Conférence
Notice
Langue :
Anglais
Crédits
Şeyma Afacan (Intervention)
Conditions d'utilisation
Droit commun de la propriété intellectuelle
Citer cette ressource :
Şeyma Afacan. IFEA-GD. (2016, 30 mars). Idle Souls, Progressive Brains: Dissemination of scientific views of man in the second half of the 19th century with a critical approach to ‘Ottoman materialism' , in Sciences et savoirs dans l'Empire ottoman. [Vidéo]. Canal-U. https://www.canal-u.tv/114047. (Consultée le 22 février 2024)

Idle Souls, Progressive Brains: Dissemination of scientific views of man in the second half of the 19th century with a critical approach to ‘Ottoman materialism'

Réalisation : 30 mars 2016 - Mise en ligne : 30 mars 2016
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Descriptif

How do we make sense of the promotion of a literature on brain physiology in a reductionist and materialist fashion as the solution to Ottoman economic and technological deterioration? What does the circulation of mechanistic conceptualizations of human nature such as ‘man as a machine’, ‘brain as a fabric’, and ‘mind as a clock’ as parts of a ‘mind industry’ (sanayi-i akliye) tell us? ‘The brain is a new talisman’, said Abdullah Cevdet. It was the key to making progress, while the soul was time consuming, idle, and irrelevant to the burning economic problems in his interpretation. Starting with a glimpse into medical modernization and wide circulation of popular science literature in the second half of the 19th century, this paper discusses the role of materialism in the process of the dissemination of scientific views of man in the late Ottoman Empire. In the mainstream historiography, Ottoman materialism has been presented as the nucleus of Westernization, secularization, anti-Islam and Turkish state ideology. This ideologically loaded literature casts a shadow on more direct uses of those texts and neglects authors’ attempts at silencing anti-religious content of materialism. This paper instead shifts the center of focus of Ottoman materialism from allegedly hidden political and ideological agendas to more immediate down to earth concerns about economic and technological deterioration. By providing a close reading of the masterpieces of Ottoman materialism written by medical doctor and prominent intellectual Abdullah Cevdet between 1890 and 1917, it deciphers a list of new conceptualizations such as mind training (idman-ı dimağ), mechanism (mihaniyet), universal determinism (icabiye-i külliye), mind industry (sanayi-i akliye) and mind evolution (tekamül-i dimağ) in relation to the late Ottoman modernization. Ultimately it suggests an alternative interpretation of the use of materialism: Against the backdrop of the rise of liberal economic thought in the late Ottoman Era, human body and the soul became objects of progressive discourses to be understood, simplified and shaped. In this framework the soul was considered to be idle, while the brain was suitable for a design. Here lays one of the most important implications of writing about brain physiology in a reductionist and materialist fashion: subjecting Ottoman individuals to progressive projects.

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