April 13, 2016, 12:00pm
From Beys to the Bourgeoisie: Literary Assemblies, Enlightenment Societies, and Shifting Cultural Geographies in the South Caucasus
Presenter: Kelsey Rice
Location: NELC Conference Room, 847 Williams Hall 255 South 36th Stree Philadelphia PA

From the 18th -19th century Turkic intellectual life in the South Caucasus was based around the courts of the various khanates that ruled the region. Intellectuals, who were typically court functionaries, religious teachers, and elite merchants, organized themselves into literary assemblies, where they shared poetry and music and engaged in philosophical debates. By the late nineteenth century the oil boom in Baku re-centered commerce and culture in the region, and wealth and intellectual capital left the mountainous khanates for the Caspian seaside city. A new, literate, bourgeois population appeared in the cities of the region. Many members of this class were reform-minded, and founded enlightenment societies as one of the primary means to mobilize efforts of cultural reform. The legacy of the literary assemblies of the past loomed large in the work of these enlightenment societies, whose members viewed cultural figures from the mid-century as elder statesmen in the project of reforming culture. This presentation traces the dramatic cultural shifts in the nineteenth century South Caucasus, revealing the continuities and changes that occurred in this period of intense cultural production and debate.

About the Speaker: Kelsey Rice is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania. In the academic year 2014-2015 she conducted research in Baku, Azerbaijan and Istanbul, Turkey for her dissertation "Crossroads Intellectuals: Literary Assemblies and Enlightenment Societies in Late 19th and Early 20th Century Azerbaijan" with the support of American Councils for International Education and the Social Science Research Council.