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Title: A Genealogy of the Concept of Civilization (Medeniyet) in Ottoman Political Thought: A Homegrown Perception?
Authors: Palabıyık, M.S.
Keywords: civilization
Ottoman Empire
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Center for Foreign Policy and Peace Research, Ihsan Dogramaci Peace Foundation
Abstract: Since the first translation of the concept of civilization into Turkish as “medeniyet” in 1837 by Sadık Rıfat Pasha, the then Ottoman Ambassador to Vienna, this coinage has turned out to be an essential component of Turkish modernization. This paper aims to establish a genealogy of the concept of “medeniyet” to demonstrate the divergences of Ottoman perceptions in different periods throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It argues that civilization was first perceived by a group of Ottoman intellectuals as a tool to reach an ideal state of being (c. 1840-1860). The next generation of Ottoman intellectuals (c. 1860-1890) defined civilization as “the” ideal state of being, yet they had different views on the concept, particularly concerning the distinction between material and moral elements of civilization. Finally, the third generation of Ottoman intellectuals (c. 1890-1920), whose thoughts were more or less crystallized under three broad political currents labeled as Westernism, Islamism, and Turkism, had different and sometimes contradicting perceptions of civilization based on their political outlooks. By referring to the writings of these intellectuals, the paper will discuss central debates on civilization in the late Ottoman Empire, such as the singularity/plurality of civilization(s), the existence of Islamic civilization as an alternative to European civilization, the degree of importing from European civilization, and the distinction between culture and civilization. Moreover, it argues that the Turkish perception of “medeniyet” is different from the European perception of “civilization”; in other words, while the Ottoman perception of the concept of civilization is not homeborn, it is homegrown. Accordingly, Ottoman intellectuals not only divided the material and moral elements of civilization and opted for importing the former, but they also questioned the singularity and supremacy of European civilization by referring to “Islamic civilization” either as an extinct yet once-present form of civilization or as a potential rival to European civilization © 2023, All Azimuth.All Rights Reserved.
ISSN: 2146-7757
Appears in Collections:Scopus İndeksli Yayınlar Koleksiyonu / Scopus Indexed Publications Collection

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