EAUH Conference 2018


Session SS24. Spectacle, Entertainment, and Recreation in the Modernizing Ottoman Empire ( from18th until early 20th century)

Coordinators: Seda Kula Say (, Nilay Ozlu (

The Ottoman historiography assesses the short lived Tulip Era in the early 18th century to have breathed a new life into Ottoman social life, and introduced novel elements of art, architecture, leisure, and entertainment that people of both sexes could enjoy. Triggered by the state policies to maintain closer diplomacy with European states as well as the royal urge to be seen and felt by its subjects more often and in a more than ever interactive manner, these novelties in social life, predominantly adopted by the ruling elite and in the capital city, would lead to swift creation of new urban and architectural spaces serving this emerging culture of visibility, spectacle, and recreation. With increasing interaction with Europe, the emulation of the ruling elite, social mobility, it gradually, permeated into the rest of the society, and had a long-term impact on the Ottoman society whose initiatives and preferences would further be encouraged by Tanzimat reforms. Hence, 19th century bore a modern kind of urban life in Ottoman centers. Ripping open of their traditional nuclei in the second half of the 19th century, they would accommodate, along with new trading, financial, industrial and residential facilities, different forms of entertainment and recreation, ranging from opera and theatre to cinema and sports with new architectural and urban programs like theatres, clubs, performance halls, sports fields, as well as recreational areas, parks, and picnic areas. Last but not the least, is to be mentioned that, during the course of 19th century the sources of these facilities were mostly international, in line with the cosmopolitanization of the Ottoman cities, such as Istanbul, Smyrna, Beirut, Thessaloniki, Aleppo.
How the Ottoman cities transformed in terms of urban planning, construction and institutions has been subject to many valuable researches and scholarly work so far. But how the receiver of these changes, that is the Ottoman society transformed, is another issue, where the data is rather scarce. The new forms of spectacles, entertainment, and recreational facilities introduced into Ottoman life and their adoption by the varied Ottoman society, over a vast geography would give clues as to how the modernizing society socialized, entertained, saw and be seen, how they responded to the this new life proposal, transformed and also communicated with the world beyond Ottoman borders.
We will welcome papers on these topics:
Urban and architectural spaces for recreation, visibility, and spectacle in late Ottoman world (from 18th century on)
The participation of Ottoman society in recreational organizations and spectacles
The relation of Ottoman urban facilities for entertainment and leisure to those in other countries
An evaluation of responses of Ottoman society in different geographies to changing modes of entertainment and recreation
The effects of modern recreation and entertainment facilities on urban economy
Keywords: entertainment; recreation; modernising Ottoman cities; modernising Ottoman society, clubs, theatres, cinemas