The Ottoman-Jewish story has long been told as a romance between Jews and the empire. The prevailing view is that Ottoman Jews were protected and privileged by imperial policies and in return offered their unflagging devotion to the imperial government over many centuries. This talk, based on the author’s book Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era, offers a corrective, arguing that Jewish leaders who promoted this vision were doing so in response to a series of reforms enacted by the nineteenth-century Ottoman state: the new equality they gained came with a new set of expectations. Ottoman subjects were suddenly to become imperial citizens, to consider their neighbors as brothers and their empire as a homeland. The process was not seamless, however. Ottoman Jews soon learned that their newfound patriotism could also entail uncomfortable choices and disturbing consequences.
About the Speaker: Julia PhilLips Cohen is an Assistant Professor in the Program in Jewish Studies and the Department of History at Vanderbilt University and author of Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era (Oxford University Press, 2014). Cohen received her PhD in Modern Jewish History from Stanford University. Her teaching interests include, the comparative urban histories of Europe and the Middle East, Jewish-Muslim relations and the modern Ottoman Empire.