Kutay Onayli

7th-year Ph.D. student
Jones Hall

I study cultural history and literature in the late Ottoman Empire and the early Turkish Republic. My dissertation, tentatively titled the Empire of Rum, is a study of Constantinopolitan Greek discourses on Ottoman history, Rum identity, and imperial belonging from the 1900s to the 1930s. Reaching across (and questioning the borders between) a wide range of literary genres from popular history to pulp fiction and from life-writing to satire, the study aims to show the diverse and evolving ways in which Greek-speaking writers and readers understood what it meant to be Ottoman and Greek in an era of turbulent imperial politics and rapidly shifting boundaries of cultural and political belonging. Some of the questions that guide my research are the following: How did Ottoman Greek writers create in their translations and adaptations of texts in Western European languages (or, for that matter, of non-Ottoman Greek texts) spaces of cultural translation and sociopolitical negotiation? How does a pedagogically and socioeconomically “Westernizing”—and yet a geographically “Oriental”—intellectual sphere adopt and adapt the moods and biases of Orientalist discourse? How are the boundaries between “fiction” and “non-fiction” understood, manipulated, and reconfigured in a non-European quest for self-expression, readership, and authority?

Attempting to utilize a case study of a hyper-specific community to address larger conceptual questions about literature and community on the uncertain geographical and intellectual borders of Europe, I situate my historical-literary study of Ottoman Greeks within the interdisciplinary field of global minority studies. I also employ the theoretical and conceptual toolkit of classical reception studies throughout the dissertation as I investigate how Ottoman Greek constructions of “classical” Ottoman, Constantinopolitan, and even Islamic pasts not only resemble but also interact with receptions and reconfigurations of the Ancient Greek past in Western Europe and the Kingdom of Greece.

Before coming to Princeton, I obtained a BA in Middle East Studies and Comparative Literature from Brown University. Outside of academia, I frequently publish poetry as well as literary translation and criticism in various Turkish-language publications.

Advisor: Şükrü Hanioğlu

Generals Fields: Late Ottoman and Early Republican Turkish History; Modern Greek and Turkish Literature; Minority Studies and the Modern Middle East