Towards a Relational Sociology of Imperial Sovereignty and Transnationality: The Formation, Transformation, and Co-Constitution of American Educational Projects in the Late Ottoman Empire

N. Yasemin Bavbek, Brown University

How are transnational movements and institutions implicated in processes of state formation and inter-imperiality? How are transnational educational institutions shaped by, and in turn shape, localities in which they are embedded? This paper seeks to address these broad questions through analyzing the formation, transformation, and co-constitution of the educational institutions of the American Board of Foreign Missions in late Ottoman Empire Asia Minor (1878-1923) in three parts. By focusing on the interaction between the Ottoman state, American empire, and the Protestant evangelical networks, I elaborate a) how missionary educational projects are formed; b) how they are transformed in interaction with imperial legal frameworks and the parallel projects of supporting networks/institutions; and c) how they become implicated in the state educational projects of the polities in which they operate. First, I suggest that the peculiar amalgamation of religion, science, and developmentalism within Board projects in Asia Minor is shaped by proximity to and embeddedness in New England philanthropic and educational institutions, interested in transnationally replicating their educational models. Second, I argue that how these projects were practiced and implemented on the ground is shaped by the changes in the Ottoman Empire’s framework of religious stratification. Lastly, I seek to understand how the Ottoman educational model transforms in interaction with this transnational movement. I propose a relational approach to the triad of the sovereign-foreigner-subject under imperial regimes, arguing that the relationship between the sovereign and the foreigner is also embedded in the relation between the sovereign and its subjects. These relations are in turn constitutive of forms of sovereignty. In adopting a relational approach to the historical sociology of inter-imperiality and transnational processes, I join the project of global historical sociology (Go & Lawson 2017) in examining the co-constitution of the “transnational” and the “national” through a historical relational analysis.

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 Presented in Session 42. Education and the International