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The City as a Historical Actor: The Urbanization and Ottomanization of the Halvetiye Sufi Order by the City of Amasya in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries


This dissertation argues for the historical agency of the North Anatolian city of Amasya through an analysis of the social and political history of Islamic mysticism in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Ottoman Empire. The story of the transmission of the Halvetiye Sufi order from geographical and political margins to the imperial center in both ideological and physical sense underlines Amasya's contribution to the making of the socio-religious scene of the Ottoman capital at its formative stages. The city exerted its agency as it urbanized, "Ottomanized" and catapulted marginalized Halvetiye Sufi order to Istanbul where the Ottoman socio-religious fabric was in the making.

This study constitutes one of the first broad-ranging histories of an Ottoman Sufi order, as a social group shaped by regional networks of politics and patronage in the formative fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A prosopographical approach to the earliest Ottoman biographical works on Sufi orders brings the regionalist coloring in the rivalry between major Sufi orders to the fore. The ancient socio-political rivalry between two Anatolian regions surfaced in the strife between different Sufi orders in the socio-religious scene of the nascent imperial capital Istanbul. One of the contending Sufi orders, the Halvetiye was the product of the north central Anatolian city of Amasya. At the outset of the fifteenth century, the local landholding practices in Amasya in combination with contemporary political developments resulted in the proliferation of a particular type of Sufi architecture and the concurrent urbanization of Sufi activities. In the first half of the fifteenth century, the Halvetiye Sufi order, which originated in the rural areas of Azerbaijan, was appropriated by the city and assumed an urban identity. In Amasya, the Halvetiye, which was challenged by more established urban orders elsewhere in the Islamic world, found a safe haven and established its first contacts with the Ottoman elite. The final phase in the "Ottomanization" of the Halvetiye order took place in the second half of the fifteenth century. During the succession struggle of the late fifteenth century, the Halvetis joined a political faction led by Prince Bayezid (d.918/1512) who eventually succeeded to the Ottoman throne. Through association with one of the contending political parties via Halvetiye order, Amasya made a bid for influence in the socio-religious domain in the Ottoman core lands, especially in the imperial capital at its formative period.

This dissertation concludes by problematizing the modern perception of the early Ottoman Anatolia as unified and monolithic, and a backwater to the rising Ottoman world. In so doing it attempts to shift the formative process of the Ottoman polity from the "core lands" covering Western Asia Minor and Southern Balkans to the Anatolian provinces.

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