Topkapi

May 28, 2008 at 8:12 am Leave a comment

Standing in the second courtyard of Topkapi Palace, I realized these students were getting an unparalleled introduction to the Ottoman Empire. Leslie Peirce, professor at NYU and author of The Imperial Harem, was explaining the process by which young men were brought to the Ottoman palace and trained to enter the service of the state–and the courses their careers might follow after that.

In the process, she outlined the religious, civil, and military structures of the Ottoman empire. She is an amazing teacher: enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and a terrific story-teller. But it wasn’t only a lecture: we got to hear the stories as we walked through the kitchen, the throne room, the harem–stores of intrigue and of murder, of the process of justice and the inheritance of power. So the ooh-aah! that always comes with seeing the gorgeous tile walls and the over-decorated audience rooms now had content: this is where real people (well, real royal people) engaged in personal and political behavior that steered the course of this long-lived empire.

William, Leslie and I stopped in at Otag Muzik Merkezi after lunch to buy a Central Asian CD she had heard at a friend’s house. Up two flights in an old building on Divan Yolu we met Yaşar Güvenç, who sells musical instruments and specializes in Central Asian, sufi and music therapy CDs. He told us about a Tatar music festival at Sultan Ahmed Square on Friday and invited us to bring the students on Thursday evening for what sounds like a jam session on the top floor of his building. The students, apparently always eager for new experiences, seem delighted at the prospect.

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Thoughts on Teaching (suite) Trains, Ottomans and Modernizers

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