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A Model Minority? Sephardi Jews in the Late Ottoman Empire
Averroës Lecture Series
A lecture by Julia Phillips Cohen (Vanderbilt University)
This lecture examines the shifting place of Jews in Ottoman society during the empire’s modern reform era. At the start of this era, Jews were largely absent from government positions and major debates in the empire. Within a matter of decades, Ottoman Muslims and Jews alike regularly referred to Jews as a model community, or millet—as a group whose leaders and members knew how to serve their state and were deeply engaged in Ottoman politics. Charting the dramatic reversal, this talk explores what the process of becoming a model community in the multi-lingual, multi-religious Ottoman Empire entailed during its final half century of existence. What kind of work, alliances, comprises, and sacrifices did the process involve? How did Ottoman Jews find themselves in a position to claim “model minority” status? And what did this mean for their evolving relationship both with the Ottoman authorities and with their neighbors of different faiths?
Julia Phillips Cohen is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and the Program in Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of two award-winning books: Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), and—together with Sarah Abrevaya Stein of UCLA—Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700-1950 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014). Her articles have appeared in a range of venues, including the American Historical Review, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Jewish Social Studies, Jewish Quarterly Review and AJS Perspectives. Between 2015 and 2017, Cohen served as Sephardi/Mizrahi Division Chair of the Association for Jewish Studies, chair of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association’s Stanley N. Fisher Prize, and board member of the International Journal of Middle East Studies. She is currently beginning three-year terms as a board member of the Association for Jewish Studies, member of the nominating committee of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association, and jury member for the American Historical Association’s Dorothy Rosenberg Book Prize in the history of the Jewish diaspora.
Published: Wednesday, November 08, 2017