What were Ottomans talking about when they talked about science?
In posing and answering that question (spoiler: they were talking about people), M. Alper Yalcinkaya
's new book Learned Patriots: Debating Science, State, and Society in the 19th-Century Ottoman Empire
(University of Chicago Press, 2015) introduces the history of science as discussed and debated by nineteenth-century Turkish-speaking Muslim Ottomans in Istanbul. The book compellingly argues that these discussions and debates were not so much about the nature of science than the characteristics of the "man of science" and his relationship to Ottoman identity. In the course of YalÃ§inkaya's study, readers also learn about the economic and political transformations of nineteenth century Ottoman society, the changes wrought by the gradual integration of the Ottoman Empire into the world capitalist system, and the consequences of those changes for the Ottoman state and its relationship to education and the press. This is a fascinating book for anyone interested in the entangled histories of science and modernity, and the ways that particular forms of identity and subjectivity emerged from inscriptions of that entanglement. I especially recommend it to readers paying special attention to the histories of the press, language, and the state as they are bound up with nineteenth century science and technology.