CEMAL KAFADAR IS NOT AN IDEOLOGUE, BUT A HISTORIAN AND A SCIENTIST WHO CARES TO BASE EACH WORD OF HIS ON CONRETE DOCUMENTS AND RESEARCH.
Cemal Kafadar begins to his book titled ‘Who Has Been in Here While We were not’ (4th Edition, 2012, Metis Publishing) by stating that, “…Each essay that you are going to read is a production of confusion.” Ottoman is still full of many astonishing details for scrutinizing historians. If we approach the Ottomans without our prejudices and ideological guidance; then, we will realize that the Ottomans have been treated superficially, based on no evidence, most of the time through accusing and insulting generalizations until today. That is why Cemal Kafadar is confused. As if ‘Who Has Been in Here While We Were Not’ is written to prove the wrongness of such behavior against the core criticism for the Ottoman historiography before anything else.
Cemal Kafadar is not an ideologue, but a historian and a scientist who cares to base each word of his on concrete documents and research. The documents that he has accessed and examined regarding the spoiling of the Janissary organization show how groundless were the arguments on the involvement of the Janissaries in trade and the negligence of their military tasks in order to purchase property, the absence of biographical works in the Ottomans or the Ottomans’ detachment from the world. In fact, the Janissaries were involved in trade before the end of the 16th century, which is pointed as the period of stagnation. Moreover, not only the Janissaries but also many administrators and military men among the royal officials were involved in trade, then. Therefore, this argument, which is brought forward as a valid acceptation, is in fact disappointing and not reliable. Kafadar talks about Hüseyin Çelebi who was killed in Venice where he went for trade in the 16th century. He also gives examples of many other Ottoman traders. He gives too many examples that one begins to question how anyone could think that the Ottomans were detached from the world after numerous imports. Hüseyin Çelebi is a mohair trader from Ayaş. After he dies in Venice, his uncle sells his assets before the Muslim witnesses, pays for his debts, and buries him. He has someone to record all these actions. What would a Muslim Turkish trader who is on his way to sell mohair in Venice pack? Kafadar finds some clues in this list of items related to foreign trade behaviors of the Ottomans and he interprets them, because this journey is not the kind that one can overcome before mastering it.
By looking at his articles titled “Me and Others” and “The Dream Book of Asiye Hatun of Skopje” where he questions ‘Is there any autobiographic work in the Ottomans?’ we can tell that Cemal Kafadar has a fine view that arrives in what is cultural from what is financial and in what is political from what is literary; also he has a concern to evaluate persons, documents, and events in a multidimensional way. “The Dream Book of Asiye Hatun” is an interesting and colorful work, which spins the codes of the Ottoman culture in a way to astonish everyone. Cemal Kafadar tries to untie the financial and cultural knots that are omitted until today in “Who Has Been in Here While We Were Not.”