Of the Soul and Emotions: The Making of Modern Ottoman Subjects

The project investigates a number of conceptual answers to the question "who would the new Ottoman subjects be?" that Ottoman intellectuals suggested in a large corpus of psychological literature under the umbrella of ilm-i ahval-i ruh (the science of the states of the soul, psychology). How could these subjects feel, think, operate, and make decisions? What were their biological and psychosocial limits in relation to collective units and indoctrination supposed to be? Such answers do not only reflect a deeper Ottoman involvement with the introduction of Western psychology, but also a wider map of assumptions about social, political, economic, and ethical issues based on modern psychology - before the early Republican answer took more concrete steps towards a top-down modernization and the formation of a Turkish national identity.

The secondary literature on Ottoman modernization has illustrated intellectual efforts for designing the "new man" – an imagined "Ottoman individual" educated in "new schools" to be in complete harmony with Ottoman modernization - in relation to the formation of national identity predominantly. In doing so it has focused on the process of indoctrination and the dissemination of normative accounts towards the national cause. Drawing on this literature, the book intends to complicate the picture and go beyond what lies beneath the national and religious underpinnings of the imagined "new man". By approaching the debate between materialism and spiritualism as a psychological argument, it aims to display the influence of the scientific and technological changes that shaped the material and intellectual culture experienced by these authors.

By shifting the center of focus of the rhetoric about the "new man" from national or religious identity formation to the pressing concerns about economic and technological progress and to the rising discourse of productivity, this book reveals a deeper Ottoman entanglement with science and technology and a more complex Ottoman inquiry into the conceptual framework of imagined new man. This in my understanding refers to the emergence of new subjectivities in medical and mechanical spheres, new ways of thinking about spiritual subjects and new emotional regimes about emotion control and desire formation; hence the project studies 5 new subjects: medical, mechanical, spiritual, governed and desiring. Such complexity demonstrates that multiple trajectories were possible before national identity formation took concrete forms in a much later context, and that transnational patterns of "constructing the subjects" through psychological studies played an equally important role. Ultimately the project intends to undertake a deeper inquiry into new Ottoman subjects in order to unfold new emotional and psychological regimes in the late Ottoman Empire, of which we know very little.