Middle East Studies

"Portraits of Unbelonging: Photography, Nationality, Mobility" | Zeynep Devrim Gürsel

2024_05_07 Zeynep Gursel Poster

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

12:00-1:00 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room (353), Watson Institute, 111 Thayer 


About the Event

In 1896 Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II issued a decree that allowed Ottoman Armenians - and only Ottoman Armenians - to emigrate on the condition that they expatriate and never return. A key step in this process was sitting for a photograph. While these photographs look like family portraits and were often produced by professional Armenian studio photographers, they are binding legal documents of exclusion.  These photographic subjects were no longer Ottoman subjects. As emigrants left on steamships from ports on the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, their likenesses entered police files in the empire’s capital, Constantinople where I was to encounter them more than a century later in the Ottoman state archivesPortraits of Unbelonging is a history of mass migration told on an intimate scale that interrogates nationality and subjecthood and the rise of the document-based global security regimes that govern citizenship and mobility today. Drawing from this research, in this talk Prof. Gürsel will trace the story of one family to highlight the gap between the law as it is pronounced by a sovereign and as it is experienced by individuals, families and communities. 
Ottoman History Podcast with Zeynep Gürsel




Zeynep Devrim Gürsel is a media anthropologist and associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. She is the author of Image Brokers: Visualizing World News in the Age of Digital Circulation (University of California Press, 2016, ISBN 9780520286375), an ethnography of the international photojournalism industry in the 21st century. She is also the director of Coffee Futures (2009), an award-winning ethnographic film that explores contemporary Turkish politics through the prism of the everyday practice of coffee fortune telling. Her current projects investigate the emergence of the global surveillance regimes policing mobility and nationality and the critical role of photography in this history. Her article, “Classifying the Cartozians: Rethinking the Politics of Visibility Alongside Ottoman Subjecthood and American Citizenship,” was awarded a 2023 Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association Article Prize.