NELC PhD candidate Rao Mohsin Ali Noor has been awarded a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) to conduct dissertation research in Turkey.
Mohsin will be conducting research in connection with his dissertation, "Contending with Crisis: Embodied Pieties, Attendant Anxieties and the Ottoman Struggle for Order in the 17th Century." A description of the project follows:
Much like neighboring Europe, the Ottoman Empire witnessed runaway inflation, currency debasement, demographic pressure, recurrent plague epidemics, socio-political strife and climatic upheaval in the late 16th through the 17th centuries. All this contributed to a state of rampant banditry, peasant flight, multiple regicides and rebellions, state contraction and a widespread disintegration of settled life in Ottoman Anatolia and the Balkans. Known in the historiography as the 17th century Crisis, these events fundamentally altered state-society relations in the Ottoman Empire, from those predicated upon resource extraction and administration by a palace elite appointed directly from Istanbul, to those where local actors were able to carve out domains of influence and act as intermediaries between the sultan and his subjects. But despite the importance of this era for the history of the Ottoman Middle East, the question of how Ottoman subjects themselves experienced and responded to these crises has been little explored by scholars. How did people in the 17th century respond to an age of crisis and change? What kinds of religious images, concepts, tropes and media did they employ in attempts to manipulate the celestial world above and the physical world around them? What does this tell us about the nature of popular Islamic belief and practice in the early modern period? And lastly, what does such a line of questioning convey about the way communities and individuals are meaningfully interpreting and responding to global crises as they unfold today? This project will answer these questions by charting how 17th century Ottoman Sufis, poets and artists, by their textual and artistic production, contributed to an upsurge in body-centric piety and religious literature in response to the crisis. In particular, it will show how pious Ottomans, by narrating bodily miracle narratives in Sufi hagiographies and by rendering the bodily qualities of illustrious Islamic figures in talismanic verses and calligraphic panels, sought to use the salvific power of sacred bodies to marshal divine intervention against a plethora of calamities. As such, this project will contribute to a growing body of scholarship on the nature of religious change in the late 16th and 17th century Ottoman Empire.