-The authors address the problem of the powerful state and Orthodox Islam that prevented all leisurely, pleasurable activities, describing them as “hedonistic,” banning them, and ultimately issuing a fatwa against coffeehouses. These reactions were at odds with a rising consumer driven culture that favored luxury items and enjoyed spending time talking, discussing poetry and politics and most importantly, drinking coffee. Consumer culture in the 16th and 17th centuries in Ottoman society came to spark resistance of the state. The authors attempt to discern how the consumers and the state and religious society eventually came to terms with one another.
-Alternative sites for Ottoman Muslim men, who formerly spent all of their time in work, the mosque and home.-Ritualistic pursuit of leisure with specific artifacts, particular participant roles, an informal script and an audience-Leveler: allowed people from different ranks to meet-Neutral Ground: for social gatherings in contrast to the host-guest relationship at homes-Sociopleasure: enjoyment people share when they get together (for Ottoman Urbanites especially)-Physiopleasure: relaxation and refreshment (sometimes accomodating illicit pleasures of frivolous sexuality and drugs)-Ideopleasures: mentally intensive literary or academic experiences
Leisure as Escape-Using plays and Sufi discourse to persuade people in power (state officials, religious leaders)Leisure for the Sake of Poetry-Poetry as admirable and worthy of attentionLimiting Leisure-men spend limited time at coffee-houses due to their work ethic. They are there just because the coffee is good, not to relax.
Early Modern Ottoman Coffeehouse Culture and the Formation of the Consumer Subject
Early Modern Ottoman Coffeehouse Culture and the Formation of the Consumer Subject Eminegul Karababa and Guliz Ger
1. What problem are the authors addressing?• The State and Religion vs. Rising Consumer Class• Goal: To reexamine the “active consumer” that is currently thought of as a product of 20th century, western culture. The authors attempt to assert that today’s consumer is actually a result of 4 centuries of consumer culture that originated in Ottoman society.• Thesis: Due to the popularity of coffee and coffeehouses as a leisure activity in the 16th and 17th centuries, the practices of consumers and marketers challenged the state and religion through discursive negotiations and resistance, thereby convincing them to reform their opinions of coffeehouses.
2. What evidence do the authors present?• They use historical research and data sources, such as: Ottoman historical literature, decrees, fatwas, festival books, various poems, books, travelers’ notes, drawings, etc.• They trace the connection between a Consumer Subject-the Coffeehouse and-the Public Sphere• They ask-Under what conditions did an active consumer come to be?• “We focus on the dialogic relationship between the pursuit of pleasure and religious morality.”
Ottoman Consumer Culture: 16th and 17th Centuries• Ottoman Consumption Patterns Change – Urbanization and Commercialization picked up speed, upward and downward mobility increased, urban popular culture emerged and disparities in religious norms, which defined appropriate ways of consumption, surfaced. • “Ascribed identities could no longer persist” given these transitions. – The origins of Ottoman consumer culture are the circumvention of sumptuary laws; increase in amount of possessions and purchases; interest in comforts rather than just necessities; spread of consumer luxury goods to masses; and the interactions among various consumer cultures.• Sumptuary Laws – Issued by the State to maintain social and economic order, prevent sinful conduct and avoid waste. – Prohibition of Coffeehouses: wasteful, against Islamic work-ethic – They are circumvented beginning in 16th Century. (Perhaps indicating a widespread use of consumer goods?)
Ottoman Consumer Culture: 16th and 17th Centuries• Increase of acquisitions is evidence of the spread of consumption in urban areas.• Personal and Household possessions were no longer limited to the elite, which is consistent with the fluid social structure that allowed interaction of people from difference classes. – Cheaper versions of luxury items available• Leisure activities were democratized and commercialized- popular sites included: coffeehouses for men, bathhouses for women. – Site of production of goods or entertainment shifts from the home to the market. – Change of tastes and preferences spread via ports and trade cities from East to West – Ottoman Coffeehouse traveled to early modern Europe- reconstructed in various cultures and seen as a “global leisure site.”
Ottoman Coffeehouse Culture: 16th and 17th Centuries• 1550s in Istanbul-first 2 coffeehouses launched by entrepreneurs from Aleppo and Damascus – Alternative Sites/ “Fourth Place” – Ritualistic – “Leveler”/”Neutral Ground” – Socio, physio, ideo pleasures
Ottoman Coffeehouse Culture: 16th and 17th Centuries• Public Sphere – Habermas: “a discursive sphere where people from different parts of the society get together and engage in debates about matters of mutual interest, thus forming public opinion, and if possible, reaching a common judgment about a debate.” – Ottoman coffeehouse = Ottoman public sphere – State considers them to be places of resistance
Ottoman Coffeehouse Culture: 16th and 17th Centuries• Multiple Discourses-shape the practices of coffeehouse guilds, the State, and religious institutions – Pleasure-Paradise purchased in the coffeehouse, pleasure sought and found in a commercial site – Orthodox Islam-Coffeehouses are Immoral, Illegal (Fatwa issued and also banned by Sultan) – Sufi Islam-drinking coffee is a Holy activity, diffusion of Sufism in the culture makes the discourse pervasive, potent – Health-Harmful or Beneficial activity? Fatwa by Bostanzade affirms coffee as a beneficial drink (releasing pain, preventing vomiting, sharpening thinking, preventing sleepiness, etc.)
Ottoman Coffeehouse Culture: 16th and 17th Centuries• Resistance/Transgressions-imply an active consuming subject• “The diversity of the discourses provided the potential for subjects to define themselves as consumers of leisure and the coffeehouse as a legitimate site of leisure.”• Consumers’ Three Unofficial Discourses/Tactics: • Leisure as Escape • Leisure for the Sake of Poetry • Limiting Leisure• “Concurrent with the transformation in the state and the religious institution, the consumer subject who resisted the order and was active in defining self-ethics was normalized through interactions within the newly emerging public sphere.”
Ottoman Coffeehouse Culture: 16th and 17th Centuries• Consumers: – Poets: Gulami, Ata, and Belig. They reveal that the practices and tactics of consumers were not bound by their social positions. Men from different social classes consumed coffeehouses in unprescribed or unexpected ways. • Gulami: 16th century poet of slave origin, known for an addiction to narcotics and seen in coffeehouses in a state of drowsiness. He eventually completed theological school and became a member of the ruling class. • Ata: a court physician who spent most of his time in the coffeehouse as if it were his home->even a person close to the palace and with an education based in orthodox Islam could transgress the work ethic and become a coffeehouse regular. • Belig: a janissary, famous poet and known for merging transgressive tactics with the dignified joys of poetry, which was unexpected for a janissary. – Consumers could combine their own personal tactical resistances to define their particular manner of coffeehouse consumption. – “It is clear that many did not accept the moral codes but instead constructed their own ethics.”
Ottoman Coffeehouse Culture: 16th and 17th Centuries• Transformation of the State and the Religious Institution – Coffeehouse owners and their guilds’ resisted political and religious authority by retaining their businesses despite bans and punishments. – The state’s inconsistent conduct signals its concession to negotiating with the consumer and the marketer. – Coffeehouses economic input: taxes levied upon the sale of coffee shifts the role of the market from maintaining social order to generating state revenue. – 2nd Fatwa legitimated coffee consumption-used a secular, rational reasoning (coffee does not make people drunk, and its health benefits) and this led to the lifting of all bans against coffee in the 17th century.
Ottoman Coffeehouse Culture: 16th and 17th Centuries• To sum up:• “The formation and normalization of Ottoman coffeehouse culture and its consumer subject rest on the fundamental tension between Ottoman man’s pursuit of socio-, ideo-, and physiopleasures and his pursuit of morality.”• “This reveals a transformation from an obedient (sultan’s) subject to a consuming subject who resists order and utilizes alternative discourses to define his own pleasurable practices and self-ethics.”• “What was regarded to be appropriate about coffee, coffeehouse, leisure and pleasure was defined by market relations instead of religion.”• Consumer and Coffeehouse Culture were enabled by: – Emergent Public Sphere – Multiple Discourses – Consumer-Marketer Alliance in Resistance – Increasing flexibility of political and religious governance
Discussion Questions• In what ways has coffeehouse culture evolved since the 16th and 17th centuries? Would you still consider it a public sphere?• How do consumers engage in rebellion today in order to achieve leisure, pleasure, and luxury items that are at odds with the state?• How and when did women start getting portrayed as the dominant “consumers”? Is this a global phenomenon or culture?