[Kolloquium München] Tolga Esmer: Economies of Violence, Imperial Governance, and the Socio-Cultural Dimensions of Banditry in the Ottoman Empire, c.1800

09.06.2015 (09:42)

On May 13th, Dr. Tolga U. Esmer, Assistant Professor at the Central European University of Budapest, talked in Munich about "Economies of Violence, Imperial Governance, and the Socio-Cultural Dimensions of Banditry in the Ottoman Empire, c.1800".

Tolga Esmer revealed that until the 1792 Russo-Ottoman war, the use of violence and terror  had always been an important part of the Ottoman imperial order. In his presentation, Esmer focused on the formation and impact of local bands of bandits in the Southern Balkan Mountains using records from the Ottoman state archives. The wartime Muslim warrior- entrepreneurs had turned into bandits to make a living. Especially the Bandit leader Kara Feyzi emerged as a broker and social actor in imperial politics, being able to even win  Ottoman bureaucrats over to participate in his plundering.

Esmer emphasized material and symbolical reasons for the culture of violence. Kara Feyzi claimed gifts from the Imperial treasury in return for the guarantee of peace in the borderlands and challenged the state`s authority with beheadings of captured members of the Ottoman law enforcement troops. Thereby Kara Feyzi questioned the Ottoman state`s image as the only arbiter of justice and moral authority and produced his own version of order. Kara Feyzi even became the role model for later local Christian Serbian and Greek plundering confederacies.

Esmer pleaded for the need to overcome uncritial national narratives and for interdisciplinary studies using Muslim and Christian sources alike, in order to get a wider understanding of the bandits and their impact on imperial society at the dawn of ethnical divisions in the Ottoman Balkans.

Gerhard Grüßhaber

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