Course: Multiple Modernities

HC 232H

Professor: Vera Keller

In this class, we will compare how Europe and the Ottoman Empire developed in linked but also differing ways over five centuries of contact. Through a discussion of primary sources and material culture, we will interrogate in particular the historiography which has emphasized the public sphere or civil society as key features of modernity. These concepts emerged from the study of European history. Our comparative perspective will aid us in judging the coherence of these concepts and whether they pertain to various parts of the world. We will ask such questions as: How have notions of the public and the private developed in similar or different ways in Europe and the Ottoman Empire? What was the relevance of religion, secularization, and science to an emerging public sphere? Did the public sphere exclude women? Did it require print? What were the spaces for civil or public life? How was public opinion made known, and what role did it play in politics? The continuing events of the Arab Spring have made these always important historical questions ever more pressing.