Wills, deeds, acts: women's civic gift-giving in Ottoman Istanbul

Isin, Engin and Ustundag, Ebru (2008). Wills, deeds, acts: women's civic gift-giving in Ottoman Istanbul. Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 15(5) pp. 519–532.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09663690802300860


The waqf (plural awqaf) is the Islamic pious endowment founded for charitable purposes. The Ottoman waqf, especially between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, became a gift-giving practice of solidarity in which women played an active role in founding and maintaining endowments as benefactors. These endowments served almost exclusively civic public services. While there has been considerable research on women and waqf, by moving beyond interpreting the ostensible motives that are always intertwined with women’s role as ‘family caretakers’ or ‘devout Muslims’, we attempt to suggest that, interpreted as acts of piety, awqaf, and especially those that were founded as organized spaces known as külliyes, became institutions by which women were able to cultivate (in themselves and others) civic identities, and articulate civic solidarities as citizens of their cities. This image of women as civic gift-givers recasts them as active citizens of Ottoman cities, especially Istanbul.

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