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H-NET BOOK REVIEW Published by H-Turk@h-net.msu.edu (March 2006) Oliver J. Schmitt. _Levantiner: Lebenswelten und Identitäten einer ethnokonfessionellen Gruppe im osmanischen Reich im "langen 19. Jahrhundert"_. Reihe Suedosteuropaeische Arbeiten. Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 2005. 515 pp. Index. EUR 64.80 (cloth), ISBN 3-4865-7713-1. Reviewed for H-Turk by Malte Fuhrmann, Center for Modern Oriental Studies, Berlin Oliver J. Schmitt's habilitation (postdoctoral thesis) on the lifeworlds and identities of Levantines, a prominent minority in nineteenth-century East Mediterranean cities, which has been almost completely forgotten since, is a book that reflects the trend in historical analyses to rethink disciplinary categories. It is a prime example of scholarly work that manages to tear down national and disciplinary boundaries for the benefit of research and that might hopefully establish such a tradition in Southeast European History. The often isolated fields of specialist debate are a case in point. The resurgence of nationalism in Southeast Europe after 1989/1991--especially but not only in the post-Communist states--provided a considerable intellectual challenge to historians concerned with the region. The challenge was met in quite different ways in German language historiography and in francophone academia. The former mainly committed itself to analyzing the "making" of nations and ethnic groups. Following paths carved out by Benedict Anderson, Edward Said, or Eric J. Hobsbawm, nations in German-language writing are described as constructs based on mythical conceptions of the past, processes of "othering," and interests particular to social subgroups. French academia, on the other hand, has invested more energy into making indigenous Southeast European alternatives to nationalism visible. This vein of research has dwelt particularly on identifying polities that were not marked by common myths of heritage, but rather by processes of interaction. Due to this interest, a large number of studies on nineteenth-century Ottoman port cities have been completed which focus on reconstructing interethnic communication in the public sphere. Although inspired by similar intellectual interests, there has until recently been no exchange between these two fields. The language gap has probably contributed to this silence: Researchers who are accustomed to reading and writing in French apply or refute methods and analyses that are being debated in French academia; historians accustomed to German stick to German debates, while English language publications are grudgingly accepted by all. This phenomenon is a reflection of what recent critiques have dubbed "structural nationalism" in academia. Often these limitations perpetuate assumptions that it would not be possible to uphold if writers were to take into account research produced in another language. Schmitt's intent is not to unmask the limitations of the respective lingual schools. Instead he intends to bring them together in a productive exchange. In German language studies of nationalism, the framework for understanding the respective ethnic groups is usually either the state or, in cases where the state seems too distant, the region. Schmitt sets out by following a similar approach--the attempt to characterize a group of people identified as an ethnic formation--but analyzes them within the framework of the city. The people in question are the Levantines, Roman Catholics considered to be indigenous to or at least long-term residents of the Ottoman Empire. Despite their constant presence in nineteenth-century sources, especially in travelogues, very little scholarly work has focused on this group. Schmitt's thorough analysis changes that. But his approach differs markedly from most German-language case studies of national and ethnic groups. On the one hand, this is because the object of his inquiry is a group whose existence was unequivocally urban and one which could never have aspired to dominate a region. On the other hand, this group never declared a mono-ethnic society as a goal for itself but instead went through a process of slow disintegration during Southeast Europe's century of frantic nation building (1815-1923). Schmitt uses these circumstances to question the usual approach to studies of nationalism. He calls for more attention to failed attempts of nation-building and to cases such as that of the Levantines, where no serious attempt was even made. He also advocates a turn away from the nation-building elites and their conceptual frameworks, towards the "objects" of nationalist projects and their individual and collective reactions towards national discourses (pp. 459-461). For his alternative approach, Schmitt draws on recent developments in predominantly French-language Ottoman historiography. Conceptually, Schmitt is particularly indebted to Marie-Carmen Smyrnelis's dissertation on late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Smyrna (Izmir). Despite its ample dissemination among experts, Smyrnelis's micro-historic study still awaits publication. Schmitt's choice of primary sources also transgresses against the usual choices of German-language historians: records and reports in Italian and Latin, kept by various Italian states and the Catholic Church, have rarely been used for southeastern European History, despite the fact that they represent rich source materials. His choice of material also shows that despite the recent trend towards the predominant use of Ottoman archival sources, consular reports and related material can be employed for the history of the Ottoman Empire, if they suit the topic and are not treated as depicting an objective outsider view, but ratther as representing the perspective of an involved partisan group. The study begins by framing the object of its inquiry. After reviewing the genesis of the term and distinguishing three usages of Levantine (all inhabitants of East Mediterranean port cities; later, all non-Muslims from among the above; and, finally, the indigenous Catholics of the Ottoman Empire--the group Schmitt limits his study to), he discusses the decidedly negative European discourse on Levantines prevalent throughout the nineteenth century, concluding that the Levantines disappointed European expectations of finding in the East only characters which could easily be classified as Oriental or European and meeting instead a hybrid people, neither European in the way imagined vis-a-vis the Orient, nor exotic enough to qualify as exciting "others." This initial disappointment was fuelled by the late-nineteenth-century influx of West and Central European investors, trade employees as well as simple workers, who often found Levantines in the positions that they had hoped to occupy. Schmitt then goes on to name the factors which were decisive in shaping nineteenth-century Levantine lifeworlds: the Tanzimat policy, churches, and consulates as locales of group identity and legal status, and the special position of the city of Izmir and the Istanbul districts of Pera and Galata vis-a-vis the Ottoman state and society. In the second main section of the book the author traces a group history based on legal statuses, migration movements, and changing lifeworlds. The founding myth of the Levantines proves to be the 1453 surrender conditions negotiated between Sultan Mehmed II and the originally Genovese inhabitants of the Constantinople suburb of Galata. Mehmed granted them special status within the Empire, but differentiated between permanent residents and temporarily present merchants, a categorization which was to divide Catholics until the end of Ottoman reign, and which became more complicated in later centuries with the in-between category of consular proteges. But the nineteenth-century Ottoman group of Levantines in fact had a multi-centered ethnogenesis. With the exception of a few families who could trace their linage to pre-Ottoman Galata, many more were descendants from the Aegean islands, whose Greek speaking inhabitants had been converted during Genoese and Venetian rule and had left for the mainland in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century due to economic problems and inter-communal strife. The third subgroup comprised numerous French trade-oriented immigrants and a fourth is shaped by "Oriental" Catholics, that is, persons of Syrian or Catholic Armenian origin. Based on marriage registers from Galata and Smyrna churches, Schmitt closely pursues demographic developments throughout the nineteenth century, showing migration movements from Italy, Dalmatia, and later Malta and these immigrants' initial distance from, but later absorption into, the main group. The consular registers prove to be confusing to outsiders, since many residents of the two Ottoman cities repeatedly changed nationalities due to the numerous wars on the European scene. But the author manages to successfully navigate and synthesize the constantly changing statistics and thus to produce a relatively precise picture of the group as a whole. In a second section he considers the lifeworlds of the Levantines differentiated according to social strata, beginning with the elite of diplomatic dragomans, dwelling particularly on the case of the bourgeoisie and its sub-categories, and then addressing the issues of the clerics, lower middle class, and finally the lower class. These nuanced analyses of demographic and social divisions are followed by the book's most strictly "political" chapter, which shows the Levantines attempting to adapt to the nineteenth century both as a group and as individuals. After illustrating the Levantine usage of languages and particularly the preserved examples of written _Frankochiotika_--a variety of _Demotike_ Greek written in Latin using Italian spelling rules and expressions, which proves to be the rudiments of a genuine Levantine language--Schmitt shows the changes that Levantine group identity underwent in the course of the century. While profiting from the growing influence of their European states in the Ottoman sphere and adopting a more "European" material culture in the first half of the nineteenth century, the Levantine way of life finds itself on the defensive in the second half, due to growing anti-Catholic sentiment emanating from the West, but also due to the consulates' pressure for clear national loyalties among their nominal fellow citizens in Smyrna and Pera-Galata. In the second half of the chapter, Schmitt demonstrates how Levantines reacted to the challenge of nationalism as individuals. Having skillfully shifted through a number of different European nationalities in the course of the centuries, always adopting the one which appeared to offer the most immediate political advantage, the Levantines were in most cases reluctant to offer more than verbal allegiance to their nominal "mother countries." Levantines, so the argument goes, differentiated between an outer legal identity (which could be exchanged) that marked them as French citizens, Sardinian, or Habsburg subjects, and an inner, more determinant identity, which was fundamentally Catholic and local. After a long process of erosion, the war years of 1911-1923 delivered the death blow to this "play of identities." The final chapter is devoted to the Levantine place in Ottoman society, a particularly difficult research topic. Again Schmitt manages to shed light on the subject by referring to a wide variety of sources to paint a lively picture of the two cities in the late imperial age. He makes use of criminal court records to show the intercultural communication of the underworld, travelogue descriptions of coffee houses and clubs, court cases between business partners, the list of merchants registered at the Galata stock market, and street residents' registers. The text does not hide a certain degree of disappointment on the author's part. First-person narratives, especially contemporary ones, on the meaning of Levantine identity are rare to almost non-existent as source materials. Schmitt however manages to make seemingly dry non-narrative material "speak" with great virtuosity. He uses marriage registers, business inventories, and small-business ads in newspapers to create a vivid picture of extinct nineteenth-century social practices. Schmitt does not make the mistake of over-interpreting these rediscovered lifeworlds, as some authors have, who have declared nineteenth-century East Mediterranean urban life a strong cosmopolitan counterpart to nationalism. In his assessment, Schmitt does see Levantine reactions to nationalism as subversion on the individual level. These individual acts were, however, ultimately not enough to withstand the nationalist _zeitgeist_. Despite the rising competition between different ethnic groups and pressure by the interested foreign powers, there is little evidence of attempts at collective identity politics which could be seen as genuinely "Levantine": the author counts just one movement for Pera-Galata and Smyrna respectively, which was aimed at strengthening the group's position both vis-a-vis the foreign powers and within Ottoman society. From 1792 to 1799 the local Catholics of Pera denied revolutionary France the right to represent them vis-à-vis the Ottoman authorities and called for a renewal of the seventeenth-century institution of _magnifica comunita di Pera_. This institution, which in its time had been little more than an internal administration board, was claimed in 1792 by its proponents to have possessed the same rights as a _millet_ (pp. 149-157). From 1857 to 1862, Smyrniote Levantines, on the other hand, favored partition from the waning Ottoman Empire and intended to use the installment of municipal representation and administration (_belediye_) for their aims. By dominating the municipal institutions, they hoped to achieve local autonomy and eventually incorporate a City Republic of Smyrna into a Hellenist Aegean Federation (pp. 307-312). Both movements sooner or later collapsed due to the frailty of the Levantine position between the Ottoman state and the foreign powers. Schmitt's other negative assessment of the group in question could be slightly modified. He comes to the conclusion that the Levantines failed to fulfill their self-ascribed role as mediators of innovations from Europe to the Ottoman Empire, claiming that it was the newly arrived "Europeans" who accomplished this task rather than the locally established families. Despite the fact that the group was not known for its academics, teachers, engineers, artists, or political visionaries, Levantines can claim some credit for bringing technical and cultural progress to their cities as entrepreneurs. In 1867 three Smyrniote Levantines holding British passports initiated the construction of new port facilities and quays in the city. This hitherto largest building endeavor in Smyrna both furthered the city's economic involvement with "Europe" and decisively changed its appearance, installing a "Western" concept of urbanity. The local Cramer family, Habsburg subjects of Trieste origin, can claim to have brought to Smyrna, among others, the city's most luxurious hotel and beer garden, a theater, and, more importantly, its first cinema in 1909, only a few years after the technology had been introduced in Paris and Berlin. The sole remark to be made with regard to Schmitt's sound and innovative theoretical base is that while his challenges to the German-language approach to southeastern European history, which he bases on French language research, are certainly valid, he does not explicitly discuss the challenges his combined approach in turn poses to the French- or English-language traditions of Ottoman urban history. Such a discussion, that would compare these traditions to German language historiography, could have been additionally profitable, as becomes obvious in the subchapter on the Levantine bourgeoisie, where Schmitt convincingly renounces the categories established in the debate on the Ottoman "compradore bourgeoisie" and instead opts to apply those used by Juergen Kocka in his analysis of the East European middle class (pp. 228-232). But it is a moot point to demand additional lengthy theoretical debates of a more than 500-page innovative case study. One can summarize that Schmitt's book is a milestone in the recreation of nineteenth-century lifeworlds and contributes considerably towards expanding both studies of southeastern European nationalism and Ottoman urban studies. Notes . The English translation of the title is _Levantines: Lifeworlds and Identities of an Ethno-Denominational Group in the Ottoman Empire during the "Long 19th Century"_. . The special issue devoted to (post-)Yugoslav contemporary history by _Jahrbuecher fuer die Geschichte und Kulturen Suedosteuropas_ 4 (2002): pp. 9-203, affords an impression of recent works in German that follow critical approaches to nationalism. For Greek nationalism, see Ioannis Zelepos, _Die Ethnisierung griechischer Identitаet 1870-1912. Staat und private Akteure vor dem Hintergrund der "Megali Idea"_, (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2002), and for a comparative perspective on Romanian and Serbian constructions of the national other, see the soon to be published dissertation by Dietmar Muller, "Staatsbuerger auf Widerruf: Juden und Muslime als Alteritаtspartner im rumаnischen und serbischen Nationscode. Ethnonationale Staatsburgerkonzeptionen 1878-1941," (Ph.D. thesis, Freie Universitаt Berlin, Berlin, 2004). . To name just a few examples from this field: Paul Dumont and Francois Georgeon, eds., _Vivre dans l'Empire Ottoman: Sociabilites et relations intercommunitaires (XVIIIe-XXe siecles)_ (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1997); Robert Ilbert, _Alexandrie 1830-1930: Histoire d'une communaute citadine_ (Cairo: Institut français d'archéologie orientale, 1996); Meropi Anastassiadou, _Salonique 1830-1912: Une ville ottomane a l'age des Reformes_ (Leiden: Brill, 1997). For the cities and city districts discussed by Schmitt, see Edhem Eldem, _Bankalar Caddesi: Voyvoda Street from Ottoman Times to Today_ (Istanbul: Osmanli Bankasi Bankacilik ve Finans Tarihi Arastirma ve Belge Merkezi, 2000); and Herve Georgelin, _La fin de Smyrne: Du cosmopolitisme aux nationalismes_ (Paris: CNRS, 2005). . Sebastian Conrad and Shalini Randeria, "Einleitung: Geteilte Geschichten--Europa in einer postkolonialen Welt," in _Jenseits des Eurozentrismus: Postkoloniale Perspektiven in den Geschichts- und Kulturwissenschaften_, eds. Sebastian Conrad and Shalini Randeria (Frankfurt on Main: Campus, 2002), pp. 9-49. The term signifies limits to scholarly investigations that are not created by an author's deliberately nationalist interpretations, but are rather imposed on his ability to conceive and access discourses which follow other parameters. For a summary of the German discussion about overcoming such limitations by turning to "Transnational History" or the concept of "Entangled Histories," see Hartmut Kaelble, "Die Debatte ueber Vergleich und Transfer und was jetzt?" in _H-Soz-u-Kult_, www.hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/forum/2005-02-002. . Such limitations can have serious consequences. Hilmar Kaiser has shown that the primarily Anglophone Turkish historians who claim that the non-Muslim Ottoman bourgeoisie was a "compradore bourgeoisie," based their arguments to a large part on a translated German sociological text from the early twentieth century. Due to his knowledge of critical studies on Kaiserreich imperialism produced in German, Kaiser identified this text as a piece of Wilhemine propaganda with its typical pro-Turkish and anti-Armenian bias; Hilmar Kaiser, _Imperialism, Racism, and Development Theories: The Construction of a Dominant Paradigm on Ottoman Armenians_, (Ann Arbor: Gomidas Institute, 1997). . There are other encouraging signs that German-language researchers on Southeast Europe are starting to devote more interest to cities. The International Association for Southeast European Anthropology, in which speakers of German figure prominently, has devoted its 2005 annual conference to the topic of cities; see http://geku.oei.fu-berlin.de/index-suedost.html. . Another recent case study which breaks with the focus on successful ethnic movements is Evangelos Karagiannis, _Flexibilitаet und Definitionsvielfalt pomakischer Marginalitаet_ (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2006). This dissertation on constructions of identity among Bulgarian Pomaks draws the conclusion that the group under consideration shows no sign of a politicized ethnic or proto-national consciousness and depicts earlier assessments of a growing Pomak political self-awareness as baseless external constructs. . Marie-Carmen Smyrnelis, "Une societe hors de soi: Identites et relations sociales a Smyrne aux XVIIIe et XIXe siecles," (Ph.D. diss., Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, 2000). . A notable exception is Stefan Troebst, _Mussolini, Makedonien und die Mаechte 1922-1930: Die "Innere Makedonische Revolutionаre Organisation" in der Sudosteuropapolitik des faschistischen Italien_ (Cologne: Boehlau, 1987). . Suraiya Faroqui, quoted in Schmitt, p. 42. . The term is borrowed from Smyrnelis, _Societe_. . The most vocal advocate of identifying nineteenth-century East Mediterranean cities as havens of cosmopolitanism is Robert Ilbert, especially in "Le symbole d'une Mediterranee ouverte au monde," in _Alexandrie 1860-1960: Un modele ephemere de convivialite. Communaute et identite cosmopolite_, eds. Ilbert and Ilios Giannakis (Paris: Ed. Autrement, 1992). . Pierre Oberling, "The Quays of Izmir" in _L'Empire Ottoman, la Republique et la France_, eds. Hamit Batu and Jean-Louis Bacque-Grammont (Istanbul: Isis, 1986), pp. 315-25. Due to the Smyrniote _Societe des Quais_'s incapability to handle the project, however, a foreign investor, the Marseille-based Freres Dussaud had to step in. . Cinar Atay, _19. Yuzyil Izmir Fotograflari_ (Istanbul : Vehbi Koc Vakfi Suna & Inan Kirac Akdeniz Medeniyetleri Arastirma Enst.), 1997, pp. 59/198; Oguz Makal, "Izmir Sinemalari (1909-1990)" in _Uc Izmir_, Sahin Beygu (ed.) (Istanbul: Yapi Kredi Yayinlari), 3 (1992), pp. 90, 391. . Resat Kasaba, Caglar Keyder and Faruk Tabak, "Eastern Mediterranean Port Cities and Their Bourgeoisies: Merchants, Political Projects and Nation States," _Review. Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economics, Historical Systems and Civilizations_ 10, no. 1 (1986): pp. 121-135; Jurgen Kocka, "Das europаeische Muster und der deutsche Fall," in _Buergertum im 19. Jahrhundert_, ed. Kocka (Goettingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1995), 1: pp. 9-84. Copyright (c) 2006 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For other uses contact the Reviews editorial staff: email@example.com.