Isa Blumi

Stockholm University

Isa Blumi (PhD from NYU and MA/BA the New School for Social Research) works for the Department of Asian, Middle East and Turkish Studies at Stockholm University. Combining supervision of MA and PhD students at various universities, Dr Blumi continues research and writing on a wide range of themes. His latest book, Destroying Yemen (University of California Press, 2018) accounts for the recent violence in South Arabia. Other publications include Ottoman Refugees (Bloomsbury, 2013) extends his research into Ottoman global dispersion over the 1878-1930 period into migrations to the Americas. Foundations of Modernity (Routledge, 2012), Reinstating the Ottomans (Palgrave, 2011) and Rethinking the Late Ottoman Empire (ISIS Press, 2003) made theoretical and methodological pleas for scholars to look beyond specific Area Study genres. Aside Blumi published numerous articles on both the Balkans and larger Middle East covering the entire period from 19th century to the present. Dr. Blumi taught at universities in Belgium, UAE, USA, Canada, Germany, Albania, and currently at Stockholm University. He was a visiting professor at the American University in Washington (2005-2010) and recently at Toronto University, Senior Research fellow at Leipzig University (2010-2013), and visiting professor Graduate Institute in Geneva (2013).

Unsettled History

Recovering the Ottoman Context in World War I Migration Patterns

My contribution explores the ways people recover and renew their Ottoman roots in contexts of temporary or permanent (re)settlement caused by war. As the origins of World War I extend to at least the Balkan Wars of 1912, and likely moves beyond the mid-1920s (again in the Balkans and Anatolia, which experienced related violence still), this study engages with newly forged histories of survival and transformation in disasporic settings that are fluid and rapidly changing.

The claim is that by observing formerly Ottoman communities over the lifespan of World War I, especially as they move constantly to find settlement because of violence, we may discover new questions (and thus have far less answers) about a globalizing, but not homogenizing, world order that once took the form of multi-ethnic empires.

As it was once widely assumed that heterogeneous societies like of Ottomans were destined to disappear due to irresistible economic and political forces—History—clashing identity claims would complete the work of destruction set in motion by cultural contact and colonialism.

But many diasporic groups with some lingering Ottoman references persisted, be it in Europe, the Middle East, or beyond. As refugees, settlers, migrants to all corners of the world, the presence of Ottomans complicates familiar narratives of modernization and progress as it pertains to  those who survived World War I.

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