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Shared Activities and Communal Bodies: Sports in Late Ottoman Istanbul
Monday, March 5, 2018

By the early 20th century, gymnastics, athletics, and team sports, particularly soccer, had developed into a wildly popular set of activities and pastime for many residents of the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Because of the global popularity of sports during the period and the diverse threads through which they spread throughout Istanbul, sports were envisioned as a shared civic activity. At the same time, young men from an expanding middle class treated these civic activities as the means through which they could build a fraternity of like-minded (and bodied) men from the same ethnoreligious community. Sports clubs, which were almost exclusively male spaces, were ethnically and religiously homogeneous private institutions. Muslims, Christians, and Jews joined them in order to train their bodies, exercise, and compete, as well as to socialize and build ethnic-based solidarity. Multilingual periodicals projected both civic and ethnoreligious ties, too. Together, the institutions and discourses of sports demonstrate that civic and exclusive ties were often mutually constitutive rather than exclusive in the Ottoman Empire. Drawing on a diverse array of primary sources, such as sports club records, memoirs, novels, government reports, newspapers, periodicals, and unpublished letters, written in Ottoman Turkish, Armenian, Armeno-Turkish, French, English, German, and Greek, this talk will focus on the implications of using sports as a lens through which to study urban centers, communal boundaries, public space, and fun in the Middle East.Murat C. Yıldız is assistant professor in the department of history at Skidmore College. He is currently working on a book manuscript that focuses on the making of a shared physical culture among Muslims, Christians, and Jews in late Ottoman Istanbul.

Time: 5:00 pm
Location: Olin, Room 203
Sponsor: Middle Eastern Studies Program, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, and Historical Studies Program
Contact: Omar Cheta.
Phone: 845-758-6265

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