Basak Tug

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2018/2019
discipline History
Assistant Professor in History, Istanbul Bilgi University

Research project

Gender, Legal Practice and Modernity in the Ottoman Empire, ca. Late 18th- Mid 19th Centuries


Despite the fact the association of sexuality with honour was not a novel phenomenon for Ottoman society, the “violation of honour” (hetk-i ‘ırz) is one of the most frequently encountered concepts in eighteenth-century Ottoman legal documents. The recurring presence of this concept in official correspondence, especially between the central power and Ottoman subjects, represents the development of new parameters concerning relations between the early-modern state and its subjects, as expressed in moral terms. The Ottoman central government’s claim to protect the honour of its subjects reflects a dialogic process in which subjects started to use new types of legal terminology to request the intervention of the state in local matters that threatened their well-being.


The present project argues that such a relationship or claim over honour began to establish a state-society relationship based on citizenship rights over the protection of life, honour and property well before the so-called reform era, which as most scholars maintain, began with the Tanzimat Edict of 1839. Analyzing this continuity in the Ottoman legal discourse on honour, this project aims to trace continuities and changes in Ottoman governmental and punitive techniques over moral order, from the mid-eighteenth century to the early decades of the Tanzimat era, namely the 1840s and 1850s. Thus, it aims to investigate how gender and sexualities of the Ottoman subjects were contested and reshaped according to changing constitutional arrangements in this transition.


My research has three interrelated focuses. First, I investigate the correlation between legal discourse on honour and morality on the one hand and the legal practices governing sexual order on the other. This nexus will enable me to observe the social and gender implications of legal encounters between imperial political power and the sultans’ subjects. I will explore this dimension through the study of legal practice in the courts. I will focus on the shari‘a courts and the councils, which multiplied over time with the Tanzimat reforms.


Secondly, I take a closer look at the punitive order through a comparison of eighteenth-century legal documents with the criminal codes of 1840, 1851 and 1858, introduced in the Tanzimat era. Here I can build on my previous study of the new legal discourse incorporated in the legal codes and imperial edicts of the nineteenth century (Tuğ 2014). In so doing, I explore continuities and ruptures in the surveillance techniques of the Ottoman imperial government. Finally, I scrutinize the appellate system, which, loosely defined emerged in the eighteenth century, as apparent from the anecdote above: in the 1700s, people began to forward their petitions to provincial governors and higher-level judges asking for their supervision of the decision of local judges. By concentrating on the gradual shift from a loosely defined appellate structure to a more bureaucratized and hierarchized one, this project aims to analyze the governmental technologies of the Ottoman state and thus gain an understanding of the nature of political power when transiting from an early-modern structure to a modern one.




Basak Tug is Assistant Professor of History and M.A. Program Director of the History Department at the Istanbul Bilgi University. She holds a joint PhD in History & Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies from the New York University. 

Selected publications


Politics of Honor in Ottoman Anatolia: Sexual Violence and Socio-Legal Surveillance in the Eighteenth Century, Brill, Leiden/Boston, 2017.


'Gendered Subjects in Ottoman Constitutional Agreements, ca. 1740-1860', European Journal of Turkish Studies [online journal], vol. 18, 2014.


'Gender and Ottoman Social History', International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 2, 2014, pp. 379-381.


'Ottoman Women as Legal and Marital Subjects', in C. Woodhead (ed.), The Ottoman World, Routledge, London/New York, 2012, pp. 362-377.


'Tarih ve Toplumsal Cinsiyet' ['History and Gender'], in F. Saygılıgil (ed.), Toplumsal Cinsiyet

Tartışmaları [Gender Debates], Dipnot Yayınları, Ankara, 2016, pp. 33-49.



senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline Linguistics
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline Anthropology
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline Political Science