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Beyond the Sunni-Shiite Conflict: The Ottomans and the Safavids in the Early Modern Era

Fri, Oct 24, 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
Social Science Research Commons, 200 Woodburn Hall



Organizers: Kaya Şahin (Indiana University, Bloomington), Erdem Çipa (University of Michigan)


On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Çaldıran/Chaldiran, we are convening a two-day workshop to be hosted by Indiana University, Bloomington, on October 24-25, 2014. Our aim is to explore the political, military, cultural, and religious tensions that defined the Ottoman-Safavid relationship from ca. 1500 onward.

Despite the intensity of their relationship, the Ottomans and the Safavids are typically studied in isolation, and the various dimensions of their rivalry have been assigned relatively marginal importance within the context of the larger histories of these two empires. We believe it is time to revisit the Ottoman-Safavid interface in order to problematize several issues through individual presentations and discussion sessions. Issues to be explored are the ‘confessionalization’/construction of Sunni, Shiite and Alevi identities; the impact of the conflict on different communities and polities from the southern Caucasus to the Persian Gulf and beyond; the emergence and significance of frontiers (geographical, cultural); and the significance of a literary culture shared by both empires.

The workshop is open to the public. The location is the Social Science Research Commons, 200 Woodburn Hall, 1100 East 7th Street, Bloomington, IN.


Day 1/October 24, 2014


9 AM-9:15 AM: Opening remarks

9:15-10:00: Colin Paul Mitchell (Dalhousie University): “‘Battles Decide Everything’: Chaldiran and Change in Early Safavid Iran”

10:00-10:45: Ahmet Karamustafa (University of Maryland): “In His Own Voice: What Khata'i Tells us about Shah Isma’il”

10:45-11:00 Coffee/tea break

11:00-11:45: Kaya Şahin (Indiana University-Bloomington): “Ottoman-Safavid Frontiers, Real and Imagined”

Noon-2 PM: Lunch break

2-2:45: Sabri Ateş (Southern Methodist University): “Hudud al-Islam: The Notion of Frontier in Ottoman-Safavid Relations”

2:45-3:30: Ayfer Karakaya-Stump (College of William & Mary): “Defining the Polity by its Boundaries: The Anti-Kızılbash Campaigns as a Catalyst of Ottoman Confessionalization, 16th and 17th Centuries”

3:30-4:30: Discussion


Day 2/October 25, 2014.


9:30-10:15: Paul Losensky (Indiana University, Bloomington): “Methodological Considerations for a New Comparative Study of Ottoman and Persian Poetry”

10:15-11:00: Sholeh Quinn (University of California, Merced): “Universal Chronicles and Early Ottoman and Safavid Persian Historiography”

11:00-11:15 Coffee/tea break

11:15-noon: Guy Burak (New York University): “Beyond the Shi‘i-Sunni Divide: Dynastic Law/Qanun and ‘Orthodoxy’ in the Ottoman and Safavid Empires”

Noon-2: Lunch break

2-2:45: Ron Sela (Indiana University, Bloomington): “The Flight of Khorasani Intellectuals to the Chinggisid Courts of Central Asia, 1500-1550”

2:45-3:30: A. Azfar Moin (University of Texas, Austin): “The Politics of Shrines in Mughal, Safavid, and Ottoman Empires”

3:30-4:30: Discussion


We gratefully acknowledge the support of the following: Mellon Innovative Workshop Grant, Office of the Vice Provost for Research; College Arts and Humanities Institute; Ostrom Grants Program, College of Arts and Sciences; Department of History; Islamic Studies Program, at Indiana University, Bloomington.