SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

From Istanbul to Addis Ababa: South-South Relations at the Height of Inter-Imperial Competition


Date: 6 December 2017Time: 3:15 PM

Finishes: 6 December 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 4429

Type of Event: Talk

Speaker: Mostafa Minawi (Cornell)

On an early spring day in 1904, an aide-de-camp to Sultan Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1909) by the name of Sadik al-Mouayad Azmzade left on an official journey from the Ottoman capital, Istanbul to the newly established imperial capital of the Ethiopian Empire, Addis Ababa. It took him close to two months to make it to Emperor Menelik II’s (r. 1889-1913) palace that was built on top of a hill overlooking the new city. Azmzade penned a travelogue while on this journey from Istanbul to Marseille, Port Said, and Djibouti by ship; from Djibouti to Dire Dawa by train; and through the mountains to Addis Ababa by caravan. The journey offered a variety of experiences allowing Azmzade ample opportunity to reflect on all that he encountered and the time for introspection on his life as an Ottoman subject who, like others from his generation found himself under the constant judgmental gaze of Europe. As a man who had a front seat to inter-imperial competition and the increasing colonial threat to the empire, his observations while on this trip reflected an existential threat. This threat infiltrated the thoughts and lives of this generation of proud Ottomans who increasingly identified with a Victorian conceptualization of "modernity," while simultaneously having to ward off accusations of being the "backward" members of the body of the so-called "Sick man of Europe."

Working on an annotated translating to this travelogue (from Ottoman-Turkish into English), and carrying out a multi-sited archival research, I attempt to understand this South-South relationship between Istanbul and Addis Ababa at the height of the colonial competition for the Somali coast. This talk will discuss the significance of the Azmzade’s travelogue, and the importance of understanding transcultural interactions in the global south outside of the rubric of European colonizer and non-European colonized.

Mostafa Minawi is a historian of the Ottoman Empire, an assistant professor of history, and the director of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies initiative at Cornell University. His latest, The Ottoman Scramble for Africa: Empire and Diplomacy in the Sahara and the Hijaz, was published by Stanford University Press in 2016.