Dissertations – Madness and Empire: The Ottoman Asylum, 1830-1930

Photo: Female mental patients in the Istanbul Toptasi Asylum. Date of the photograph unknown, possibly 1910s.
Source: Mazhar Osman, Sıhhat Almanakı, Istanbul: Kader Matbaasi, 1933.

Burcak Ozludil Altin: Madness and Empire: The Ottoman Asylum, 1830-1930

“The institutionalization of medical practice marks a noteworthy chapter in the modernization of the Ottoman Empire, as “madmen” started to be perceived as treatable “patients.” This dissertation is mainly concerned with an overarching question: what happened once the “old” ways of dealing with the insane started to dissolve in the Ottoman Empire? It analyzes major shifts in social, cultural, political, economic realms, and within medicine andpsychiatry that were shaped and affected by this change in the hundred years between 1830 and 1930. Nevertheless, if Ottoman modernization sheds light on the modernization/medicalization of mental institutions, modernization of Ottoman mental institutions provides us with a novel angle to understand Ottoman modernization.

The topic brings together architecture, urbanscape, and mental health care in an interdisciplinary approach that analyzes the building type, which was considered instrumental in treatment. Reformers transformed the imperial hospitals located in royal complexes into asylums increasingly formed around “medical” expertise through the reorganization of space and time. The modernization of mental institutions became closely linked to new perceptions of mental illness and its “scientific” treatment, the latter interlocked with the design of asylums.

02 Toptasi_Ward
A new ward in the Toptaşı Asylum.
Source: Osman Nuri Ergin, Müessesat-ı Hayriye-yi Sıhhiye Müdiriyeti (Direction Generale de l’Assistance Publique de Costantinople), Istanbul: Matbaa-yı Arşak Garoyan, 1911.

Spatial analysis occupies a central role in this study in an attempt to discuss how change happened on the building scale and the urban scale. By tracing the movement of patients within the city, the dissertation explores the organization and reorganization of the mental health care system. By tracing the movement of patients within the building, the dissertation analyzes the theory and practice of psychiatry in addition providing a window into the daily life of mental patients.”

Burcak Ozludil Altin did her PhD at the joint Urban Systems Program at Rutgers University and New Jersey Institute of Technology and defended her dissertation on November 14, 2016. She currently works and teaches at the College of Architecture and Design at NJIT.
Contact: bozludil@njit.edu


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