Separating Myth from Reality Ottoman Women, Myth and Reality
Last weekend was for LA Times Festival of Books which Pacifica Institute invited the calligrapher Aydin Cayir. Pacifica Institute had another guest this time for the luncheon forum the following day of the Festival of Books where the motto goes as Celebrating the Written Word.
Author Asli Sancar gave the audience a general description of the Ottoman Women carefully separating the myth from reality. Sancar is an author and lecturer on women’s issues. Born and raised in the US, she has lived in Istanbul for nearly a quarter of a century and has been studying the role of women in the Ottoman Empire for about 10 years. She is a frequent lecturer on the subject and has published two books and numerous articles about women and the family. By means of European travelers’ report and court records, Mrs. Sancar examines the orientalists myth of Harem.
This was the second time at Pacifica Institute; an author was invited to the Luncheon Forum Series after Dr Reza Aslan.
In her speech, Asli Sancar gave detailed information of what kind of rights the Ottoman Women had, how they were respected in the court of law. She added that around 40% of the general population, women had property. Mrs. Sancar examined carefully the role of women from the 13th to the 20th century. In the 1660s, according to a report of the Sultan’s archive, the education in the elementary school level was widespread among the women. The Harem especially served as a kind of institute of learning. The administration was taken care of by the ladies raising through the ranks by being educated in Harem for nine years. Mrs. Sancar added that most of the writings of Harem consists of European travelers’ record of their fantasies since they could not have access to Harem, she said there is no way that these records be trustworthy due to this simple fact. What prompted the author to start writing her book was her studies in Istanbul Turkey and her daughter’s access to the original European records of Harem in English more than a century ago in McGill University-Canada. Over the years, the author successfully compiled her work and made it available to the readers hoping that her work be a bridge between the academic work (which is usually not accessible to the general reader) and the public.
After the luncheon forum, Turkish Calligrapher Aydin Cayir calligraphed the names of the guests inside the ebru (water marbling) colored frames.