Knowledge Systems and Ottoman-European Encounters: Spatial and Social Dynamics

21.1.-23.1.2021 , Universität Zürich

The research group "The Ottoman Europe: Methods and Perspectives of Early Modern Studies on Southeast Europe“  (  is a Germany-based, open circle of scholars from different fields of historical research as East- and Southeast European history, Ottoman studies and philology of all relevant languages. Our common interest lies in multidisciplinary Early-Modern studies on Southeast Europe, roughly the zone of Ottoman dominance or influence. As such, a special aim is to bring scholarly research on Western Europe and on the Ottoman Empire closer together. We consider the Ottoman Empire with its European provinces as an integral part of Late Medieval and Early Modern European History that still has to be discovered by mainstream-research on European history.

We look to the Ottoman Empire from different angles and are thus interested not only in an Istanbul-centered perspective, but also in studies concerning regional aspects in its European provinces and border-regions - from the Crimean Khanate to Dalmatia, from Hungary to Crete, including connections with neighbouring regions.

Knowledge Systems and Ottoman-European Encounters: Spatial and Social Dynamics

Science, commerce, military, religion and authorities: in all these domains, everyday knowledge was from time immemorial collected and condensed into written knowledge. But content, structure and social relevance of knowledge are always historically contingent. The conference is asking thus for the importance of the Ottoman Empire in a history of European knowledge in the Early Modern Period. We focus on knowledge from or about the Ottoman Empire. We address two broader questions: from a spatial perspective, how can the Ottoman Empire be included into a European history of knowledge? From a social viewpoint: how was knowledge inside or about the Ottoman Empire organized and what kind of social functions can there be distinguished?

Spaces of Knowledge

The development of Early Modern science was strongly influenced by (west-)European-Ottoman encounters. But to what degree was the Ottoman Empire an object of European knowledge systems? What contexts and players promoted or impeded the circulation of knowledge between the Ottoman Empire and other regions of Europe, including its Eastern parts? Which channels and forms were used for the communication of knowledge? What was the status of knowledge from or about the Ottoman Empire in European knowledge hierarchies and classification-systems?

Social Functions

History of knowledge about the Ottoman Empire has long been focused on a classical history of science, technology and religion. Only recently, there is a shift towards conceptualising knowledge as a fundamental social practice for all kinds of human interaction. We are thus interested in social practices and discourses and their organizing or fragmentizing effects on social relations. What was the social relevance of different kinds of knowledge and which were the places of knowledge-production? Which kind of knowledge was privileged or legitimized by whom and in which contexts?

With the conference of the study group Ottoman Europe at Zurich University  from the 21st to the 23th  January 2021 we want to address these questions and are open for topics that focus on the pre- and the early modern period and/or their continuation into the long 19th  century.

On behalf of the study group The Ottoman Europe:

Daniel Ursprung
Stefan Rohdewald

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