GHOST: Geographies and Histories of the Ottoman Supernatural Tradition: Exploring Magic, the Marvelous, and the Strange in Ottoman Mentalities (2018-2023)

European Research Council Consolidator Grant scheme (CoGr2017 no. 771766)

The project GHOST, that is to say “Geographies and Histories of the Ottoman Supernatural Tradition: Exploring Magic, the Marvelous, and the Strange in Ottoman Mentalities”, funded by the European Research Council under the program Consolidator Grant 2017, aims to explore Ottoman notions and belief systems concerning the supernatural. Its major objectives will be to explore the meaning and content of the perceptions of the “supernatural”, to localize such beliefs in the various Ottoman systems of thought, to analyze the changes that took place and to associate them with emerging or declining layers of culture and specific social groups. The project will address larger debates in recent historiography about the relevance of the “disenchantment” and “enlightenment” paradigms, integrating Ottoman intellectual history into the broader early modern cultural history.

The research team consists of Marinos Sariyannis (Institute for Mediterranean Studies/FORTH, Rethymno, Greece), as Principal Investigator, Zeynep Aydoğan (Institute for Mediterranean Studies/FORTH, Rethymno, Greece), Feray Coşkun (Özyegin University, Istanbul, Turkey), Güneş Işıksel (Medeniyet University, Istanbul, Turkey), Bekir Harun Küçük (University of Pennsylvania, USA), Ethan Menchinger (Manchester University, UK), Aslı Niyazioğlu (Oxford University, UK), and Ahmet Tunç Şen (Columbia University, USA), as well as Ph.D. candidates, MA students and technical staff. The project is hosted at the Institute for Mediterranean Studies of the Foundation of Research and Technology – Hellas (IMS/FORTH), situated in Rethymno, Greece.

The objectives of the project are: (a) collection and study of a wide array of sources, both published and unpublished; (b) an analysis of the development of Ottoman sciences, focusing in the shifting relationship between explainable and unexplainable, natural and preternatural/supernatural, or in other words rational and occult; (c) an analysis of the Ottoman world image with emphasis in the notion of divine and worldly order; (d) an analysis of the development of Ottoman ideas on nature.The research team will produce a web portal (containing crowd-sourced dictionaries and bibliographies, open access papers and other material), three international meetings, monographs and papers, and an annual open-access periodical journal. Specific research modules will study the rationalist trends in Ottoman science, various aspects of the Ottoman occult and magic, and the formation and development of the Ottoman cosmological culture. A monograph will be written by the PI and delve in: the various conceptions of the supernatural/preternatural and their development, the presence of spirits/jinn in Ottoman world image, theory and practice of Ottoman magic, attitudes toward folklore traditions, saintly miracles, and “marvelous geographies”. Monographs will also be produced by the post-doctoral fellows.

The project proposes an innovative approach in many ways, in a subject very much in the frontiers of the field; by exploring the supernatural and the occult in the context of the Ottoman Weltanschauung, the project will address a wider problématique on the Ottoman culture and its place in early modernity, especially as it will focus to the role of different cultural and social layers; furthermore, its results will contribute to the ongoing debates on “Islamic Enlightenment” or the “disenchantment of the world”, exploring the relevance of such concepts to non-European societies and expanding these debates in a new direction, thus integrating Ottoman intellectual history into the broader history of early modern mentalities and major intellectual shifts in perceptions of and articulations of supernatural. Furthermore, the creation of a team composed mainly by young scholars and the crowd-sourcing character of the web portal to host the outcomes of the project would create a research nucleus, specialized in Ottoman history of ideas and mentalities; thus, a strong impetus for future projects and collaborations would be an added value to the output of the program.