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Dr Başak Tuğ


Friedrich Meinecke Institut

Koserstraße 20
14195 Berlin

Başak Tuğ received her Ph.D. in the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies & History from New York University in 2009. Since then she is teaching in the History department at İstanbul Bilgi University. She published Politics of Honor in Ottoman Anatolia: Sexual Violence and Socio-Legal Surveillance in the Eighteenth Century (Brill) in 2017. Her book investigated the sexual and moral order established through the legal surveillance of sexual violence in mid-eighteenth-century Anatolia. Her new book project explores how the legal codification of ‘honor’ in the nineteenth-century Tanzimat criminal codes has been reflected in the configuration of the Ottoman Empire’s new gendered subjects and family. She is an editorial board member of Journal of Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association (JOTSA), Indiana University Press, since November 2018. She has previously been a fellow of Research Center of Anatolian Civilizations (RCAC) at Koç University in 2006-2007, and of Europe in the Middle East, Middle East in Europe (EUME) at Forum Transregionale Studien in 2013-2014. She was a fellow of Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in 2018-2019. She receives Gerda-Henkel research grant for 2019-2020.  

Gender, Legal Practice and Modernity in the Ottoman Empire, Late 18th to mid-19th Centuries

Although the association of sexuality with honour was not a novel phenomenon for Ottoman society, the "violation of honour" (hetk-i irz) is one of the most frequently encountered concepts in eighteenth-century Ottoman legal documents. The recurring presence of this concept in official correspondence represents the development of new parameters concerning relations between the early modern state and its subjects, as expressed in moral terms. The Ottoman central government's claim to protect the honour of its subjects reflects a dialogic process in which subjects started to use new types of legal terminology to request the intervention of the state in local matters that threatened their well-being.

This project argues that such a relationship or claim to honour began to establish a state-society relationship based on citizenship rights to the protection of life, honour and property well before the so-called reform era that began with the Tanzimat Edict of 1839. Analysing this continuity in the Ottoman legal discourse on honour, this project aims to trace continuities and changes in Ottoman governmental and punitive techniques of moral order, from the mid-eighteenth century to the early decades of the Tanzimat era, namely the 1840s and 1850s. Thus, it aims to investigate how the genders and sexualities of Ottoman subjects were contested and reshaped in accordance with changing constitutional arrangements in this transition.

My research has three interrelated focuses. Firstly, I investigate the correlation between legal discourse on honour and morality, on the one hand, and the legal practices governing sexual order, on the other. Secondly, I take a closer look at the punitive order by comparing eighteenth-century legal documents with the Tanzimat criminal codes of 1840, 1851 and 1858. In so doing, I explore continuities and ruptures in the surveillance techniques of the Ottoman imperial government. Finally, I scrutinize the appellate system. By concentrating on the gradual shift from a loosely defined appellate structure, which emerged in the eighteenth century, to a more bureaucratized and hierarchized one of the nineteenth century, this project aims to analyse the governmental technologies of the Ottoman state and thus gain an understanding of the nature of political power when transiting from an early modern structure to a modern one.

Selected publications:

Politics of Honor in Ottoman Anatolia: Sexual Violence and Socio-Legal Surveillance in the Eighteenth Century, Brill, Leiden/Boston, 2017.


'Gendered Subjects in Ottoman Constitutional Agreements, ca. 1740-1860', European Journal of Turkish Studies [online journal], vol. 18, 2014.


'Gender and Ottoman Social History', International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 2, 2014, pp. 379-381.


'Ottoman Women as Legal and Marital Subjects', in C. Woodhead (ed.), The Ottoman World, Routledge, London/New York, 2012, pp. 362-377.


'Tarih ve Toplumsal Cinsiyet' ['History and Gender'], in F. Saygılıgil (ed.), Toplumsal Cinsiyet Tartışmaları [Gender Debates], Dipnot Yayınları, Ankara, 2016, pp. 33-49.

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