Hollanda Araştırma Enstitüsü  -  Nederlands Instituut in Turkije

22 Oct 18:30

Lecture Debates about Morality and Moral Decline in the Ottoman Empire during World War I

Çiğdem Oğuz (Leiden University)

NIT, Istanbul, Turkey

22 Oct 18:30

Image: War Profiteers depicted in the Sedad Simavi’s cartoon album, Yeni Zenginler/Les Néo-Riches, 1918 (Reprint Adam Yayınları, Turgut Çeviker (ed.), 1993).

Ottoman intellectuals of various ideological backgrounds continuously mentioned the problem of moral decline at the turn of the twentieth century, which, according to them, reached a peak during the First World War. Throughout the war, a lively discussion about morality took place between the nationalist and the Islamist intellectuals. By taking a closer look at the wartime periodicals that elaborate on this topic at great length, this study demonstrates that morality was a contested space among intellectuals and explains how rival ideologies, mainly Islamism and Turkish nationalism, asserted their political positions based on different understandings of morality. While Islamists defended the idea that the “morality crisis” was a result of un-Islamic practices and European cultural influence on Muslim society, nationalists argued that modern times necessitated a “new morality” which involved the principles of solidarity and collectivism. In the highly politicized atmosphere of the war, nationalism met morality, marking a moment of transformation between the old moral order and a new one.

Çiğdem Oğuz has received her Ph.D. degree from Leiden University's Institute for Area Studies Turkish Studies Program and Bogazici University's Ataturk Institute for Modern Turkish History. She is a guest researcher at Leiden University LIAS (until October 2018). Her research interests include social and cultural history of the late Ottoman era, war studies, and gender studies.