Hearing the voiceless-seeing the invisible: orphans and destitute children as actors of social, economic, and political history in the late Ottoman Empire
Maksudyan, Nazan (2008) Hearing the voiceless-seeing the invisible: orphans and destitute children as actors of social, economic, and political history in the late Ottoman Empire. [Thesis]
This dissertation is on the orphans and destitute children of the late Ottoman Empire and their role in various aspects of social, economic, and political history. The attempt is to see and hear these essentially invisible and voiceless actors, since the testimony of children provide an alternative gaze to different and unnoticed discourses and developments of Ottoman reform period. In the nineteenth century, unprotected children attracted the attention of the state, provincial governments and municipalities, the non-Muslim communities, and the missionaries. The motivation and discourse, on the one hand, was related to the desire to save children from the dangers to which they were prey, such as losing or being alienated to one's ethno-religious identity, being sold into slavery, sexual abuse and exploitation, juvenile criminality, prostitution, health problems, death, conversion, and apostasy. More importantly, these threats were targeting the public, political, and economic order of the society. The attention towards orphans and destitute children was also related to the opportunities they offered: these children were seen as candidates to become laborious workers, ardent nationalists/citizens, or staunch converts/believers. It was this hidden potential that placed the orphans at the center of significant social and political controversies of nineteenth century. The dissertation, taking a different group of destitute children as the protagonist in each chapter foundlings, foster daughters, inmates of industrial orphanages (ıslâhhanes), and orphans of an ethnic conflict elaborates upon various aspects of Ottoman modernization, such as urbanization, welfare policies, growth of urban child labor, imagined statehood and nationhood, from within the agency of children.
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