October 1 Event: Lecture on Ottoman Law by Guy Borak

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Time: 4-6 pm

Place: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 318

Lecture Title: Evidentiary Truth Claims, Imperial Registers (Defters), and the Ottoman Archive: Contending Legal Views of Archival and Record-Keeping Practices in the Ottoman Empire (17th-19th centuries).

This talk reconstructs a debate between Hanafi jurists who operated throughout Ottoman Syria.

Abstract: Greater Syria (and beyond) from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries concerning the evidentiary status of the Ottoman imperial registers (defters). At the center of the jurists’ debate is the permissibility of using imperial registers as independent, uncorroborated evidence. It was a debate about who had the right to regulate and determine what constituted an authentic evidential document: while some jurists argued that it was almost exclusively the privilege of the jurists, others were willing to concede this authority, at least in part, to the Ottoman dynasty and its bureaucracy. Furthermore, I contend that the debate about the evidentiary validity of the defters captures the complex relationship between Ottoman dynastic law and the Hanafi fiqh discourse. Finally, the debate sheds light on the legal “defterization” of other types of documents and texts, such as a chronicle (ta’rīkh) and court records (sijill).

Bio: Dr. Guy Burak is the Middle East and Islamic Studies Librarian at NYU’s Bobst Library. He received his Ph.D. from NYU’s joint program in History and Middle East Studies. He is the author of The Second Formation of Islamic Law: The Hanafi School in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2015). His articles appeared in The International Journal of Middle East Studies, Comparative Studies in Society and History, The Mediterranean Historical Review, and The Journal of Islamic Studies. He is currently working on a monograph on the history of Qanun/Kanun in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman Middle East and is co-authoring a book with Jonathan Brown on the post-classical history of the Mazalim jurisdiction.