It is hard for social scientists and scholars of humanities to avoid biases and be objective. However, it is a little bit harder for those who study Ottoman and Turkish history. The Turkish society is, most of the time, emotional, romantic, irrational and capricious. This is also triggered by the egocentric and marginalizing nature of the western temple of the religion called “Science”. Thus, these taboos are not created only by the Turkish Society but also the western eye on the east, namely orientalism. After all these clichés, I want to mention a wonderful book written by Andrews and Kalpaklı in which this challenge is accepted: the Age of Beloveds.
The introduction part of this book, I think, should be regarded separate from the rest of it. Entire book is subtitled as “Love and the Beloved in Early Modern Ottoman and European Culture and Society”. It examines the similarities and differences between the understanding of love and beloved in the Ottoman and European texts. It is a very good source for especially literary historians working on the Divan literature. Yet the introduction is not valuable for only literary historians but also political scientists, sociologists, political historians etc. who studies such fragile geographies. This text is a very good starting point for them.
“When we talk about people and behaviors that are separated from us by difficult-to-bridge chasms of time, geography, culture, or rivalry, we can fall into a number of traps. […] These traps are as dangerous to scholars as to anyone else, the descriptions or representations of scholars have often been used in the service of projects to dominate, control, exploit, and reject groups seen as different, inferior, or unworthy. For this reason, contemporary scholars have become quite wary of such traps. They have written extensively about how we have fallen into them in the past and have invented a vocabulary for the task, words such as racism, essentialism, idealism, and Orientalism.”
To exemplify these traps, Andrews and Kalpaklı recreate a story told by Dukas, a Byzantine historian, about the execution of the grand duke of Constantinople, namely Notaras. According to Dukas, although in the first place Mehmet II offered Notaras the leadership of the Rums in the city, they had a disagreement on Notaras’ son. It’s told that the disagreement was caused by the lascivious demands of the new ruler of the city about this handsome and young boy. However, authors of the Age of Beloveds warn us about how people tend to attribute sexual intentions and behaviors which they don’t approve to those that they don’t know, or they don’t like. Andrews and Kalpaklı, like a story writer, retell the story to show what might have really occurred and what the real reasons behind the misunderstandings might have been. (I don’t want to spoil the story for those who want to read the book.)
I want to thank Mehmet Kalpaklı for his kindness to sign and give me this book as a gift.
To conclude, I want to suggest this book for those who work on social sciences and humanities. If you don’t have the time to read the entire book, at least you can have a look at “The Introduction”. I assure that you’ll benefit from it even if you’re not an Ottoman historian. It’s a very good example of how to write an academic paper in a way that can attract attention. It exemplifies well how the historians can fall into traps. And of course, it is a very good source to understand the love and the beloveds in the early modern Ottoman and European culture.
Featured Image: Beyaz Said (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)