DepositConversations: The Journal of Cavellian Studies, no. 5

Politics seems bound up with questions of the ordinary and everyday as opposed to the extraordinary. This may be a Cavellian way of articulating the problem of political praxis, i.e., the point at which theory “becomes” action, but notice, at least in Cavell-speak, which way the trajectory flows. The Wittgensteinian charge to bring language back from holiday could be construed as a search for political or real-world praxis but not at the point where theory becomes action, but where theory is, in a sense, forgone or put on hiatus for the sake of action. Yet how to prescribe such a hiatus or forgoing, say, theoretically? The banal charge to “simply do,” or to say, “this is simply what I do,” seems not much better. These essays wrestle with such issues. We have gathered them here, for the sake of coherence, under the thematic moniker of “politics,” as our call for papers explicitly solicited explorations of Cavell and the Aesthetization of Politics. The contributions, nonetheless, are broad and eclectic and address politics and praxis from a number of angles.

DepositFrom Class Solidarity to Revolution: The Radicalization of Arsenal Workers in the Late Ottoman Empire

This article introduces a bottom-up perspective to the history of the Revolution of 1908 in the Ottoman Empire by focusing on the experiences of workers in the Imperial Naval Arsenal (Tersane-i Amire) in Istanbul. Drawing mainly on primary documents, the article explores, from a class-formation perspective, the struggles and relations of Arsenal workers from the second half of the nineteenth century until the revolution. The Arsenal workers’ involvement in the revolution was rooted in their class solidarity, which was revealed in a number of ways throughout this period. The workers’ immediate embrace of the revolution was spurred by their radicalization against the state; such radicalization stemmed from the state’s failure to solve the workers’ persistent economic problems, and its attempts to discharge them and replace them with military labor. The case of the Arsenal workers thus points to the role of working-class discontent in the history of the revolution, a dimension that has thus far been only minimally addressed in Ottoman historiography.