leisure and sociability in Ottoman Istanbul
Since their introduction in the mid-sixteenth century, coffeehouses have arguably been the most important sites of adult-male sociability in Istanbul, the capital city of the Ottoman Empire. This chapter analyses their long term history in a comparative and transnational perspective. Throughout their long existence, Ottoman and Europeans coffeehouses fulfilled many similar functions. They were places of leisure and information exchange where men met, passed on news, played games, told stories to each other and conversed in the semi-private spirit of a public setting. They also served as places of commercial activity, where deals could be arranged; of occupational activity, where labour could be hired and practitioners of different professions and trade sell their services; and nodal points of migration networks where new immigrants found temporary and even sometimes permanent shelter, and established contacts in setting up a new life in urban centres. Coffeehouses, however, also served as spheres of political opinion making and resistance – both in highly visible and more subtle ways. In what ways did Ottoman coffeehouses differ from European coffeehouses, and what transnational flows of influence can be detected here?
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