A matter of belonging: place attachment of ordinary people in the 18th century Ottoman society

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Ergenç, Özer





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Bilkent University






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This dissertation is a quest to discover the bonds established between ordinary Ottoman people and places by engaging with the concept of place attachment, an instrument of environmental psychology. It seeks to answer how place attachment affected relevant phenomenons such as identity formation, collective actions, and the idea of vatan by questioning how the Ottoman people’s daily practices and use of space shaped the place attachment under the 18th century atmosphere of transformations. In order to provide a holistic framework, all main elements of the place attachment are presented, including socio-economic factors, communal ties, residential conditions, occupations, life experiences, symbolic and ancestral connections, emotional tendencies, and the role of “unattached” ones. In this context, the embedded meanings of Ottoman space and the forms of place attachments developed by ordinary people in different spatial planes ranging from houses to Ottoman mahalles and cities, are examined through textual and linguistic analysis of primary sources. This study has revealed that ordinary Ottoman people, similar to their professional or religious communities, formed “spatial communities” at different scales, transcending their other affiliations and ties. Place attachment developed at various scales, such as among those who share the same cul-de-sac (tarîk-i hâss), among those registered to the same avârızhanes, among the guests of inns (hans), or among those who settled in the tehnâ corners of a city, paved the way for the formation of spatial communities. Sometimes everyday responsibilities, economic interests, symbolic ties, or sometimes efforts to protect the environment have been influential in shaping these ties between people and space. Within this framework, this study points to the decisive importance of “spatial communities” formed based on place attachment rather than the policy of tolerance, which was commonly used to explain the possibility of coexistence in Ottoman society. This thesis also discusses that place attachments were not strong enough to transform the practice of coexistence in Ottoman society into a higher identity after the 18th century. Therefore, the traditional forms of place attachments may have transformed into other forms of affiliations influenced by modernity, as Ottoman people’s place identity changed during the nation-based disintegration process of the Ottoman State.


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