Self, Space, Society, and Saint in the Well-Protected Domains: A History of Ottoman Saints and Sainthood, 1500-1780

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Through an exploration of the historical trajectory of Islamic saints and sainthood across the early modern Ottoman world by means of a wide selection of case studies this dissertation argues for the importance of sainthood in all its facets as both a subject of Ottoman history and as a lens for illuminating many other aspects of social and cultural history. Beginning with the newly expanded empire under Selīm I (r. 1512-1520) and stretching all the way to the second half of the eighteenth century, this study explores the intersection with saints and sainthood of large-scale political and social transformations that shaped the empire as a whole at various points during this time-span, from the integration of new provinces into the empire to the rise of Islamic puritanism to the elaboration of new sociabilities and expressions of the self. The case studies that structure this study range from examinations of particular important figures and their textual corpora such as ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Shaʿrānī (d. 1565) and ʿAbd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī (d. 1731) to investigations centered on particular regions or communities, paying particular attention to rural contexts in Syria, the Kurdish lands, and Anatolia. Subjects and sources, in a wide range of genres, from both the Arabophone and Turcophone divisions of the empire are treated, the dissertation examining the empire as an interconnected whole despite linguistic differences. Eschewing a focus on Islamic mysticism or sufi organizations narrowly conceived, I demonstrate the socially distributed nature of sainthood and its interplay with many aspects of wider discourse and practice. Drawing upon theoretical models of script and repertoire, language and dialect, I work to make sense of different yet interrelated practices of Ottoman sainthood across the empire, paying especial attention to the uses and constructions of social space, the performance and making of the self, and the generally socially embedded nature of saints and associated phenomena. Finally, this study unfolds within the context of the wider early modern world, Islamicate and beyond, with the larger goal of situating my arguments and findings within the global patterns and dynamics that marked the early modern world.