Felix Konrad

Abstract

Little is known about the worldview and self-image of low-ranking Egyptian civil servants and graduates of state schools of the mid-19th century. Based on an unusual self-referential text which the young irrigation engineer Muhammad Kānīal-Baqlī had printed in 1865, this article seeks to discover the social and cultural orientation of a simple efendi of the mid-19th century and how he interpreted his world. It will show how al-Baqlī acted as an individual in a world defined by constraints and dependencies and how he tried to realise his ambitions for social recognition and advancement. Despite his subaltern position, al-Baqlī participated in the dominant hegemonic discourse about reform, progress and civilisation, and he aimed to adapt it to his own ambitious purposes. He also attempted to define what ought to be provided for him as an individual and as a member of an emerging social group, the afandīya, by a progressive and just government.

Felix Konrad

In 1730, the so-called ‘Patrona Halil rebellion’ resulted in the abdication of Sultan Aḥmed III (r. 1703–1730) and in the execution of his long-serving Grand Vizier Nevşehirli Dāmād İbrāhīm Paşa (r. 1718–1730). This article addresses the question of how contemporary Ottoman chroniclers came to terms with this unusual situation of political and social tension and, in particular, how they coped with lower-strata individuals and groups involved in the rebellion. It is argued that the chroniclers had considerable problems in explaining that lower-strata people whom they perceived as “the riff-raff and mob” possessed an agency of their own, even if they might be a useful instrument in intra-elite quarrels. Despite nuances of judgement, the chroniclers represent the lower strata in a highly negative fashion by rendering their political activities as unruly violations of norms. The chroniclers employed discoursive strategies based on the elite concepts of morality, purity, honour and order, which they used both, for delegitimising the social and political behaviour of the urban lower strata, and for criticising İbrāhīm Paşa and his government. When the new regime of Maḥmūd I (r. 1730–1754) resorted to violence in order suppress the rebels, this was unanimously welcomed by the chroniclers as the re-establishment of order. Thus, their representations of the rebellion clearly reaffirm elite notions of social and political order.


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Felix Konrad

Zusammenfassung

A recurring topic of Ottoman advice literature is the categorisation of society into distinct groups. This representation of social order is contrasted with perceived ‘illegitimate’ social mobility and behaviour. Arising from processes of identification, which associate social groups with specific functions, characteristics, and patterns of behaviour, social categorisations are part and parcel of a discourse meant to preserve and stabilise social order. As such, they were embedded in a culture of knowledge shaped by binary oppositions such as rulers and subjects, order and disorder. This contribution examines three pieces of early-eighteenth-century advice literature by Defterdār Ṣarı Meḥmed, Naḥīfī Süleymān, and İbrāhīm Müteferriḳa, firstly, by analysing how the authors produced social categories, either positively, by specifying ‘appropriate’ practices, or negatively, by condemning certain behaviour. Secondly, I will discuss their use of Islamic normativity when defining legitimate behaviour. Hereby, the main focus lies on the image of high-ranking officials as the intended audience of the texts. I will show that social classifications and definitions of legitimate behaviour not only helped the authors to interpret socio-political change, but also contributed to a discursive construction of order.