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Alexis Rappas (Koç U, Istanbul, Turkey)

Statelessness and Translocality: Property Transfers in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Interwar Period

CAS Public Colloquium | Wednesday, 16 December 2015  | 03:15 pm
Date: Wednesday, 16 December 2015  | 03:15 pm - 04:45 pm
Location:  Centre for Area Studies | Thomaskirchhof 20 | 04109 Leipzig, Germany
Organization: Centre for Area Studies (U Leipzig, Germany)
Language: English

Summary:
The talk by Alexis Rappas, assistant professor for history at Koç University (Istanbul, Turkey), will give a first insight into his new research project that examines the transformation of property regimes in the Eastern Mediterranean at the time of imperial transitions, namely when Ottoman provinces passed under European colonial rule.


Abstract:
A vast literature has documented the key role of intercommunal violence, population transfers and the reallocation of confiscated property in the consolidation of mutually exclusive national identities in the interwar successor states of the Ottoman Empire. Despite their analytical sophistication however, these studies adopt for the most part a statocentric perspective on the nationalization of identities in the Eastern Mediterranean. This article revisits this narrative by highlighting the initiatives of Christians and Muslims defying the political identities assigned to them by the Greek-Turkish 1923 Treaty of Lausanne with a view to preserve their properties. Settled in the Italian-controlled Dodecanese, these historical actors leverage on the fascist authorities’ colonial anxieties regarding their contested sovereignty in the recently (1912) occupied Dodecanese and on the Mussolinian government’s objective to bolster its political prestige in the broader region. By so doing this article argues that these Christians and Muslims become co-creators of a new “Aegean” or “minor Italian” citizenship positioning them at the apex of the Italian interwar colonial hierarchy. Challenging the axiomatic correspondence between political identity and territoriality in the historiography on the nationalization of senses of belonging in the interwar Eastern Mediterranean, this article thus highlights phenomena of “translocality.” To the extent in which the Italian government borrows more from an “imperial” rather than “national” repertoire to defend internationally the interests of their subjects, this paper further questions the normative historiographic opposition between “colonial empire” on the one hand and “nation” on the other as two mutually irreconcilable and incommensurable political formations.

Biographical Note:
Alexis Rappas is assistant professor for history at Koç University (Istanbul, Turkey). The general theme of his research is the impact of European colonial rule in post-Ottoman settings, 19th–early 20th c. His book, Cyprus in the 1930s: British Colonial Rule and the Roots of the Cyprus Conflict (2014), explores British experiments at social and cultural engineering in Cyprus and how such attempts polarized the Cypriot landscape, setting the stage for the island’s violent decolonization in the 1950s. His talk is a first inroad into his new research project which examines the transformation of property regimes in the Eastern Mediterranean at the time of imperial transitions, namely when Ottoman provinces passed under European colonial rule.