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This article explores the responses of Sephardi Jews to two moments of heightened tension and politicized violence in the Ottoman Empire during the late 19th century—the massacres of Armenians in Istanbul in 1896 and the Greco–Ottoman War of 1897. It argues that many of the strategies of representation that Jewish elites employed during these moments speak to their ability and willingness to work within a framework of Islamic Ottomanism. Recognizing this pattern complicates scholarly assumptions about the relationship of religious minorities to the deployment of state religion in general and about the responses of non-Muslims to the Hamidian regime's mobilization of Islam more specifically. Identifying the pattern is not to celebrate it, however. Sephardi Jews' relationship with Islamic Ottomanism was in many cases deeply ambivalent. Finding themselves torn between civic and Islamic forms of imperial identification during this period, Ottoman Jews soon learned that both positions could entail uncomfortable choices and disturbing consequences.

Corresponding author
Julia Phillips Cohen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History and the Program in Jewish Studies, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.; e-mail:
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Robert Crews , “Empire and the Confessional State: Islam and Religious Politics in Nineteenth-Century Russia,” American Historical Review 108 (2003): 5083, 57

Janet Klein , The Margins of Empire: Kurdish Militias in the Ottoman Tribal Zone (Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2011)

Mustafa Aksakal , “Holy War Made in Germany? Ottoman Origins of the 1914 Jihad,” War in History 18 (2011): 184–99, 199

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies
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