Whatever Happened to Ottoman Autonomy? Imperial Confrontation, Archival Dissonance, Epistemic Erasure
The Society of Fellows hosts the Thursday Lecture Series (TLS), which runs regularly throughout the academic year. The Fall Semester TLS, our Fellows present their own work, chaired by Columbia faculty.
“Whatever Happened to Ottoman Autonomy? Imperial Confrontation, Archival Dissonance, Epistemic Erasure”
Around the nineteenth-century Mediterranean, recounting Tunisian history “the right way” acquired a great deal of political importance. In Paris and in Istanbul, diplomats, jurists, and historians seeking to legitimize their government’s policies in the Maghrib scrutinized the Tunisian past, looking for “evidence” that Tunis was, respectively, a sovereign polity or an Ottoman province. This lecture examines the French-Ottoman imperial rivalry over the sovereign status of Tunis as a historiographic confrontation. It shows how this confrontation produced modes of historical writing that erased certain Tunisian pasts and promoted others, resulting in a selective archive of sovereignty, provinciality, and statehood. Which conception(s) of sovereignty did this archive authorize, and which did it erase?