This paper explores the early modern Ottoman public sphere through the concept of "piety," a potent identity marker that projected social and moral authority. In Ottoman towns, piety functioned as a social paradigm denoting approval and significance in a vibrant urban culture that relied on "the pious" for various functions such as dispensation of justice, informal education, upward mobility, and everyday sociability. This paper presents, for the first time, a sociocultural analysis of the discursive uses of "the pious of the community" as a consistent, shared expression of a public sphere that negotiated moral authority vis-a-vis the state sphere. Two understudied biographical dictionaries that list "the pious" from approximately sixty Ottoman cities provide a full sense not only of who "the pious" were, but also of their role in organizing urban social life and imbuing it with moral and political meaning. The authors of these biographical collections were provincial judges, which provides the article a unique vantage point for questioning the state-society dichotomy. Instead of this dichotomous view, this article posits a public sphere that grew out of local social organization around state functions. These local communities inhabited a public sphere that simultaneously overspread and transcended the material city.


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pp. 66-95
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