Ottoman Selves, Ottoman Others: On Fives Sites of Post-Imperial Memory

Dr. Jeremy F. Walton, University of Rijeka

In post-imperial domains across the globe, the material legacies of empires—especially architecture and infrastructure—present both challenges and opportunities in the present. In this lecture, I offer a comparative portrait of five sites of post-Ottoman memory and forgetting, located today in five distinct nation-states: Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Greece, and Turkey. First, I discuss the tomb of the Sufi saint and Bektaşi sheikh Gül Baba, in Budapest. Despite the polished, carefully curated nature of Gül Baba’s mausoleum, it remains a site for competing discourses of Turkishness, Muslim-ness and Europeanness. Secondly, I examine a former mosque in the Croatian fortress of Klis near the Dalmatian city of Split. Today, the structure is known as Saint Vitus Church (Sveti Vid Crkva), and bears no explicit marker of its Muslim past. Next, I turn to the Ferhadija Mosque (Ferhadija Džamija) in the Bosnian city of Banja Luka, which was only recently reconstructed following its devastation in the war of the 1990s, and constitutes a precarious space of Muslim identification in the Bosnian Serb capital. Following this, I consider Thessaloniki’s New Mosque (Yeni Cami), the former site of worship for the unique, syncretic Ottoman dönme community that has recently been recruited to the project of excavating the city’s multi-religious and culturally plural past as a means to present-day urban investment. Finally, I interrogate parallel narratives of tolerance and pluralism that have accompanied the restoration of Sveti Stefan Bulgarian Church (“The Iron Church”, demir kilisesi) in Istanbul, which threaten to sanitize the complicated past and precarious present of Bulgarian Orthodoxy in the city. Throughout my presentation, I am attentive to how discourses of heritage have authorized, or failed to authorize, images of Ottoman identity and alterity—selves and others—in the present.