Sacred sites, severed heads and prophetic visions

  • Claire Norton
Keywords: Ottoman Empire, historical narratives, military campaigns, literary practices, identity, miraculous events, severed heads


Employing Dagenais’ performative model of textual production and his notion of ethical reading, this article analyses how scribal re-inscription and intertextual references to kesik-baş (severed head) and menakibname (accounts of heroic and miraculous deeds) effectively foreground or elide the prophetic dreams and miraculous saint-like powers of an Ottoman commander in a corpus of early
modern Ottoman gazavatname (campaign) manuscripts. In doing so, they demarcate very different spiritual and political geographies, and reflect a tension between a hero who reflects a more imperial state-centred vision of loyalty and one who appeals to audiences who geographically, politically or religiously are positioned on the periphery. To this end, the depiction of the prophetic and miraculous powers of the commander can be read as a commentary on the post sixteenth-century process of bureaucratization and confessionalization that took place in the Ottoman Empire.