One of our professors, Dana Sajdi, a Palestinian-Jordanian, told a fascinating story today about her grandfather. He and her parents had difficulty understanding each other, because her parents were committed Pan-Arabists. Her grandfather, however, saw himself in a much more cosmopolitan light. He even continued to wear the fez, which her parents seemed to think was a little backward. Through her studies, however, Professor Sajdi has begun to interpret the Ottoman Empire as in some senses a critique of nationalism and has more sympathy with her grandfather’s identity as an Ottoman subject. Her father remains very critical of the “Turkish occupation” as he conceives of it, but Professor Sajdi argues that, while not romanticizing the empire, its characteristics in its last years is not how it would have been experienced across its history.
As she mentioned later in reference to Andalusian Spain, one can think of Ottoman history at times as a kind of convivencia, though she does note that one can overdo that reading both in the Ottoman and in the Spanish contexts.
This strikes me as an interesting question for students of the Middle East – to what extent can the Ottoman Empire be read as an anti- or post-nationalist model?