CRCC scholar publishes book “Communications in Turkey and the Ottoman Empire-A Critical History”
While there is a wealth of studies that attempted to de-westernise and de-colonise media and communication studies, their impact on historical thinking and writing has been minimal. However, the core of West-centrism is historical; its normative assumptions rely on a history that is written with the Global South in absentia. To overcome the West-centric imperial logic in the discipline, we should take history seriously.
A new book, titled Communications in Turkey and the Ottoman Empire by Dr Burçe Çelik, a member of the CRCC and the Media, Memory and History group is available now by the University of Illinois Press. The book aspires to provide a critical and evidential longue durée history of communications from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries. In doing so, it seeks to challenge the historical pillars of West-centric media and communications studies. It brings together political economic and social history research. It draws on resources collected through archival research, including the Ottoman/Turkish, British and US collections as well as oral history research with dozens of communicative agents in the country. Whilst the book largely focuses on telecommunication networks from electronic to digital communications, it does not adopt a medium-specific approach. In the book, the author considers communications holistically to include infrastructures, information media, corporations, state, and non-governmental institutions, meaning structures, the labour force, and service users. This holistic approach not only helps to avoid media-centric analysis (a common approach in media and communication studies) but also enables us to situate networks within the unity of life experience that is geopolitical and socially mediated. In contrast to the dominant internalist narrative in West-centric historical works, the book traces the changing role of communications in social relations and the geopolitics of communications relationally.
The history of communications in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey contradicts the belief that communications are a by-product of modern capitalism and other Western forces. This is a trajectory that begins with the rise of modern communications in the context of the non-capitalist modernity of the late Ottoman Empire and the early republican period and continues in parallel with the country’s transition from full-fledged capitalism in the early Cold War era to today. The book shows how this historical change brought about the commodification and militarization of communications in unprecedented ways and how this historical transformation has affected the production and practice of communications, especially for oppressed populations like women, the working class, and ethnic and religious minorities.
According to Burçe Çelik, the author of the book, it is the first book in English that provides a longue durée history of communications from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries in the Middle East. Given that regions such as the Middle East and Africa do scarcely appear in historical research in media and communication studies, the book explores an almost uncharted territory. The book has been praised as a must-read by Cees Hamelink, University of Amsterdam: “Burçe Çelik’s book is a superbly documented contribution to the geopolitics of information. For all those interested in a non-Western perspective on global communication, it is an absolute must-read”.
The book is published by the University of Illinois Press, which is a highly prestigious publisher, particularly in the field of media and communication studies. It is part of the Geopolitics of Information book series edited by the leading scholars Dan Schiller, Yuezhi Zhao and Amanda Ciafone.
Bio: Dr Burçe Çelik is a Reader in Media and Creative Industries. She teaches modules on media industries and social identities and media. Dr Çelik is the Programme Director for all taught programmes in the Institute for Media and Creative Industries at Loughborough University. She is also a member of CRCC in the Media, Memory and History group.