The “history lesson” which laid the theoretical ground for it all, analysed by prof. Branko Milanovic
- “I think this is an incredibly important moment to think and to talk about the history of the Ottoman Empire, and that is why I am making an effort to put it out there.” Explains sociologist and historian Karen Barkey, a Professor at the Columbia University in New York and director of Columbia’s Institute for Religion Culture and Public Life. “We are living, in the Middle East, through a transition towards new democratic societies that is coming at the same time as the rise of Islamism and new Islamic political parties, so that the transitions are happening when the people are rethinking the role of Islam within the context of democracy. They are also looking at their past and at all the traditional ways of thinking about Islam and how to use it in modern, contemporary societies. Therefore, they are looking for usable pasts. I think that the Ottoman Empire is a really interesting usable past, because – even though it was explained and historically described as an Islamic empire – it was really an empire where religion was very much balanced within a lot of dualities that made it possible for it not to be hegemonic.” We interviewed Karen barkey during our Istanbul Seminars 2013.