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Neither laziness nor its condemnation are new inventions, however, perceiving laziness as a social condition that afflicts a 'nation' is. In the early modern era, Ottoman political treatises did not regard the people as the source of the state's problems. Yet in the nineteenth century, as the imperial ideology of Ottomanism and modern discourses of citizenship spread, so did the understanding of laziness as a social disease that the 'Ottoman nation' needed to eradicate. Asking what we can learn about Ottoman history over the long nineteenth-century by looking closely into the contested and shifting boundaries of the laziness - productivity binary, Melis Hafez explores how 'laziness' can be used to understand emerging civic culture and its exclusionary practices in the Ottoman Empire. A polyphonic involvement of moralists, intellectuals, polemicists, novelists, bureaucrats, and, to an extent, the public reveals the complexities and ambiguities of this multifaceted cultural transformation. Using a wide variety of sources, this book explores the sustained anxiety about productivity that generated numerous reforms as well as new understandings of morality, subjectivity, citizenship, and nationhood among the Ottomans.


‘Melis Hafez's brilliant exposé of the calls for improvement in Ottoman citizens' productivity ties into a larger global transition implicating the modern state, capitalism, and a bourgeois intellectual elite. Inventing Laziness is thus a revelation that sets the standard for both Ottoman and larger European studies for the next generation.'

Isa Blumi - Stockholm University

‘Melis Hafez brilliantly explores late Ottoman discourses and anxieties regarding laziness as a major social disease and the need to turn Ottomans into proactive and productive citizens. By using a broad set of Ottoman texts and sources, many of them examined for the first time, Hafez analyzes this new culture of productivity, offering a sophisticated, multi-layered and persuasive discussion about its intellectual and Islamic sources, development, and ramifications.'

Eyal Ginio - The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

‘Hafez’ original and substantive work considers the ways in which an Ottoman culture of productivity, crucial to the national project, was developed and promoted. She shows Islamist authors deploying the language of productivity to defend the role of Islam and emphasize its relevance for a new Ottoman nation. An intriguing read.’

Palmira Brummett - The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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