Rethinking Ottoman Cross-Cultural Encounters: Turks and the Armenian Alphabet

A lecture by Murat Cankara, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Introductory remarks by Sebouh Aslanian. Sponsored by the Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair for Modern Armenian History at UCLA.

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Duration: 59:42

In recent decades, there has been a renewed scholarly interest on literature produced by Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in a hybrid language known as “Armeno-Turkish” or Ottoman Turkish written in Armenian letters. Some of this scholarship has claimed the literary corpus of printed works in this language, ranging from novels to newspapers, as primarily belonging to Armenian national history while others have claimed it as part of Turkish national history.

Murat Cankara’s talk provides a critical overview of the history and place of Armeno-Turkish literature in both Ottoman history and historiography. Cankara shows how and why Armeno-Turkish, especially throughout the nineteenth century, was not merely an Armenian or Turkish phenomenon but rather a cultural reflection of a larger Ottoman history. By presenting examples of Turkish statesmen, authors, and journalists who were either aware of or could read Armeno-Turkish, Cankara explores how Armeno-Turkish might have served as a written lingua franca among the members of different ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups in the Ottoman Empire. His talk thus contributes to the debate over the Ottoman millet system from the perspective of cross-cultural exchanges and encounters among the different peoples of the Ottoman empire.