Current Research Projects

Families and households in late-Ottoman Palestine: Jerusalem, Gaza and villages

The research project deals with families and households in late Ottoman Palestine, with a special focus on Gaza and the surrounding villages. Thanks to the Ottoman census gathered in 1905, we can gain new insight into the quite differentiated social worlds of households, which could consist of one to more than fifty persons, as well as into their wider family relations. The 1905 census was the most comprehensive ever undertaken in the Ottoman Empire and included, unlike previous population counts, individual data for women and children and not only for adult males.
The census records include information on various aspects of social life, such as occupation, health and residential patterns. By combining census data with evidence from other sources (e.g. travelogues, memoirs and contemporary photographs), we can discern different patterns of households from all social milieus. We are able to reconstruct strategies of elite households for achieving and maintaining status and influence, but our sources also provide information about subaltern groups that have been widely neglected in the historiography of Palestine and the Middle East.

Head of project: Dr. Sarah Büssow


The Venetian Army on Ottoman Land 1684-1718. Translociation, War Experience, Transculturation

The project is part of the DFG-Priory Programm 1981 “Transottomanica: Eastern European-Ottoman-Persian Mobility Dynamics”. It explores the war experiences of soldiers in the Venetian army in Ottoman Southeastern Europe, that is in those territories of Dalmatia, Albania and Greece which were conquered, occupied, and for the most part lost to the Ottoman Empire during the Morean (or Peloponnesian) Wars 1684-1699 and 1715-1718. Military journeys are a core topic of migration history; the history of such mobility in the context of the Morean wars will lead towards a better understanding of transcultural processes in the Southeast European region. Similar to other forms of travelling, military journeys not only link up points of departure and arrival, but they also mean crossing through given spaces and territories. It is here that translocalization and transculturalization happens. Such processes in fact have always been constituent elements of soldiers’ and combatants’ war experiences, at all times.
In which ways did the circumstances of military campaigns in Ottoman Southeastern Europe mould the soldier's daily routines, perceptions, and experiences of war? The focus is on the life worlds of officers, sergeants and ordinary soldiers. The project explores their daily routines during their voyage towards and away from the theatre of war; their service in the garrison, the camp, and the field; their encounters with civilians (not least with women); the coming to terms with combat and violence, with desertion, imprisonment, slavery and (if the occasion arose) ransoming; with illness, wounds, invalidity, and death. The backdrop of these men’s experiences, imaginaries, and discourses about their experience of “migration as transcultural entanglement” was the Ottoman Empire. From their socialization in their home countries they had to match new modes and patterns of interaction and cooperation both with their peers, who constituted the ethnic and religious heterogeneity of the Venetian army, and with the "locals", who also were heterogeneous as far as their ethnicity, religion, and social origin were concerned. The framework of early modern times seems particularly befitting to explore the transcultural processes involved, as it forced upon the men a particular intensity of interaction as such, but especially, beyond the battlefields, a cooperation with the “other”, with individuals on the “enemy”’s side.

Head of project: Prof. Dr. Markus Koller
Project officer: Dr. Andreas Helmedach
Website: SP Transottomanica
Start: 1 October, 2017


A Computer-Assisted Analysis of Turkish Foreign Policy towards Sub-Saharan Africa: Diachronic Topics and Networks (2002-2016)

The project ‚A computer-assisted analysis of Turkish foreign policy towards Sub-Saharan Africa: Diachronic topics and networks (2002-2016) deals with the changes in Turkish foreign policy after the coming into power of the AKP in 2002. While the debate whether these changes are merely a gradual realignment or a radical shift in Turkish foreign policy it can be stated that Turkish foreign policy was increasingly diversified after 2002 and is looking into new geopolitical spaces in the sense of ‘strategic depth’.
In this context a lot of research has been done about the specific developments of Turkish foreign policy in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East; however, the Turkish foreign policy in Sub-Saharan Africa, that first became a focus of Turkish foreign policy after 2002, is a still underdeveloped part of this research field. To grasp the structures of (foreign) policy developments in this space this project aims at an encompassing investigation of the discourses and (discursive) networks of actors in this policy field. Subject of this project are the analysis of the argumentations, rhetorics and discourse behind the new political engagement of Turkey in this region as well as the specific foci of these policies and the underlying interests.
To achieve this Structural Topic Modeling, a modern method from the field of computer-assisted textual statistics, will be operationalized. With this tool of the Digital Humanities the thematic structure of the discourses, the discursive networks between different actors and the diachronic and synchronic changes shall be looked at. As such, this project is also the attempt to develop a methodological framework for the statistical analysis of discourse structures.

Contact: Fabian Brinkmann


Between Sympathy and Enmity: Refugee Debates in Turkey Impacted by Political Identities and Socioeconomic Realties

The present project explores the history of the contemporary ‘refugee problem’ in Turkey emanated from the refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria, and explores refugee movements and Turkey’s refugee policy as well as their impacts on politics and society. To this end, it investigates the evolution of refugee movements (including the accommodations of refugees in parts of Turkey) and political responses at national, and local levels from November 2014, the date of granting the Syrians temporary protection statuses, till July 2016, when the refugee debates were abated by a coup attempt and the following state of emergency. To this end, the project looks into the archival sources of the Turkish National Grand Assembly and local municipal parliaments in Istanbul, Izmir, Hatay, and Sanliurfa, and also uses national and local news media.
The period under investigation features the refugee mobilities throughout Turkey, as well as constructions and opening of refugee camps, and debates over these changes at national and local politics. National and local debates during the mentioned period were inflamed by the rising number of Syrian refugees and their social and economic impacts, humanitarian tragedies befalling the refugees, terrorist attacks in Turkey, two national elections held in 2015, the negotiations with the European Union about preventing illegal passage to Europe, and finally the proposals of granting citizenship to refugees currently based in Turkey.

Contact: Caner Tekin


Reconstructing the daily life of Ottoman Muslim merchants in 18th and 19th century Trieste

Although there is an abundance of literature detailing the history of Ottoman-European cities’ relations, studies on the issue have mostly focused on major Italian city-states, such as Venice, Genoa, and sometimes Florence; in addition, they generally focused on periods before the 18th century mostly because of a general consensus among historians that the political, military, and trade relations between the Ottoman Empire and European cities were at their strongest in the 15th and 16th centuries. Due to the aforementioned conception, the field of eighteenth century Ottoman history was a bit absent from historiography until last decades. The Port of Trieste, despite being an important commercial hub contemporaneously, was to share this neglect till recently and still does in a certain aspect; for instance, no research has been conducted on Muslim merchants in the context of Ottoman Trieste relations until this time, though there is a considerable number of work shedding light on non-Muslim communities’ –particularly Orthodox merchants’– activities there. This study thus aims to contribute to the literature on this subject with a specific focal point to include in the scope Muslim merchants as well.

Contact: Zeynep Arslan


Project Cooperations

Modern Mediterranean: Dynamics of a World Region 1800│2000

As a result of current conflicts, crises and wars, the Mediterranean is back on the agenda in the social sciences. Yet, in the field of modern history this paradigm has barely received any attention. The network therefore aims to transcend the fragmentation of separate historiographies and provide an integrated view of the late modern period of the region. It focuses on the dynamics and transformations in the region between 1800 and 2000. Instead of taking the Mediterranean as a natural given, the network will explore how this space was invented and shaped in the modern age. Against Mediterraneanist myths of Mediterranean unity, continuity and singularity, the region is conceived as a contact zone between Africa, Asia and Europe which was connected to and is comparable with other regions of the world.
The network members and guests will meet at German Mediterranean research centres (Deutsches Historisches Institut, Rom; Deutsch-Italienisches Studienzentrum, Venedig; Orient Institut, Beirut; Orient Institut, Istanbul; Zentrum für Mittelmeerstudien, Bochum; Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin) to explore themes which are at the core of current debates on Mediterranean history: modernity and tradition, port cites and islands, mobility and borders, ideology and religion, knowledge and representation, transnational and global history.
There will be a number of publications based on the results of the network discussions, among them an anthology of texts representing the new historiography of the modern Mediterranean. Thus, Mediterranean history will not only be presented as an innovative field of historical research but also as a new approach that combines European and non-European perspectives in a productive way and helps us to understand what is at stake in the region at the moment and in the future.

Contact: Jun.-Prof. Dr. Manuel Borutta
Website: modernmediterranean.net