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The Ruler’s Monologue: The Rhetoric of the Ottoman Penal Code of 1858

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The penal code of 1858 was an important step in Ottoman legislation during the reform period (tanẓīmāt) and had a considerable impact on the concept of the state as the guardian of public order. Through the 20th century the penal code of 1858 was generally interpreted as a “(literal) translation” of the French Code Pénal of 1810 and as evidence for the “western influence” on Ottoman legislation. Recent research has started to question this interpretation, focussed more closely on the normative aspects of the Ottoman penal code and analysed the penal code of 1858 as an adaptation of French law within the context of the Ottoman legal concepts during the tanẓīmāt. In my article I analyse the text as a part of political communication, as a monologue by which the state adresses its subjects. Even if large parts of the Ottoman penal code are translations from the French, the rhetoric patterns and terminology have to be taken seriously. The amalgamation of traditional rhetorics and a new terminology turns out to be a successful strategy to legitimise new legal concepts, which include a new relation between ḳānūn and şerīʿat. In my article I will argue that the state’s traditional role as the guardian of public order is the starting point for the introduction of these new legal concepts.

Affiliations: 1: Zürich


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