An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: December 12, 2022: Markus Koller

“Public Debates and Decision-Making Processes in the Ottoman Empire: State Practices of Violence in the 17th and 18th c.”

December 12, 2022. 16h00-18h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:

In recent years, there has been a marked increase in interest in Ottoman “advice literature,” which had gained importance among Ottoman elites, especially since the 17th century. In their treatises (risâle), the authors discussed, among other things, what a just rule by the sultan or individual governors should look like. Part of the ideal of just rule was that the ruler should be able to protect his subjects from illegitimate violence by state actors. In this context, there was intense debate among Ottoman elites about which violent practices and punishments should be considered legitimate and illegitimate violence. So far, historical research has mainly turned to these elite discussions and has focused less on other milieus of Ottoman society. The lecture will therefore first examine the question of how the use of state violence was discussed in these public spheres, using the written testimonies of Catholic and Orthodox priests as an example. Subsequently, it will be discussed whether and how such debates could have an influence on the state’s use of force.

Markus Koller is Professor at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Fakultät für Geschichtswissenschaft, Historisches Institut, Lehrstuhl für die Geschichte des Osmanischen Reiches und der Türkei (ORT). He is also the Director of the Zentrum für Mittelmeerstudien at Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Among his publications: Mediterranean Rivers in Global Perspective, Ed, with J. C. Bernhardt and A. Lichtenberger, Leiden: Brill, 2019; Das osmanische Europa : Methoden und Perspektiven der Frühneuzeitforschung zu Südosteuropa, (ed. cum al.), Leipzig, Eudora, 2014; Eine Gesellschaft im Wandel die osmanische Herrschaft in Ungarn im 17. Jahrhundert (1606 – 1683), Sturrgart, Steiner, 2010; Bosnien an der Schwelle zur Neuzeit : eine Kulturgeschichte der Gewalt (1747-1798), Munich, Oldenbourg, 2004; “Das Papsttum und die osmanische Expansion in Südosteuropa in der zweiten Hälfte des 15. Jahrhunderts”, Zur Debatte. Themen der Katholischen Akademie in Bayern 44,1 (2014, Special Issue), pp. 8-11; Living in the Ottoman Ecumenical Community: Essays in Honour of Suraiya Faroqhi (Ed. with V. Costantini), Leiden, Brill, 2008.

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: November 26, 2020: Dalenda Larguèche

“Feminine deliberative practices in Tunis: between intimacy, decision-making processes and the opinion”

November 26, 2020. 15h00-17h00 (Berlin Time). Registration:


The history of the city of Tunis, in its multiple temporalities, like that of other cities, has been above all a history of men, builders with their gestures and their words. The meanders of history, however, also invite us to pay attention to women who, despite their remoteness and invisibilisation, have always been present and active. They left their mark on the history of the city: they were actors of social change and bearers of capacities for opinion, action and mobilisation. In this lecture, which takes the Ottoman period, then the period of colonisation and finally the period of independence as its temporal framework, Dalenda Larguèche proposes a reflection on women’s practices, which in their diversity have participated in the socio-political management of the city and in the fabrication of opinion. The presentation first analyses the context and nature of the civic action of the Muradite princess Aziza Othmana in the 17th century, including an examination of the public dimension of the private act of habus (waqf). Dalenda Larguèche then devotes her analyses to the modes of public speaking of two feminist pioneers, Manoubia Ouartani and Habiba Menchari, in 1924 and 1929 respectively, and to the contribution of their actions to the consolidation of a sphere of expression of female opinion. In this spirit, the social and political action of the first Tunisian women’s association, born in 1936 in a colonial context, is also studied. Finally, the lecture devotes particular attention to the struggle of feminist activists for a radical change in the unequal relations in society during the segmented period of the independent state, as well as to the contestation of this male domination through specific demands and modes of mobilisation against those who support and structure gender inequalities in society. This attention to the longue durée of women’s expression makes it possible, between personal or intimate gestures and deliberative action of a civic and political nature, within the framework of diversified and evolving practices, to finally consider women not only as markers of history, despite the oblivion that has often struck them in the dominant historiography, but also as actors rooted in time with a strong opinion and a powerful capacity for mobilisation.

Dalenda Largueche is Full Professor of History and Gender Studies at the University of Manouba in Tunis, where she founded the Master on Gender studies in 2015. She has been a member of the Scientific Council of the Universities of Tunis and Manouba, and has led the “Women, Gender, History and Memory” research group at the Heritage Laboratory. From October 2011 to October 2018, she has been General Director of the Tunisian Center for Research, Studies, Documentation and Information on Women (CREDIF).

Interested in questions of women and gender in Islamic societies, Prof. Dalenda Largueche published numerous books and scholarly articles on women and gender issues, among which: Marginales en terre d’Islam ([Marginalized Women in Islamic Lands], Tunis 1992), Histoire des femmes du Maghreb: Culture matérielle et Vie quotidienne, ([Women’s History in North Africa: Material Culture and Everyday Life], Tunis 2000), Femmes en Ville dans le monde méditerranéen: Passé et Présent, (Tunis 2005), Monogamie en Islam: le contrat de marriage kairouanais, (Tunis 2011).

She has been a visiting professor at various international universities.  

Militant of women rights, she has actively participated in the structuration of the Tunisian democratic women movement.  Activist in the civil society, she is working tirelessly to ensure democracy, human rights and women’s capacities and voices in post-revolution Tunisia.

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

2020-2021 HISDEMAB Seminar

The programme of the 2020-2021 HISDEMAB research seminar has just been published:

For registration, please send an email to

An International and Collaborative Research Programme

The Historicity of Democracy in the Arab and Muslim Worlds

This academic blog aims at presenting the work of the international research team of the HISDEMAB project of the Leibniz Association. This collaborative project seeks to establish an innovative research network that connects three Leibniz institutes (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin –ZMO-, Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte in Mainz –IEG– and Leibniz-Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung in Potsdam –ZZF-) with two research institutions in the Arab world (Institut français du Proche-Orient –IFPO– in Amman, Jordan and Manouba University in Tunis, Tunisia), while also including guest researchers from the wider Arab and Muslim worlds. The project explores democracy and debates about democracy in the region from a historical perspective. While this topic is highly relevant for contemporary debates, it is often subject to culturalist interpretations that insist on the ontological incompatibility of democracy with political life in the region. The aim of HISDEMAB is to promote global reflections on democracy that go beyond cultural boundaries and discuss entanglements and circulations in a critical way. This network starts with the sources (archival records, chronicles, treaties, memoirs) and investigates diverse forms of deliberation, decision-making, and the mechanisms of representation in local societies, confronting this sphere with the question of democracy and its regimes of historicity. With historical case studies in Tunisia, Jordan, and other countries, from Syria to Algeria, the aim is first to investigate the medieval and Ottoman roots of deliberative processes within professional guilds, confessional communities (Muslim, Jewish, Greek, Armenian), and different institutions (assemblies, petitioning system). The network is also designed to critically relate these roots to the evolution of deliberation and representation in the modern era (late-Ottoman, colonial, and national periods) and to Eurocentric discourses that have developed since the 19th century. While the team based at Leibniz-ZMO explores democracy and discourses on democracy in three phases of the Ottoman Empire (early modern, 19th century, and early 20th century), the Leibniz-ZZF based team investigates the Turkish case in the post-Atatürk era under a historical perspective and the Leibniz-IEG investigates the relationship between democracy and Islam in theoretical discourses and political practices in the 19th and 20th century Arab world and particularly in Egypt. The Hisdemab Team Project at IEG is entitled: Self-Determination under Occupation? The formation of Modern Egypt (1879-1956). Partners at IFPO Amman focus on the case study on the Municipality of Jerusalem during the British Mandate, and on the legacy of Ottoman deliberative institutions and their interpretation in the 20th century as well as on the historicity of democracy in Iraq. Meanwhile, the project partners at Manouba University work on an analysis of democratization processes contemporary Tunisia, along with their (real and imagined) relationship with Europe. Contemporary debates on democracy in the Arab and Muslim worlds are dominated by bitter impressions following the return to authoritarian regimes after the short parenthesis of what mainstream media have labelled the “Arab Spring”. After a few months or years of sometimes naïve enthusiasm, considerations are now focusing again on the alleged incompatibility of democracy with societies of the broader region. This collaborative network moves beyond this dichotomy that responds to culturalist biases in both situations (enthusiasm and bitterness), by investigating the historicity of democracy and deliberative practices for what they are in the societies of the region and by combining reflections on this complex sphere with reflections on democracy in other contexts. Democracy in the Arab, Islamic, and Post-Ottoman worlds is currently mostly studied from the point of view of political science. It is also often the object of culturalist reifications. The aim of this network is therefore to explore this crucial issue by examining the forms of political organization and debate that were inherent to societies of the region, from North Africa to the Middle East and from Anatolia to the Balkans. The intention is also to discuss their impact on various forms of modernity, including late-Ottoman, colonial (British in Egypt, Iraq and Palestine; French in Algeria, Tunisia, Syria and Lebanon; Italian in Libya) and national (in all the independent countries that emerged with decolonization) in challenging the multiple layers of euro-centred, colonial and post-colonial interpretations that have accumulated since the 19th century. It is also to propose a critical examination of this heritage and its historical evolution between accommodation of circulating forms, negation of local existing forms, dilution of local governance schemes and ambiguous resurgences of old forms under the lens of ideologically oriented solutions. The forms of collective deliberation that are relevant in a discussion on inherent, early democratic impulses include various councils and assemblies at various scales, from villages and cities to provinces, deliberative institutions inside the world of guilds and inside confessional communities (Muslim, Jewish, Armenian, Orthodox, Maronite). This discussion, based upon archival research (documents on the functioning of deliberative institutions, documents pertaining to the organization of decision-making processes within guilds or confessional communities, court records) and the interpretation of original manuscripts (chronicles, treaties) focuses on the concept of ḥisba, the Islamic precept regulating commercial and social life, as well as on institutions like the majlis al-shūrā. As far as the impact with modernity is concerned, a focus is put on the debates surrounding the enactment of the first constitutions of the region in the mid-19th century, with the aim of reconnecting their interpretation with local historical roots. This angle of interpretation allows the scholars of the programme to take part in discussions about the relationship of societies of the region and power under an innovative perspective. Reflections also focus on the new definitions of citizenship and nationality that emerged and on their multiple ambiguities. A focus is also put on colonial visions of local societies under the lens of discourses on democracy or on the alleged impossibility thereof, as well as on the period of the independences, with debates on democracy being inserted into a Cold-War context. This effort allows researchers in the programme to propose alternative narratives of the evolution of the relationship between democracy and the Arab/Islamic/Post-Ottoman world, avoiding both neo-traditionalist visions, Islamist visions that tend to present religion as a unique source of social regulation and post-colonial trends that insist on the ontological externality of the notion to the region. In this collaborative programme, convergence in research aims at creating the heuristic space for theoretical and concrete dialogues. This includes theoretical and methodological reflections on the comparative method, entangled history, shared history and global history, but also very concrete practices of scholarly discussion as well as events in which all participants are invited to confront their research fields and questionings to the general theme of the programme.

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