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Faculty of Music


Faculty of Music

Ottoman Auralities and the Eastern Mediterranean: Sound, Media and Power, 1789-1922

Applications are invited for a 3-year funded doctoral studentship offered to start in October 2023. The successful applicant will work on a collaborative project led by Dr Peter McMurray at the Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge.

The project offers the opportunity to conduct PhD research into histories of sound and audiovisual media in the late Ottoman Empire and Eastern Mediterranean (1789-1922), focusing on how sonic practices and their mediations through technical systems produced important new cultural shifts.

Candidates should propose a project that investigates some aspect of auditory cultures of the eastern Mediterranean during the late Ottoman period (roughly from the late 18th century to the establishment of the Turkish Republic, though projects that extend beyond those dates are possible). Projects that emphasize the lives of women and ethnic minorities within the Ottoman empire are particularly welcome. It is also anticipated that the project idea may be further refined in discussion with the research team over the first few months of PhD studies.

The Project

This project explores histories of sound and audiovisual media in the late Ottoman Empire and Eastern Mediterranean (1789-1922), focusing on how sonic practices and their mediations through technical systems produced important new cultural shifts. Far from the standard narratives of the late empire's "decline" or of unidirectional technological transfer from Europe, these histories show a wide range of responses and manifestations of embodied agency, from the government officials and religious institutions in Istanbul to individual shopkeepers and families far from the capital. Sound and related media simultaneously offer a more corporeal historiography of the region and possibilities for emphasizing the voices - both literal and figurative - of women, ethnic minorities and other communities that have figured less centrally in some histories. In turn, focusing on the Ottoman Empire and Eastern Mediterranean allows a decentering of Europe and North America within sound and media studies.

A key component of the project will be an emphasis on sonic cartography, mapping both early audio recordings and textual documents related to sound and media, giving a clearer sense of the cultural and media topographies of this critical period in which telegraphy, audio recording, film, telephony and radio all emerged as key technologies that both shaped and were reconfigured through extant local cultural techniques such as poetry, religious recitation, domestic songs, and so on. The period in question, sometimes called "the longest century" in Ottoman history, begins with the reign of Sultan Selim III, an important composer/poet and political reformer, and ends with the founding of the Turkish Republic, a moment in which the politics of language, alphabets, music and religious sounds were all yet again called into question. As Turkey prepares to mark its own centenary, with increasingly nationalistic celebrations of the Ottoman past, this history is ever more timely today.

Possible Research Topics

Applicants may propose any project that has relevance to the broad remit of the project. Some areas of particular interest within the broad area of the late Ottoman Empire and eastern Mediterranean might include:

- sound/music and the history of Ottoman medicine

- D/deaf culture in the Ottoman Empire

- ‘minority’ auditory cultures (Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, Greeks, et al.)

- sonic techniques of gender/sexuality

- urban sonic environments (especially beyond Istanbul)

- religious sonic arts (e.g., tajwid, dhikr/sema, cantillation) and silence

- sound as political/geographic contestation

- early sound recordings in the eastern Mediterranean

- other audio/visual media (e.g., telegraphy, photography) and their sonic implications

- material cultures of music (e.g., instruments/instrument-building, notation systems)

- intersections of poetry and auditory culture

- ecocriticism and sound

- timbre and/or noise

- the voice and vocal practices

- sound and warfare/violence (including the 1826 ‘Auspicious Incident’)

- sound as public/counterpublic practice

- sonic/sensory cartography

- acoustics and the science of sound in the region

- law, legal reform and sound

Again, this list is meant to offer some possible areas of interest, not to provide a definitive framework. All applicants are welcome and encouraged to contact Peter McMurray with potential project ideas.

As a final note, while the project explicitly focuses on the Ottoman Empire and eastern Mediterranean, projects from neighboring regions in close dialogue with these areas or with strong comparative elements will also be considered.


The successful candidate should have received high credit (Merit) in a UK Master’s degree (or equivalent), including a mark of distinction in the most extended, relevant piece of work. Ideally, applicants will have knowledge of both Ottoman history and sound studies, though in-depth knowledge of one of these fields and a willingness to learn the other is possible. Alternatively, a background in related fields such as history, musicology (especially global music history), visual studies, history of science and/or comparative literature is also possible. Given the timeframe of UK PhDs, applicants will ideally have the linguistic expertise necessary for their proposed project. If not, please provide a clear plan for how that expertise will be acquired.


The studentship is fully funded (fees and maintenance) for eligible students who are liable for 'home rate' fees. EU and international students may also be considered for this award, although they may be required to cover the difference in fee level between home and overseas rates. More details:

Application process

All applications will need to be made for the PhD in Music through the University Postgraduate Application Portal. By ticking ‘Yes - I wish to apply for funding’ in the funding section, you will automatically be considered for other University funding opportunities beyond this project. It is strongly advised that applicants apply by the funding deadline of 23:59pm (UK time) on Thursday 05 January 2023. However, the closing date for this studentship is 22 January 2023.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Peter McMurray to discuss their project proposals before making a formal application.

Whilst making your online application please state “Ottoman Auralities” in your ‘Proposed research title’, indicate Dr Peter McMurray as your ‘Proposed supervisor’ and upload a 'Research proposal' (ideally around 1,000-2,500 words) outlining your suitability for this project, including an overview of key research question(s), the project’s relationship to the relevant disciplines (i.e., Ottoman history and sound studies), and a tentative research plan.

We want to encourage the widest range of potential students to study for this studentship and are committed to welcoming students from different backgrounds to apply. We particularly welcome applications from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, including applicants with personal ties to the eastern Mediterranean.

For project-specific enquires please email Dr Peter McMurray ( For general enquiries about the position, please email the Project Coordinator (

Application deadline: 22 January 2023. Interviews (Zoom): mid-late January 2023.

Further information on the application process:

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

Please quote reference GT34720 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy. The advert can be found at