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With new discourses and standards on the cleanliness and regularity of streets gaining influence in the Ottoman administration and public, memorandums and planning policies become widespread in the Mediterranean port cities as of the 1830s/1840s. Especially neighborhoods reconstructed after fires and newly developed faubourgs see their application, although often only partially.
While cultural practice in the Ottoman port cities showed a rather liberal blending of various shades of modernity, discourse produced by the middle classes intended to rein in the freedom identity development. In chastising mimicry of the West as well as insufficient mastery of modern etiquette, Turkish and Greek bourgeois picked up upon criticism of port city society by foreign observers. The attribution of class characteristics to nations is also characteristic both of the foreign observers and the local middle class. Attempts to conform to international middle class standards is combined with the need for national distinguishability. Only in rare cases did individuals who did not comply with the conformity the middle class attempt to impose and out themselves as "super-Westernized."
While port cities of the Eastern Mediterranean were for a long time vilified, recent local and international interest has rehabilitated them, turning them into a projection site for nostalgia for the pre-nation state multicultural order. While simplifications and especially characterizations of the nineteenth-century port cities as a social utopia must be revoked by critical historians, the highly ambivalent and mixed Eastern Mediterranean societies nonetheless need to receive proper attention in order to counter oversimplified visions of cultural identities and intercultural clash. A complex reading of nineteenth-century port city society thus serves as a counter discourse against a Weberian sense of the Asian City or its contemporary vulgarizations, such as the worldviews propagated by S. P. Huntington or R. T. Erdogan.
The nineteenth century infatuation with opera by residents of Izmir, Istanbul, and Thessaloniki is grounded mainly in their attempt to take part in a global "civilizing mission." The middle classes and the administration intended but often failed to educate the lower classes to properly behavior during theater performances, refraining from smoking, eating, unpleasant bodily movements or ill-timed displays of veneration. Nonetheless, all these and also violence were not uncommon at the opera house. Moreover, opera aficionados wishes for a "one world" of global stage entertainment, for a cultural exchange with Western and Central Europe. Unfortunately, Western interest in Eastern music and narratives came to an end in the 1820s, whereas Eastern interest in Western performances gained momentum later.
While most nineteenth-century Great Powers attempted to spread their language and country's prestige via sponsored schools abroad, in the Eastern Mediterranean, these schools were actually used by residents to gain a particularly valuable cultural capital and to emancipate themselves from their respective ethnic groups. Their families' bargaining power as payers of tuition and the fierce competition between the various foreign schools enabled them to overcome the imperialist intentions of these schools.
French-language press are at the origins of the press in the Ottoman Empire. Even once papers in other local languages had been established, French publications remained an essential part of the market as the leading nonlocal language. They showed solidarity with other papers affected by censorship, critically discussing especially municipal events, and forming a dialogue with their counterparts in other languages. Only under Abdülhamid's reign was total silence of all critical journalism achieved. A new form of post-political press was created that focused heavily on local events and culture. Despite these limitations, the French press of the Ottoman Empire gave a voice to and provided a platform for the sizeable section of French-educated locals of all communities.
Emigration from the Habsburg Empire and the German-speaking states was a midsize phenomenon in the nineteenth century that has so far received little attention. Especially during pauperization up to the 1848 revolution, poverty migration from Central Europe by artisans was widespread, but barely documented. As of mid-century, it affected mostly the peripheral Habsburg provinces, whereas workers from the more developed regions and Germany mostly only emigrated with specialist labor opportunities awaiting or for adventure. Lower-class emigrants could relate to their country of origin and of residence in a myriad of different ways that cannot be subsumed under "integration" vs. "diaspora."
This chapter tries to determine how the study of port cities of the Eastern Mediterranean can be linked to the discussions on global history. It also tries to define "culture" in a way that makes it more operational for the study of heterogeneous societies, gives an outlook onto the chapters to come, and explains in which way the investigations within this book differ from earlier studies of late Ottoman society and identity.
Changes in Great Power politics, technical developments, and flows of trade all together transformed Eastern Mediterranean perceptions and usages of space. From their image of Europe and the opportunities it offered to modes of travel, to visions of and policies of urban renewal and its acceptance, many aspects of life in Levantine cities were transformed by the heightened interaction with Europe. Nonetheless, the new Istanbul, Izmir, and Salonica were not carbon copies of the towns on the far side of the sea, but very much also the product of local desires and attitudes.
In the late Ottoman Empire, efforts to deconstruct Western supremacism often focused on local subjects of the Great Powers that did not meet their standards of assumed superior qualities. One group in particular that received much attention was Austrian subjects engaging in prostitution and human trafficking. Highlighting these subjects served to erode notions of European female superior qualities, especially as teachers, house instructors, and nannies. Diplomatic struggles, especially between the Habsburg and Ottoman authorities, reveal a lack of strategy to effectively counter the vaining of imperial prestige.
The section investigates how "Europeanization" impacted upon leisure practices in Ottoman port cities. While conserving some old practices, such as the home visit, and developing others, such as the evening stroll, other customs new to most nineteenth-century Eastern Mediterranean residents, especially theater and opera as well as beer drinking, offered novel pastimes. Especially the latter served as forms of cultural capital and possible entry tickets to a wider European or global community of sentiment.
The chapter traces the transformation of Western travel narratives reporting about journeys to Eastern Mediterranean port cities from the beginning to the middle of the nineteenth century. It claims that the transformation from romantic immersing in the foreign landscape to supremacism was influenced by the technological and sensory revolution of the steamship.
This chapter reviews three incidents of urban violence in the late Ottoman port cities: the 1876 St. George's Day intercommunal riots resulting in the lynching of the French and German consuls of Thessaloniki; the 1881 intercommunal riots in Alexandria, resulting in the British Navy shelling the city and occupying the country; and the 1903 bomb attacks in Thessaloniki by Macedonian separatists. It comes to the conclusion that incidents of violence that targeted European foreigners and non-Muslims indiscriminately most often did not succeed. Therefore, in the particular sociocultural climate of the nineteenth-century Eastern Mediterranean, agents often resorted to discrediting communities separately, as this held higher chances success, even against Western parties.
As documented in an 1895 newspaper, men and women in late Ottoman port city society felt highly ambivalent about their own gender roles and that of the other sex. They characterize their predicament as being caught between an emerging modern world with many ideals of how young people should develop, but finding their surroundings, the commercially minded port city, unsuited to these possibilities. Journals and nonfiction writing of the times predominantly attempts to dictate roles of modesty, productivity, and conformism especially for women. Only fiction writing, especially after the end of Hamidian censorship, reflect more on the challenges to female fulfilment, but with the exception of some erotic novels ultimately reaffirm patriarchal role models, albeit in a slightly modified way. While some men find an escape from limited role models by developing their body via gymnastics or utilize medical discourse to speak openly about sex, for women only belonging to the limited milieu of stage performers or extremely liberal and upper-class families offers a way out from the constraints of local society, and even then at the price of great personal strain.
Historians have debated whether Levantines, that is, locally integrated groups with hereditary ties to Western/Central Europe and/or the Catholic Church around the Eastern Mediterranean constituted a proto-ethnic group identity or were merely lumped together by pejorative exonyms. A close reading of Levantine writers' statements or lack thereof reveals that nineteenth-century "Levantine" intellectuals did not lay claim to a group identity, but rather to a space that allowed for ambivalent identities and spaces. Only twentieth-century authors cast Levantine identity as a quasi-ethnicity. The more recent generation has combined the latter assumption with the nostalgia produced by the former.
The introduction formulates a critique of the predominant reading of modern Ottoman historiography for its focus on nationalities, nationalism, and the state. It traces the reason for this neglect from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. It argues that the Europeanized and heterogeneous culture of the large cities needs more attention in studies of the modernization of the region and operationalizes notions of urban, global, and cultural history for this purpose.