There are several areas of academic focus that we developed this program on “Recreating Pluralism: Continuity in Post-Ottoman Societies” around and demarcate its boundaries, however fluid. The first demarcation is one of space. We have a primary interest in the societies that are part of the geographical area that once comprised the Ottoman Empire. In terms of time, we focus primary on the time after the Fall of the Ottoman Empire.
There is a strong interest though to make wider comparison, and compare not only the societies, spaces and places of what was once the Ottoman Empire, but also to study Post-Ottoman societies in comparison to other (bordering) Post-Imperial societies, such as Post-Russian / -Soviet societies and Post-Habsburg societies. As such we might for example take up the comparison of shrines between Post-Ottoman and other Post-Imperial societies, such as in the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Likewise, there is a strong interest in the comparitive study of these spaces, places and societies over time, particularly in the comparison between the past (Late) Imperial period, the Post-Imperial period (now) and the future. On the subject of Cities, there were for example ideas to compare studies of (Late) Ottoman, Post-Ottoman and future cities in the same space. Theoretically we will subsequently engage questions on change and continuity in modernity and modernism.
Conceptually, pluralism is another central social concern that is central to our inquiries. Primarily we are interested in forms of social pluralism (…), as in the way different (kinds of) social groups and communities and people interact, while being part of different social units or social groups. Implicit are interests in religious and civil interaction. We are open to further extension to other related fields of the study of pluralism, such as the study of value pluralism (Isaiah Berlin, Michael Walzer) whenever it relates to this primary focus of our platform.
Next, we focus our studies on particular spaces of social interaction, inspired by the concept of contact interfaces (Eidem et al.), and have broadened the latter concept to encompass apart from cities also for example shrines and schools. This focus implies a primary bottom-up inductive empirical approach, in which case studies are leading in principle and lead to further theoretical exploration, and not the other way around. Dealing with different disciplines with each their own epistomologic and methodological focus and bias, in turn necessitates a particularly flexible and inclusive approach in this respect.
This does not mean that we will limit theoretical reflection to the immediate, only that we only relate it primarily to the study of one kind of social space. As already shown by the examples of shrines and cities, the choice of one empirical kind of unit, connects these different studies with different theoretical questions and issues, such as on questions of agency and barakat in the former case of shrines and historical continuity and change and questions of modernity and modernism in the latter case of cities. Other such examples are the focus on “socio-religious” continuity in our inaugural workshop on shrines, and “inter-communal” continuity in the case of cities.
Finally, questions of continuity and change in modernity are permeating through most of our inquiries. We take an open critical stance in this respect, in which we actively investigate the over-arching hypothesis of social continuity in contrast to that of change (Latour) and progress (Gray) associated with modernity. As such the choice for kinds of units of study, predating modernity but with a continued importance in supposedly modern times – such as is the case for shrines, cities, schools, institutions and shrines – as opposed to supposedly modern kinds of units – such as nations, states, nation states – has been an active and deliberate choice.