Istanbul's Pleasures Revealed
A delightful aspect of eighteenth-century Istanbul was vividly outlined
in the lecture organized by the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies
(CAMES) that was held at AUB's West Hall on December 17 by Assistant Professor
Shirine Hamadeh of Rice University.
The talk, illustrated by informative slides, expounded on the historical
notion of public space, with special reference to the streets of Istanbul
in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In describing her book
on Istanbul, The City's Pleasures: Istanbul in the 18th Century, Hamadeh
elaborated on the larger context of urban life during that era, including
the social order and its effect on the scope and nature of public life.
Departing from the "westernization" image as expressing the
loss in Ottoman self-confidence following the empire's decline, Hamadeh
argued that the eighteenth century architectural developments "were
fueled, first and foremost, by internal circumstances, namely transformations
in the social order." As discussed in her book, Hamadeh explained
how urban form and architecture became involved in the construction and
the representation of that change in social order, marking what is known
as the early modern period.
Throughout the lecture, Hamadeh described how decorative forms and novel
architectural patterns uncovered and enhanced the "internal dynamics
between a society in great flux, an urban middle class growing in vigor,
and a state anxious to reassert its visible presence and authority in
Hamadeh, who was an undergraduate student at AUB in architecture, completed
her PHD at MIT in 1999. She has published in Muqarnas, the journal of
the Society of Architectural Historians and received several awards (including
the 1999 Malcolm Kerr Best Dissertation Award), two fellowships, and a
Getty Foundation postdoctoral research grant in 2005-06. She is currently
working on a new book on the streets and urban life of early Istanbul.