The conference examines relations between the late Ottoman Empire (1878–1922) and the „Germansphere“. We employ the term „Germansphere“ to designate a region shaped by a strong influence of the German language and common forms of cultural literacy, which comprises at its core the countries Germany, Austria(-Hungary), and Switzerland. Using insights from transnational and new imperial history our contributions address the question: under which circumstances did relations between the Ottomans and the Germansphere accommodate, support or contradict the logics and structures of (informal) imperialism?
Historical scholarship has frequently subsumed interactions between Ottomans and the Germansphere within the binary framework of Ottoman relations with „Europe“ or „the West“. As has been repeatedly pointed out, however, the relationship between inhabitants of German-speaking countries and „the West“ (commonly understood as Great Britain, France, and the USA) was itself fraught with tensions and conflicts (Bavaj and Steber 2017; Manjapra 2014b). We acknowledge that considerable differences existed between the nationally legitimized German Empire, the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire, and multi-lingual Switzerland and that there were significant overlaps between the Germansphere and the sphere of French cultural influence, among others. At the same time, close contacts and cooperation in areas such as diplomacy, science, culture, and religion created a sense of interconnectedness between the three countries, which distinguished them from Western Europe dominated by English and French. The ambivalent reaction to French cultural hegemony and Anglo-Saxon politico-economic power in the Germansphere arguably created a sense of „ressentiment“ against the Western powers, which was comparable to the marginalization experienced in the Ottoman Empire (Mishra 2017). We thus approach Ottoman-Germansphere relations from a perspective of double marginality vis-à-vis „the West“ to uncover shifting configurations of domination, resistance, and cooperation in a world shaped by imperialist interests.
The papers critically engage with and respond to the growing interest in the imperial and postcolonial histories of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Switzerland (Blaser, Ligtenberg and Selander 2021; Purtschert and Fischer-Tiné 2015; Conrad and Osterhammel 2006; Sauer 2002). Based on a dynamic understanding of power constellations, they emphasize the complexity and ambivalences in the relationship between the Ottoman Empire and countries in the Germansphere with their often unforeseen results and impacts on later developments.
Bavaj, Riccardo and Martina Steber (eds), Germany and „The West“: The History of a Modern Concept (New York: Berghahn Books, 2017).
Blaser, Claire Louise, Monique Ligtenberg and Josephine Selander (eds.). „Transimperial Histories of Knowledge: Networks of Exchange and Collaboration from the Margins of Imperial Europe“. Comparative Studies in Society and History (2021, forthcoming).
Conrad, Sebastian and Jürgen Osterhammel (eds), Das Kaiserreich transnational: Deutschland in der Welt 1871–1914 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006).
Mishra, Pankaj, Age of Anger: A History of the Present. (London: Allen Lane, 2017).
Purtschert, Patricia and Harald Fischer-Tiné (eds), Colonial Switzerland: Rethinking Colonialism from the Margins (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).