The real and the imaginary thresholds of ottoman subjectivity

Taştan, Coşkun
This work examines the nature of frames that restrict our perspectives and thus give birth to such sociological entities like societies, communities and nations. How is the dualism of “inside-outside” created on sociological and psychic levels? More importantly, what instruments play what kind of roles in the creation of that dualism? Examining the formation of Ottoman subjectivity as a case, this study gives original answers to these questions. The psychoanalytic theory, which opened a new methodological domain for the social sciences in the past century, productively accommodated a good amount of works on these questions. Sigmund Freud’s pioneering works on the dynamics of human psyche and Jacques Lacan’s theories of human subjectivity played important roles in the improvement of this domain. Beginning from the second half of the past century, discussions on identity and belonging, as well as such furious social questions as nationalism, racism and xenophobia, have been held in the light of the new approaches of psychoanalytic theories in the field of social sciences. In this sense, this study can be seen as a part of those approaches, because methodologically, it bases itself on the opportunities offered by a particular psychoanalytic theory, namely, that of a French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan. I pick up two of Lacan’s productively scrutinized concepts, namely the “real” and the “imaginary”, to develop a particular perspective towards this question: How is the dualism of inside-outside created in different contexts throughout the Ottoman history, so that this dualism could give birth to Ottoman subjectivity? Taking the two Lacanian concepts as a base, I analyze the instruments that play the role of “thresholds” in the formation of the dualism of “inside-outside”, under two general headings: The “real thresholds” and the “imaginary thresholds”. To put in a very brief manner, a “real threshold” is born out of any material obstacle that puts restrictions of any kind to the abilities of human body (natural obstacles like mountains, rivers and oceans, as well as designed obstacles like any object of war architecture, for instance, fall into this heading). Imaginary thresholds, on the other hand, are the “images of selves” that reflect back to us on the social ground, just in the same manner as our mirror-images come back to us and provide us with a subjective feeling of self (like the diplomatic texts and the mythologies). Although I borrow the two Lacanian terms (i.e. real and imaginary) to build up a theory of thresholds, I do not hesitate to bend and reshape those concepts whenever necessary, to build the conceptual tools into a rather ergonomic manner.


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Citation Formats
C. Taştan, “The real and the imaginary thresholds of ottoman subjectivity,” Ph.D. - Doctoral Program, Middle East Technical University, 2010.