Happening Now

Middle East Studies

Uğur Z. Peçe

Lehigh University


Through a Lens Deadly: Displacement and Depiction of Violence in the Ottoman Empire, 1895-1912

As 1895 drew to a close, the sporadic clashes on the largest Ottoman island of Crete spiraled into a three-year civil war between its Christian majority and Greek-speaking Muslim minority populations. The violence in Crete died down in 1898 with the establishment of an autonomous government that led to the displacement of the overwhelming majority of the Muslim population from the island. Following the Ottoman Constitutional Revolution in 1908, however, Crete emerged as a prominent topic in Ottoman public space through a narrative of Muslim victimhood, setting off a four-year period of popular protest across the empire. Drawing on various archival documents, in this paper I discuss how local incidents of violence produced an empire-wide language of death. Several scholars have investigated the photographic representation of atrocities against civilians during the Balkan Wars (1912-13). By focusing on a period prior to the Balkan Wars, this paper draws on some of the earlier examples of photographs depicting the dead Muslim bodies as images meant for public consumption and circulation in the Ottoman world. In addition to the visual sources from newspapers and banned books, I examine written and spoken words, linking an island and death, with the goal of exploring Ottoman necro-rhetoric in the context of protest rallies.


Uğur Z. Peçe is an Assistant Professor of History at Lehigh University. He received his PhD degree in History from Stanford University in 2016. Before joining Lehigh, he taught in the History Department at Bard College and History and Literature Program at Harvard. His book manuscript in progress, tentatively titled Island and Empire: The Civil War in Crete and Rise of Modern Protest in the Ottoman World, 1895-1912, seeks to reassess the history of the late Ottoman Empire through the lens of an island, with particular attention to the themes of violence, displacement, autonomy, and protest.