Anna Vakalis

Crime and Intercommunal Relations in Ottoman Macedonia, 1839-1876

The 19th-century reform-period of the Ottoman Empire, known generally as the Tanzimat, has been studied mainly from the perspective of state institutions introduced by a bureaucratic elite with the intention to modernize and centralize the state. Under the new premises of the “rule of law” and equality for all ethnoreligious groups, as well as a new ideology aiming at uniting all the subjects of the Empire (known as Ottomanism), the state tried to answer to new demands, as well as to legitimize a higher degree of governmentality and intrusion into the subjects’ everyday life.

What we miss though in this narrative is a contextualized account of what repercussions this kind of reforms had on the Empire’s provinces and especially on the lower social strata. Thus, in my PhD I focus on the local mixed courts (in which Muslims and non-Muslims participated both as judges and as litigants) established firstly during the Tanzimat (that is, after 1840), which were operating next to the traditional sharia courts. The novel practice of holding lengthy interrogation protocols established by these courts offers us the raw social data we need in order to analyze the reactions of the subalterns to the Tanzimat, informed by theoretical approaches such as history from below and subalterns’ theory. I hereby focus on the cities of Selanik and Manastir in Ottoman Macedonia, each of which was populated by a different synthesis of the millets (ethnoreligious groups). Penal cases mainly of banditry and sedition against the state adjudicated by these newly established local courts are thereby analyzed in order to understand how lower social strata reacted to radical changes in their relationship to the state as well as among various millets.

Supervisor: Maurus Reinkowski


Anna Vakalis, German-Greek, received her BA from the Dep. of Journalism and Mass Media Communication of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and her MA in history from the Ataturk Institute of Modern History from the Boğaziçi University in Istanbul. Her MA-Thesis is titled “Agreements and Friendship between Greece and Turkey in 1930: Contesting Nationalist Discourses and Press Reactions”. Since 2008 she is a PhD student of Prof. Dr. Maurus Reinkowski, initially at the University of Freiburg in Germany, and, following the change of the supervisor’s affiliation, at the University of Basel since 2013. In the academic year 2011-2012 she hold the position of lecturer of Turkish Language at the Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Basel. She commands of Greek and German (both native speaker), English and Turkish (fluent command), Arabic (intermediate reading ability) and Ottoman Turkish (good reading ability of matbu and rika). Her academic interests deal with the social history of the Ottoman Balkans in the 19th century, the formation of Greek and Turkish nationalism, as well as historiographical currents of postcolonial theory in the framework of Ottoman history.

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