‘The Ottoman Empire and the Bosnian Uprising: Janissaries, Modernisation and Rebellion in the Nineteenth Century,’ By Fatma Sel Turhan
Contentious politics are institutionalized and legitimate forms of political claims-making and participation in today’s democratic systems. Sidney Tarrow and Charles Tilly define contentious politics as “episodic, public, collective interaction among makers of claims and their objects when (a) at least one government is a claimant, an object of claims, or a party to the claims and (b) the claims would, if realized, affect the interests of at least one of the claimants.” When it comes to contentious politics as such, we often consider it in its modernday forms like strike actions, riots and demonstrations. What happened in Athens during the 2010-2011 anti-austerity protests, in Genoa during the 2001 G8 summit, from Tunisia to Djibouti during the 2010-2011 Arab Spring and in İstanbul during the July 2013 Gezi events obviously demonstrates that contemporary forms of contentious politics take different forms and raise a number of challenges for states, thanks to their ability to generate alternative forms of political representation and identity.
Yet, contentious politics in the form of popular political struggles was a part of politics as early as the 18th century, as Charles Tilly argues. The role of contentious politics in nation-building and democratization in Europe, such as in France and Britain, is well researched. We still know very little about alternative forms of historical political activism, such as mutinies and popular uprisings, in non-Western systems and their consequences in shaping state-society and center- periphery relations.
In this sense, “The Ottoman Empire and the Bosnian Uprising” by Fatma Sel Turhan offers a detailed account of 19th century Ottoman Bosnia, one of the most exciting and strategically crucial regions of the empire. Based on meticulous investigation in Ottoman archives and the secondary literature, the author investigates a provincial rebellion by linking it to regional, imperial and even international dynamics. Turhan investigates 10 years of Ottoman Bosnia that witnessed two periods of rebellion (1826-31 and 1831-36). However, her approach towards these rebellions aims to reveal that these are two different cycles of the same rebellion. The main occupation of the author is to provide a balanced narrative of the rebellion from the rebels’ and the Ottoman center’s point of view. The iterative narrative between the two different perspectives allows the author to offer a comprehensive understanding of the reasons behind the reactions of Bosnians to the abolition of the janissary corps and the implementation of the new order ( nizâmât). The author is a historian; yet, she not only gives a historical narrative but also an extensive account of the form, organization and leadership of the rebellion and the reactions by the Sublime Porte to reestablish its control over the defiant provinces.
The author investigates a provincial rebellion by linking it to regional, imperial and even international dynamics