You are cordially invited to a seminar titled “Blue Eyes, Pockmarks, and the Violent Making of the Slaves in the Late Ottoman Empire” organised by the Department of History.
Time: 17.00 (Ankara Time Zone)
Title: Blue Eyes, Pockmarks, and the Violent Making of the Slaves in the Late Ottoman Empire
Speaker: Dr. Ceyda Karamürsel
***This is an online event. To obtain Zoom link and password, please contact to the department.
When slave dealers traveled to the countryside or roamed about the city streets in search of young girls, they had a clear idea of what they were looking for. As one interrogation protocol made it clear, a slave dealer saw a large number of young girls on a given day but made contact only with a few, all of whom reportedly had “clear white skin, flaxen hair, blue or green eyes.” These classifications were not slave dealers’ alone but rather were the conventions of the trade. Those who purchased these children at exorbitant prices for the imperial harem or other elite households made similar choices. In close to a hundred slave purchase notices, bills of sale, and related correspondence, Pertevniyal Valide Sultan appeared overly preoccupied with the physical features of the children she viewed for purchase. Based on a wide range of archival documents comprising bills of sale, interrogation protocols, and other relevant material, this paper aims to explore the violent process of physical categorization slaves, particularly in terms of its implications for the ways in which race and ethnicity came to be understood in the late Ottoman Empire.
Ceyda Karamursel is Lecturer in the Department of History at SOAS, University of London. Her research explores the practice of slavery and elusive meanings of freedom in the late Ottoman Empire. Dr Karamursel’s work has been supported by Social Science Research Council and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation and has appeared in Comparative Studies in Society and History and the International Journal of Middle East Studies, among others. She is currently working on a new book entitled The Sack and the Bowstring: A Global History of Ottom