Saturday, July 31, 2021

Review of Post-Ottoman Coexistence: Sharing Space in the Shadow of Conflict edited by Rebecca Bryant

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Sociology

Short Description

Elaborate Description

Shared spaces are those in which different faith and ethnic groups come together to work, worship, rejoice, and connect.  Coexistence obtains special meaning when it is lost.  Its loss is felt deeply, but evanescent during existence.  Events that make history are not those which make coexistence as everyday life rarely leaves a record.  Coexistence is an uneventfulness from which much can be learned.  A culture in which everyone practices small acts of diplomacy.  Even under enormous tension, different people can come together.  Mistrust and hostility can come about by the rash actions of a few.  

The Ottoman Empire appreciated differences and managed them.  Allowed people of other religions to be judged under their own laws and represented by their religious leaders.  Although other religions were allowed within the Ottoman Empire, they were subordinated to Islam.  Muslims imposed their physical signs on architecture to show superiority.  This trend was reversed as the Ottoman Empire weakened.  Ottoman Empire right to rule depended on its defense of the peasants.  To guarantee the peasants subsistence and market provisions, while preventing excessive accumulation by private individuals.

What was lost in deportations was the community, culture, and the deep bonds between people.  The home was not a completely private space, neighbors could easily stop by and drink coffee.  Keeping the doors open meant that the neighbors frequently interacted with each other, which facilitated the practice of moral exchange with everyday diplomacy.  Getting back to coexistence is made difficult by the narratives being told about the past as they silence many minority counter-narratives which threaten the hegemonic narrative.  

Although the book uses a variety of means to show coexistence, there seems to a lack of convergence.  The lack of clarity about what time periods are being discussed to what the examples mean reduces the understanding of the topic.  There were parts of the book that were well written and bring with them meaning to coexistence, but a large part of the book is best understood by those who have personal experience with the topics, or have a decent understanding of the historic and contemporary related topics. 

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are shared spaces?
•What is coexistence?
•Why is coexistence hard to identify?
•What can be learned from coexistence?
•What was lost from the Ottoman Empire culture? 
•How did the Ottoman Empire manage different groups?
•What everyday acts made the culture that was lost?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781785331244
Pages to read:   272
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2016
Format:           Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          2
Overall           2