Writing under the Same Banner?

Three Ottoman Wartime Memoirs and their Motivations

  • Benjamin C. Fortna Professor and Director of the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona
Keywords: Ego-document, memoir, World War I, Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Kuşçubaşı Eşref, Süleyman Askerî, Pervin Sencer

Abstract

This article explores the motivations behind the creation and preservation of ego-doc- uments written by late Ottoman participants in World War I. Focusing on three distinct but linked narratives found among the papers of Kuşçubaşı Eşref, it investigates the authors’ impulse to write “ego-documents” in this volatile period and among this par- ticular group of individuals. The discussion focuses on three texts: first, the diary writ- ten by Süleyman Askerî, Eşref’s close friend and colleague, during the Italian-Ottoman War in Tripolitania (Trablusgarb) of 1911–12, which was later hand-copied by Eşref; secondly, fragments from Eşref’s own massive but ultimately lost memoir; and thirdly, Eşref’s wife Pervin Hanım’s own memoir. In assessing these three interrelated but dis- tinct pieces of writing, the contribution sheds light on the different contexts in which memoirs from the war years were conceived and written as well as the factors contrib- uting to their preservation or loss. It also considers the different personalities involved and the motivations, stated or unstated, that informed the task of putting pen to paper.

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Author Biography

Benjamin C. Fortna, Professor and Director of the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona

Benjamin C. Fortna is Professor and Director of the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona and formerly Professor of the History of the Middle East, SOAS, University of London.  His research focuses on the history of the late Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish Republic.  He received his degrees from Yale, Columbia and the University of Chicago; his publications include The Circassian: A Life of Eşref Bey, Late Ottoman Insurgent and Special Agent (Hurst and Oxford University Press, 2016), Childhood in the Late Ottoman Empire and After, ed. (Brill, 2016), Learning to Read in the Late Ottoman Empire and the Early Turkish Republic (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), and Imperial Classroom: Islam, Education and the State in the Late Ottoman Empire (Oxford University Press, 2002).

Published
2021-02-16
How to Cite
Fortna, B. C. (2021). Writing under the Same Banner? Three Ottoman Wartime Memoirs and their Motivations. Archiv orientální, 88(3), 429-448. https://doi.org/10.47979/aror.j.88.3.429-448