The Majlis is pleased to announce next session, 'Red Lights on the Black Sea: The Traffic in Women between Russian and Ottoman Empires'
In the early twentieth century, Russian consular officials in Istanbul declared that they had discovered a 'vast' traffic in women from the tsarist empire to the Ottoman capital, and declared their intention to suppress it. Claiming extraterritorial privileges based on the infamous Capitulations, they raided brothels in Galata and Pera and intercepted arriving boats in efforts to repatriate women and apprehend accused traffickers. At the same time, they framed Ottoman officials as either unable or unwilling to end the 'traffic', mobilizing an Orientalist rhetoric that evoked kidnapped Circassians and the (already-abolished) Ottoman slave trade to assert their rights over Russian subjects abroad. In this way, Istanbul became a flashpoint a the broader fin-de-siècle trafficking panic, in ways that had implications not only for Russian-Ottoman relations but also for the broader regulation of mobility to and from the city.
In this discussion, we will examine the efforts to suppress the 'traffic in women' from Russia to the Ottoman Empire in the early twentieth century, and ask:
• Why was the Ottoman Empire a particular focus of European concerns about 'trafficking' in this period?
• What role did shifting ideas about gender and agency in both the Russian and Ottoman empires play in the attempt to identify and repatriate trafficked women in Istanbul?
• What can the efforts to suppress trafficking tell us about changing understandings of consular jurisdiction in the Ottoman Empire, in the context of the 'legal imperialism' of extraterritoriality?
Joining us for this Majlis is Dr. Philippa Hetherington is Lecturer in Modern Eurasian History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London. She researches and teaches the cultural, social and legal history of imperial Russia and the early Soviet Union in global and transnational context. She completed her PhD in 2014 at Harvard University, has been a visiting research fellow at the University of Sydney in 2015 and 2017, and in 2019 will be an inaugural research fellow at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Uppsala University in Sweden. She is currently finishing a book that examines the emergence of 'trafficking in women' as a specific crime in turn of the century Eurasia, and links this to the development of international humanitarian law, migratory regimes, and imperial governance.