Migrants in Istanbul: Difference and Belonging in the Ottoman World, 16th-18th CenturyThis project focuses on the perceptions of self and other among Ottoman migrants in Istanbul from the 16th through the 18th century. Istanbul was one of the largest and most colorful cities in early modern Europe attracting Ottoman subjects of the most diverse religious, ethnic, and social backgrounds. Turkish day laborers from Anatolia, Greek merchants from Crete, Arab scholars from Syria, Tatar poets from Crimea and many others moved from the provinces to the capital in the hope to further their career, find work, and live a better life.
This migration posed serious challenges to the state and the existing urban and social fabric as well as to the migrants. In order to make a new home for themselves in the unfamiliar metropolis and in order to find their way in society, they had to revive old connections, establish new networks, adapt to a different lifestyle, and develop strategies for coping with feelings of strangeness and homesickness. This project analyses the newcomers’ diverse approaches to integrating while preserving their particular identity. It seeks to gain a better understanding of how difference and belonging were subjectively experienced and repeatedly renegotiated and reconstructed. The experiences of Ottoman migrants in Istanbul underline the importance of social and regional affiliation along with religion and ethnicity as markers of difference, which are often privileged in historical research.