Nora BarakatJun 16, 2023
Mobility and Property in the Ottoman Empire
Stanford University Press 2023
In the late 19th century, the Ottoman government sought to fill landscapes they legally defined as "empty." Both land and people were incorporated into territorially bounded grids of administrative law. Bedouin Bureaucrats: Mobility and Property in the Ottoman Empire (Stanford University Press, 2023) examines how tent-dwelling, seasonally migrating Bedouin in the Syrian interior engaged in these processes of Ottoman state transformation on local, imperial, and global scales. Narrating the lives of Bedouin individuals involved in Ottoman administration, Nora Barakat brings this population to the center of modern state-making, from their involvement in the pilgrimage administration in the 18th century and their performance of land registration and taxation as the Ottoman bureaucracy expanded in the 19th, to their eventual rejection of Ottoman attempts to reallocate the “empty land” they inhabited in the 20th. In this episode, we discuss categories and definitions of “bureaucrat,” “tent-dwelling,” and “tribe” in this context; longue durée shifts in Ottoman forms of governance in the Syrian interior and the role of Bedouin elites within Ottoman administration; and both Bedouin participation in and resistance to Ottoman state-making projects.
Maggie Freeman is a PhD student in the School of Architecture at MIT. She researches uses of architecture by nomadic peoples and historical interactions of nomads and empires, with a focus on the modern Middle East.