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Full Access Vows as Contract in Ottoman Public Life (17th-18th centuries)

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Vows as Contract in Ottoman Public Life (17th-18th centuries)

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Starting sometime in the seventeenth century, vows (nezir, Ar. nadhr) began to be used in the central lands of the Ottoman Empire as a means to seal contracts of a public nature. Although these vows were similar to the more common and older forms of customary compacts that also pertained to public matters, vows had a better defined status in sharia and could entail worldly liability in addition to moral/religious obligation. Using court records and fatwa collections, I argue that vows exemplified the expansion of legality and control of the state over custom and morality, as well as the recognition of a customary device of contract and its penetration into the legal sphere. On a secondary level, I also provide new material on contemporary political culture and the question of legal pluralism in the Ottoman context.

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