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Islam and Ottoman-Turkish Studies

This research cluster explores Islam and the Turkish world by addressing Ottoman and Turkish encounters with Western and Eastern civilizations. It aims to enhance awareness and knowledge about the development of cultural, political, social, and religious identities from the 12th century to the present. The cluster reinvents the particulars of these identities by way of emphasizing that social and political forces have been shaped by cultural and religious exchanges taking place within, and beyond, the borders of the Ottoman, Turkic, and Islamic Worlds. The cluster’s current and future projects include the following themes.

  • Historical Context: Greek, Turkic, and Islamic traditions, and their contributions to the Ottoman-Turkish civilization
  • Modernity: External developments, such as industrialization and nationalism, and their reception in the Ottoman Near and the Middle East
  • Co-existence: Ethnic and religious communities and relations in the region
  • Turkish-Islamic encounters with foreign merchants, missionaries, and travelers
  • Trans-regionalism: Outcomes of local perceptions and population movements
  • Transnationalism: Emigrations and their impact on political and religious identities
  • Development of Islamic movements from the Ottoman Empire to modern Turkey


Aida Hozic, Department of Political Science

Emrah Sahin, Center for European Studies

Maria Stoilkova, Department of Anthropology

Michelle Campos, Department of History

Research Associates

Katalin Rac, Ph.D., UF-Library Coordinator for Jewish Heritage

Tolga Tezcan, Ph.D. Student in Sociology


Islam, Modernity, and Ottoman-Turkish Political Imagination

Pl: Tahir Enes Gedik

This project examines how the Ottomans and Turks transplanted ideas of modernity at the crucial periods of transition from empire to republic and negotiated them with their Islamic roots. It works through intellectual productions, such as books and opinion editorials, to trace the dynamics of modernity through various competing narratives created from Islamic and Western viewpoints. It also focuses on the limits and potential of these productions – the lines that help to understand the boundaries of modern Turkish politics and their imaginative discourse.

Faithful Encounters

PI: Emrah Sahin

In the last decades of the 19th century, there were over 500 American missionaries actively working in the Middle East. They operated over 300 schools, 95 parishes, and tens of hospitals and printing presses, all the while becoming important agents of unwanted foreign involvement and representatives of the tense relationship between Christianity and Islam. Despite its wide scope, little is known about missionary interactions with the imperial authorities in Istanbul and local communities across the Ottoman Empire. This project explores the varied stances that Istanbul bureaucrats adopted toward the missionary enterprise. It also unpacks community responses to missionaries who came to educate and evangelize them. Drawing on a wide array of untapped sources from the Ottoman archives, the project reinvents an alternative account of American missionaries in which dominant perspectives of the imperial state are central. From this perspective, American missionaries appear as strangers in a restless empire that raised the level of bureaucratic intrigue and intelligence networking. It analyzes the dynamic encounters between missionaries and Ottoman authorities by foregrounding the latter and offers a comparative context from which to reconsider recent cultural relations between the U.S. and modern Middle East.

Halal Matters

PIs: Emrah Sahin and Tolga Tezcan

This interview-based project aims to understand the processes of acculturation among Muslim immigrants in North America. Currently, it conducts interviews with over 100 subjects in Florida and analyzes the responses.

Merchant Routes in the Balkans

PI: Aida Hozic

This project addresses Bosnia’s historical transition from the Ottoman to Austro-Hungarian rule by way of exploring merchant narratives in the broader Balkans.

Navigating the Empires

PI: Katalin Rac

This project is interested in exploring the topic of East European merchants and travelers in the Ottoman Empire and the ways in which they represented their “oriental” views to the readership back home.

Neo-Ottoman Fantasies

PI: Aida Hozic

This project studies the revival of Ottomanism by tracing a range of modern Turkish soap operas. It aims to bring together international scholars (from Canada, the United States, and Turkey) and discuss the prospects and challenges of this political fantasy.

Turks in the Hood

PIs: Emrah Sahin and Tolga Tezcan

Undercurrent of the project, Halal Matters, this project aims to understand the ways in which Turkish residents of Florida manifest their identity and religion in private and public spheres. The project aims to interview Turkish families and students in Gainesville, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa.