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The Imperial Harem: The Shadow of Women in the Ottoman Capital (1550-1650); New Perspectives, New Archival Data

November 21, 2016 from 3:15pm-4:00pm EST
McGhee Library (ICC 301), Intercultural Center, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Speaker: Assoc. Prof. Ozlem Kumrular, Bahcesehir University


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The abysmal gap between the European and Ottoman feminine courts was projected on every façade of courtly life. Both were subject to hierarchy and these women performed their skills as cunningly as they could to ascend in this perilous but appetizing courtly scale. Though the institution of Harem was an equivalent of a European courtly school, it never came to be a real match. (One thing to keep in mind: Harem was not a only centre of pleasures.) In spite of its didactic and educative facilities, the majority of the women in the Harem were illiterate. They never showed up as "protectors of art and literature", yet they dominated the expansion of the city in a constant struggle in which the concepts of immortality, piety and charity were mingled with feminine sovereignty. In a world where painting and sculpture were out of question, the inscriptions on the buildings that they sponsored were the sole places where they could immortalize their names. They financed the construction of mosques, mescids, public baths, inns, and even fortresses. The exercise of power and the domination of space at court by women in the Ottoman context - apart from the political representation - was merely a struggle of leaving a permanent mark in the capital through architectural patronage. We will focus on the Valide Sultans (Regina Madre/Mother Queen) Nurbanu, Safiye and Kösem who played a role in the foreign affairs and exercised power on behalf of their sons, but never had the ultimate authority in decision making. New archival data from Ottoman, Spanish and Venetian archives will be our guide.

Ozlem Kumrular earned her Ph.D. in Fundaciones de la investigación histórica at Universidad de Salamanca, Spain. She completed her B.A. in Western Languages and Literatures, and M.A. in History at Bogazici University, Her areas of interest include 16th Century European-Ottoman & Mediterranean History, Spanish and Italian paleography, imagology, religious and social conflicts, marginal social classes, Turcophobia, Islamophobia, picaresque novel and picaresque society. She has published 19 books on history, literature, music and black humor, translated 12 books from different languages and edited Türk İmgesi (The Turkish Image), Türkler ve Deniz (The Turks and the Sea), Muhteşem Süleyman (Suleiman the Magnificent). She has been teaching at Bahçeşehir University since 1999.

Light Refreshments will be served.

RSVP: imperialharem.eventbrite.com


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