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Ottoman modernity: The Nizamiye courts in the late nineteenth centuryAvi Rubin
My dissertation is an exploration of the Nizamiye court system during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Though one of the more ambitious state projects launched in the framework of the Tanzimat reforms, the Nizamiye judicial system stands out as an understudied chapter in Ottoman history. Written from a sociolegal perspective that combines large-scale and microhistorical observations, this study approaches the law as an aspect of social relationships. It criticizes some of the major common wisdoms about the Nizamiye courts and offers alternative or complementary observations on the basis of Ottoman sources. In the first chapter I argue that a heuristic process of legal borrowing and rationalization resulted in a syncretic judicial system which I identify as an Ottoman version of the Continental Law. The introduction of detailed procedural codes was embedded in a new "procedure ideology" promoted by the high echelons of the judicial systems. In the second chapter I explore aspects in the division of labor between the Sharia and Nizamiye courts as a means of challenging the secular/religious divide that dominates common depictions of nineteenth century Ottoman law. Alternative explanations to the ambiguity that characterized the division of labor between the Sharia and Nizamiye lower courts are offered. In the third chapter I explore the strategies employed by the Ministry of Justice in representing and handling issues of official discipline and systemic irregularities. I argue that the ministry's attitudes to these issues were guided by modern versions of accountability and reflexivity. In the fourth chapter the new institution of public prosecution is examined and set against the "appearance of stateness" that was systematically produced in the period of Abdülhamid II. Civil litigation involving state agencies and private individuals is further investigated in order to offer few observations on state/law configurations in this period. The fifth chapter is a microhistorical reconstruction of a single criminal trial that addressed a violent encounter between a group of officials and an Armenian merchant. I present several insights on continuity and change in Ottoman perceptions of law by spinning threads of meaning connecting the courtroom to both its direct and broader context.
Social sciences; Legal reforms; Modernity; Nineteenth century; Nizamiye courts; Ottoman Empire; Middle Eastern history; Law; 0398:Law; 0333:Middle Eastern history
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