The Proper Order of Things
Language, Power, and Law in Ottoman Administrative Discourses
Heather L. Ferguson


Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: The Structure of Empire and a Grammar of Rule
chapter abstract

This chapter draws on Katip Çelebi's Düstūrü'l-'amel li ıṣlāhı 'l-ḥalel, or the Guiding Principles for the Rectification of Defects, to outline how attention to genre, to the relationship between conceptual models and administrative practice, to the role of sultanic authority as an anchor for imperial order, and to the significance of comparative historical analysis offers an alternative approach to Ottoman state-making in the early modern period. It further suggests that the "middle years" of the state might best be understood as a tension between principles of universal rule and the practices designed to entice and co-opt regional elites into a coherent sociopolitical order.

1 The Sovereign State: Spatial and Textual Politics in Early Modern Eurasian Courts
chapter abstract

This chapter demonstrates that qualities once thought to be unique to the Ottoman confederation were of a piece with other imperial strategies to affirm the power of the court amid disparate territorial domains. The chapter builds a basis especially for thinking about the relationship between an expanding bureaucracy, a new set of spatial protocols within an established palatial seat, and the textual habits that extended authority outside the palace confines. It draws on comparisons with the Habsburg court in Spain, addresses the emergence of a hierarchical imperial chancery, and outlines features of the scribal culture that play a key role in the book as a whole. It draws on diverse chroniclers, early kanunname, imperial expenditures, and sultanic edicts in various forms to trace these dynamics between the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries.

2 The State of Stability: The Kanunname as a Genre for Administrative Governance
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This chapter shows how diverse practices of land management and competing legal traditions gradually cohered into an imperial program of revenue generation. It argues that the process of crafting and dispersing kanunnames (legal regulations) was also a process of genre creation, whereby taxation schemas not only naturalized social relations but also became actionable frameworks for both state and nonstate agents. Both their form, as an expression of dynastic authority, and their content, as an assessment of tax obligations and privileges, serve to illustrate the mechanism whereby Ottoman dynasts asserted a new sovereign law amid competing legacies of land management and sought, ultimately, to generate a stable vocabulary for sultanic intervention. It engages with the meaning of "lawmaking" within Muslim-based polities, addresses its adaptation within the Ottoman context, and reflects on the evolution of the kanunname in the reigns of Mehmed II, Bayezid II, Selim I, and Süleyman I.

3 The Bureaucratic State: Reforming Documentary Practices
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This chapter analyzes the emergence of new cohorts of bureaucrats under Süleyman I and an expanded jurisdiction for sultanic authority. His reign marked a shift from hybrid to hegemonic administrative, textual, and linguistic practices and demonstrated the coincident importance of military, legal, and textual campaigns. The chapter follows the legal activities of Süleyman's head chancellor, Celalzade Mustafa, and şeyhülislam Ebu's-Su'ud Efendi, as they addressed increasing competition with rivals such as the Habsburgs and the Safavids and contributed to an administrative reorganization intent on asserting sultanic rights to resources. This led, as one example, to a new mechanism for registering imperial affairs, the mühimme defteri (things of import), which "captured" the varied activities of the administration. Collectively, the copies of daily transactions recorded in the mühimme illustrate an effort to conform regional diversity to an ideal of imperial order, and to co-opt political factions capable of subverting dynastic authority.

4 The Brokered State: "The Past Is No Longer the Present" in the "Land Between the Rivers"
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This chapter presents the northern "external frontier" of Buda and the occupied Hungarian territories as the fulcrum in which new strategies of governance and imperial display emerged. The chapter argues that rival Ottoman and Habsburg imperial claims each increasingly relied on linguistic manipulations to assert jurisdictional power. It further explores the way in which clear boundaries were never certain but rather were constantly asserted through diplomatic letters and surveillance tactics ever more reliant on imperial translators. While typically assayed in terms of the "limits" of Ottoman expansion, here Buda and the Hungarian territories become the crucible for an emergent framework of imperial sovereignty. The chapter relies on edicts dispatched to the governors of Buda, as well as their letters sent in turn to Habsburg authorities, and illustrates the fraught nature of Ottoman territorial claims.

5 A State of Rebellion: The Reterritorialization of Ottoman Sovereignty in Greater Syria
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This chapter moves to an "internal frontier" in Greater Syria and the province of Trablus-ı Şam and addresses a long military and administrative campaign beginning in 1585 to reinstate order in a rebellious territory. The chapter traces the imperial response to dissident rebels in the desert and coastal highlands by focusing on the Sayfa family, whose activity as regional governors indicate how difficult it was for the Ottoman establishment to police the boundaries between rebel and official. The Sayfas moved in and out of favor with the Ottoman court, relied on their own uneven alliances to extend power, and acted sometimes in concert with, and sometimes in direct opposition to, imperial commands. The chapter thus traces imperial efforts to "reterritorialize" or reinstate sovereign power but highlights how imperial claims to revenue remained contested despite military ventures into the territory.

6 On the Perfect State: An Ottoman Vision of Order
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This chapter focuses on the link between medieval political theories and a flourishing Ottoman intellectual engagement with ideas concerning a perfect order of governance from within a sense of crisis. This crisis was driven by an increasingly mobile population, regional rebellions, and global climactic and monetary shifts that together challenged the "fundamentals" of Ottoman administrative order. It traces examples of a mode of political analysis, distinct from advice-giving, that linked justice to proper governance rather than to religion or to the sultan. The chapter demonstrates that Ottoman literary producers of the seventeenth century, while apprehensive of change, became innovators themselves and revived rational modes of political critique in the process. It further highlights how seventeenth-century scholar-bureaucrats came to focus on the archival past of the state itself and located Ottoman power in methods of record keeping. Ultimately they sought to restore a commitment to textual transparency.

Conclusion: The Archiving State
chapter abstract

A key methodological reflection, the conclusion addresses distinctions among documents, registers, and the methods of categorization by both Ottomans and Ottomanists. It further posits a key connection between the "space of the empire" and the "space of the text," and thus between legal and territorial authority. Finally, it addresses significant shifts in the horizon of political practice in the Ottoman empire post-seventeenth century dynamics. Together, the chapters and conclusion of The Proper Order of Things illuminate the intersections of sovereign claims, bureaucratic organization, administrative practice, and the textual habits that produced sultanic authority through a documentary record that served as the baseline for analytic reflection by Ottomans and Ottomanists alike.