen for the book echoes a phrase from Namık Kemal (1840–1888), one of the canonical authors of the Young Ottoman movement, who in an 1872 essay declared, “It is natural for everyone to ask for a place of honor no lower than one’s peers in the assembly hall of the world.” His words reveal an optimistic vision of global politics as an orderly and dignified space receptive to demands for equality. The title also evokes the Ottomanist conception of the empire itself as a microcosm of the known world, and its capital as a seat of governance whose reform held the potential to establish an orderly peace throughout the world. Above all, these words evoke a liberal faith in the structure of parliament as a form of justice suited to the modern governance of a diverse empire.