The city as a reflecting mirror : being and urbanite in the 19th century Ottoman Empire
The physical and social transformations taking place in İstanbul, İzmir and Salonica throughout the 19th century Ottoman Empire had been the subject of many studies, however, the degree to which urban population identified themselves with the novelties of the era’s urban living still remains in shadow. This dissertation aims to interpret the 19th century Ottoman Empire by focusing on the urban population of the Empire’s three largest cities and the contemporary narratives written by people from different segments of the society. Their descriptions and interpretations of the milieu they live in reveal how they perceived the modernising processes of the Empire reflected through the city and the varying degrees of identification with not only being an urbanite but also with the changing relationship between the state and the population, transforming from one of subjecthood to citizenship. In addition to traditional distinctions between Muslims and non-Muslims as well as private and public designated along gender within the urban space, it appears that the 19th century brought about new points of convergence and divergence into the scene redefining the boundaries of private and public and offering a possibility for a new identity that transcended communal, religious and ethnic differences, thereby complicating the urban network of relationships. In this sense, new modes of communication within the city that were now spread through the educational reforms and the burgeoining press became major influences, and contested the view of state imposed reforms by offering their versions of modernity and encouraging urbanites to take part in the process.