A Second Channel of Imperial Participation
As I have noted, the aghas, mansions, family lines, and parties point to a society within, rather than against, the state. In later chapters, I will undertake a step-by-step demonstration of this theory of the imperial system. First, however, I must address an issue that has loomed ever larger as I have moved toward my conclusion. I have argued that Osman Pasha faced the necessity, which was also an opportunity, of retaining the aghas as his assistants and intermediaries. They were at the same time more dangerous than any kind of anti-state clan-society but also more useful, precisely because they represented social formations oriented toward the state system. But if this was the case, what exactly was the foundation of these social formations in terms of everyday interpersonal interactions and association? By the previous arguments, it would appear to have arisen from participation in the imperial system, and given the nature of the imperial system in question, it would have some kind of connection with Islamic belief and practice. So representatives of peoples of different backgrounds, Turkic, Kurdish, Lazi, Armenian, and Greek, would have come to constitute a regional social oligarchy by a process of Islamization. That is to say, they would have turned away from parochial customs and habits and turned toward the universal norms of the imperial system.
I must now confess that I had become aware of a second avenue of local participation in the imperial system at an early stage of my fieldwork. Scores of religious academies, hundreds of religious professors, and thousands of religious students had once been scattered through the villages of the district of Of. All these academies, professors, and students had been officially recognized by the imperial religious establishment before going underground some years after the declaration of the Turkish Republic. There were then two separate channels by which the inhabitants of the district of Of had once participated in the state society of the imperial system. That of the aghas, mansions, family lines, and parties was linked with the military and administrative establishment, while that of the teachers, schools, and students was linked with the religious establishment.