Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

History

First Advisor

Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet

Abstract

This dissertation examines the role ethnic Azeri enlightenment societies in the Southeastern Caucasus played in the broader movement of secular modernist reform throughout the Muslim world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century. These societies, which published literature and periodicals, founded schools, built reading rooms, and sponsored musical and dramatic performances, were the primary means through which intellectuals in Azerbaijan mobilized projects of cultural reform. Starting in the mid-nineteenth-century almost every significant Azeri artist and intellectual was involved in these societies to some degree, either as active members or through benefiting from society patronage. Azeri reformist intellectuals were ambitious in their scope, and through the circulation of their periodicals, touring theater troupes, and the involvement of several leading Azeri figures in the constitutional movements in both Iran and the Ottoman Empire, they enjoyed influence well beyond the Turkic south Caucasus, reaching throughout the Ottoman Empire, Iran, and Central Asia. Analyzing a unique body of sources that include literary works, handwritten manuscripts, unpublished memoirs, periodicals, society account books, and correspondences, I illustrate the value of looking to so-called peripheries for more acute insights into the nineteenth and early twentieth-century logics of modernist reform and transformation in the Middle East. I also consider Azeri cultural reform movements in a global context of urbanization and cosmopolitanization, which lead to the creation of ethnic cultural spaces and aided in the rise of national identities. This dissertation also reconsiders the relationship between religious and secular intellectuals in Muslim societies, arguing that it was characterized not only by contention, but also negotiation, compromise, and intellectual exchange.

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