16 June 2011

CALL FOR PAPERS: Justice in Ottoman Society - Institutions, Actors and Practices

A workshop on Justice in Ottoman Society: Institutions, Actors and Practices is being held from 7-8 January 2012 at the Institut Français d’études Anatoliennes - Istanbul:

Justice in Ottoman society was made through a complex configuration, sustained by ​​ the interaction of different sources of legal references (Sharia, Kanun and custom) as well as different institutions or actors, giving rise to a multiplicity of different practices. If the plurality of legal references in the operative field of justice (i.e. in the Ottoman qadi courts) has long occupied the attention of researchers, the study of the multiplicity of actors and institutions operating in the field of justice has remained rather on the margins of the interest of legal historians.

Yet, in Ottoman society, people who were involved in a legal conflict had several alternative ways to resolve their dispute. Throughout the Empire there were of course qadi courts that would redress injustices and would also serve the individuals in conflict resolution. However, the qadi courts were not the only institution imposing fees or other penalties against wrongdoers. There was also the imperial assembly (divan), authorities from within the different religious communities or other experts that subjects could consult in case of conflict. Moreover, the military authorities such as governors and their assemblies (eyalet divanı) could also act in the sphere of justice as arbitrators or executive powers. What is more, the judicial or executive power of one (such as qadis) could be corrected, supplemented or balanced by the others (such as the office of vali, şeyhülislam, the Grand Vizier and muftis).

This workshop has been organized as a part of an ongoing seminar on the plurality of legal institutions and procedures in the Ottoman Society that has been held under the direction of Işık Tamdoğan at the Institut Français d’Etudes Anatoliennes in Istanbul since October 2011, under the title “La justice dans la société ottomane : institutions, acteurs et pratiques”.

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The aim of the workshop is to contribute to a better understanding of the interaction of these various institutions and actors in the process of conflict resolution between individuals or in the larger context of making justice in general, as well as during/in the punishment process. It should also be underlined that in Ottoman society disputes and conflicts among individuals or groups could be resolved without resorting to any of the abovementioned institutions. This is particularly apparent on occasions when the society seeks to make justice of its own. Such judicial practices as amicable settlements or even direct revenge that were taking place outside of these legal institutions will be given a considerable place in our discussion in this workshop. Whether punitive or reconciliatory (as is the case in sulh) it is again the interaction between these different spheres of justice, (“informal” or more “official”) that will constitute the heart of our discussion.

These institutions and practices, which interacted in a complex and subtle manner are far from being uniform in space and time, throughout the Empire. It is for this reason that in this workshop we aim to approach their respective developments as well as their transformations over time (15th-19th centuries) and space (from Balkans to Arab provinces).

In order to approach this complex field of Ottoman justice, we propose to work around certain issues:

1. The strategies of individuals:
- Did individuals have any leeway in choosing the institution by which they could settle their disputes?
- According to which criteria (personal status or the nature of the conflict) people selected these institutions (Qadi court or the imperial divan)?

2. The interaction of different institutions:
- When a legal process was under way, how did these different institutions could intervene and take a role in this process?
- What kind of a division of labor took place between the various bodies and institutions - such as the qadi and the provincial governor?
- The interaction between the legal courts and governors’ divan or Imperial divan will be of particular interest for our workshop but also a particular attention will be paid to the legal opinions (fatwas) of the provincial muftis during the juridical debates.
- Is it possible to argue that there existed a clearly defined hierarchy between these different institutions or were they operating in their own ways depending on the nature of the conflict in question, the status of the individuals in conflict or random choice of the plaintiffs?

3. Legal practices outside the institutions:
-How were the conflicts resolved outside of these institutions?
- What kind of legitimacy had these “practices” vis-à-vis the legal and executive institutions (such as the qadi and governors)?

While we have funds in place to pay the costs of some participants, these are limited and priority will be given to those who cannot find funding elsewhere. Participants are strongly advised to seek funding from their own universities or research bodies. Working languages of the workshop will be French, Turkish and English. Potential participants are invited to send their proposals by July 30th 2011, to Individual paper submissions should include the full details of the presenter and an abstract of 200 words (for a thirty-minute presentation).

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