Eyes in the dark: Nightlife and visual regimes in late ottoman Istanbul

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The limited scholarship on late Ottoman nightlife focused mainly on street lighting and described it as a solution to the problem of darkness, the end of a dark age. However, as Wishnitzer shows in this article, the nightlife scene of the late nineteenth century did not develop linearly from darkened to illuminated nightlife; rather, the two modes of nocturnal leisure coexisted. Likewise, the new ways of “seeing through darkness” that were devised by the state developed alongside (rather than instead of) well-established patterns of communal surveillance. These patterns are evident in contemporary novels, which subjected nightlife to a literary “neighborhood gaze,” exposing and shaming protagonists who violated public morality. In this way, novelists warned against what they perceived to be the perils of the new night and advised their readers how to navigate it—how to be in the modern night without jeopardizing the morality, productivity, and integrity of the individual and of the Ottoman nation as a whole.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-261
Number of pages17
JournalComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Lighting
  • Night
  • Ottoman empire
  • Theater
  • Time

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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