Contesting Subjecthood and Sovereignty in Ottoman Galata in the Age of Confessionalization: The Carazo Affair, 1613-1617

In: Oriente Moderno
Tijana Krstić Central European University

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In the early 1610s, communities of diplomats and traders with the status of müste’min (foreign resident) in Ottoman Galata were put on alert by the concerted attempt of certain Ottoman officials, especially the kadı of Galata, to extract from them the harac—the tax typically paid only by the ḏimmis (non-Muslim subjects of the sultan).

Interwoven into this legal and diplomatic crisis is another story that sheds an interesting light on the entire affair. In 1609 Spanish king Philip III proclaimed the expulsion of Moriscos—(forcibly) Christianized Spanish Muslims—from the Iberian peninsula, triggering a massive exodus of a large segment of population into North Africa, but also to Ottoman Constantinople, via France and Venice. Although Constantinople received a significantly smaller number of refugees than North African principalities under Ottoman suzerainty, the impact of the Morisco diaspora was disproportionally large. In Constantinople, the refugees were settled in Galata, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt by the Ottoman authorities to change the confessional make-up of this overtly non-Muslim section of the city. This is how the fierce economic and confessional competition among the local, already established trading and diplomatic communities and the newcomers began. The paper will reconstruct these competitive relationships on the basis of Ottoman, Venetian, and French contemporary sources by focusing on the incidents surrounding the attempted imposition of the harac on foreign residents and the attempted takeover of Galata churches by the Morisco refugees. It appears that the arrival of the Moriscos and familiarity with their plight in Spain prompted Ottoman officials to rethink the legal status and the notions of extra-territoriality in relation to religious identity in the Ottoman context as well.

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