Conference "The Age of the Komitadji"

The Age of the Komitadji: Entangled Histories and Political Sociology of Insurgencies in the Ottoman World (1870s-1920s), 22-24 January 2015

The conference “The Age of the Komitadji: Entangled Histories and Political Sociology of Insurgencies in the Ottoman World (1870s-1920s)” is organized by Middle Eastern Studies of the University of Basel and the Turkish Studies Project at the University of Utah. The conference will take place on January 22-24, 2015, at the University of Basel. The conference will examine the komitadji phenomenon within the late Ottoman world and beyond (1870s-1920s). 

Komitadji is a common expression in various languages of the Balkans. The term is originally an Ottoman-Turkish expression, which literally means “a committee man.” Thus, komitadji designates membership to a secret society that strives to bring about radical reform, social revolution, or territorial secession, often with resort to paramilitary violence and clandestine political violence. Though this label is of Ottoman-Turkish origin, the phenomenon itself was shaped by nationalist insurgents in the Balkans. The komitadji phenomenon spread beyond the Balkans towards Anatolia, Caucasus, and the Arab Middle East. Even beyond the Ottoman realms, in the Habsburg, Romanov, and Qajar empires, there were similar or related komitadji insurgencies. 
In each setting, the komitadji phenomenon left behind a distinct culture of revolutionary patriotism and a legacy of militant political engineering. However, the history of the komitadjis is mostly limited to studies of nationalism and narratives of “national awakenings.” The consequence is that methodological nationalism predetermines the bias and limits of the history of insurgencies and counterinsurgencies at the expense of relational and situational contingencies, ideological complexities, and multiple categorical similarities and varieties. 

The growing scholarship in the social sciences on contentious politics and social movements, insurgency and counterinsurgency, and civil wars and collective violence, has only found limited but promising applications to the late Ottoman history. The conference will bring together a number of prominent and promising scholars of the Balkans, Ottoman Turkey, Russia, Caucasus, Iran, and Arab Middle East. In addition to micro case studies from these different regions, there will also be a number of comparative and entangled histories as well as theoretical studies. The papers will deal with the komitadji phenomenon as a distinct political culture and genre of contentious politics within the socio-political framework of the late Ottoman world and beyond.

Prof. Dr. Jack A. Goldstone, Virginia E. and John T. Hazel, Jr. Professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, a renowned specialist on revolutions, social movements, and world history, will open the conference with a keynote lecture.

The conference is sponsored by Turkish Studies Project at the University of Utah, Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Basel, Swiss National Science Fond, Yunus Emre Institute Turkey, Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences, Voluntary Academic Society of Basel, MUBIT Inter-University Doctoral Cooperation in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Basel-Zurich, Graduate School of Social Sciences (G3S) of University of Basel and Osteuropa-Forum Basel.


--> For the conference program, please see here [PDF (1.7 MB)].

Organization Committee

Prof. Dr. Maurus Reinkowski (University of Basel)

Alp Yenen, M.A. (University of Basel)

Dr. Selen Etingü (University of Basel)

Prof. Dr. M. Hakan Yavuz (University of Utah)

Ramazan Hakkı Öztan, M.A. (University of Utah)