© Daniel Vegel


Tijana Krstic, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of History

Central European University, Budapest

Born in 1975 in Belgrade
Studied History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


The Fashioning of a Sunni Orthodoxy and the Entangled Histories of Confession-Building in the Ottoman Empire, 15th-18th Centuries

How and why did the Ottoman Empire evolve from a 14th-century polity where ambiguity between Sunnism and Shiism prevailed into a state concerned with defining and enforcing a "Sunni orthodoxy" by the early 16th century? What were the social consequences of this process and who were its agents as well as its discontents between c. 1450 and 1750? Was this phenomenon in any way related to the religio-political developments in other communities in the Ottoman Empire and beyond during this period? During my Fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg, I plan to co-author a monograph together with my colleague Derin Terzioglu that would sum up the results of our five-year-long research into these questions. We argue that the Ottoman engagements with the Sunni tradition and attempts to define a Sunni orthodoxy and orthopraxy were decisively shaped by the changing political and intellectual dynamics of post-Mongol Eurasia and the Ottoman experience of empire-building. However, they were also in dialogue with the dynamics within non-Muslim, especially Christian communities, both in the Ottoman Empire and beyond (via missionaries, converts, and all sorts of "trans-imperial subjects"), which were, in turn, informed by the new push to articulate confessional orthodoxies in the wake of the Reformation. In our book, we make a case for an "entangled history of confessional polarization" that spanned early modern Eurasia, and we explore its social consequences in different communal and geographical settings across the Ottoman Empire. Our goal is not only to shed light on the nature of these entanglements in the Ottoman context, but also on how they affect our understanding of early modern history and the role of religion in this era. My own research explores normative genres, such as Ottoman Sunni catechisms, sermons, and anti-Shii polemics to examine how "Sunni-ness" was defined and taught by various Ottoman authors, as well as how the discourses on "true" faith and "correct" practice were embedded in various strands of the Ottoman debate on moral authority and imperial governance. At the same time, I also study Sunni, Shii, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant catechization strategies, as both social and textual practices, shedding light on the dialogue and "borrowing" among various agents of confession-building who were active in the Ottoman Empire.

Recommended Reading

Krstic, Tijana. "State and Religion, 'Sunnitization' and 'Confessionalism' in Süleyman's Time." In The Battle for Central Europe: The Siege of Szigetvár and the Death of Süleyman the Magnificent and Miklós Zrínyi (1566), edited by Pál Fodor, 65-91. Leiden: Brill, 2019.
-. Contested Conversions to Islam: Narratives of Religious Change in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011.
-. "Illuminated by the Light of Islam and the Glory of the Ottoman Sultanate: Self-Narratives of Conversion to Islam in the Age of Confessionalization." Comparative Studies in Society and History 51, 1 (January 2009): 35-63.

Publications from the Fellows' Library

Krstic, Tijana ( Leiden, Boston, 2019)
State and religion, "sunnitization" and "confessionallism" in Süleyman's time

Krstic, Tijana ( Edinburgh, 2017)
From Shahāda to 'Aqīda : conversion to Islam, catechisation and sunnitisation in sixteenth-century Ottoman Rumeli

Krstic, Tijana ( New York, NY [u.a.], 2009)
Illuminated by the light of Islam and the glory of the Ottoman sultanate : self-narratives of conversion to Islam in the age of confessionalization

Tuesday Colloquium01/21/20