On the Way into the Unknown? Comparative Perspectives on the ‘Orient‘ in (Early) Modern Travelogues
The ‘Orient‘ was a popular travel destination during the (Early) Modern Period. People went there on pilgrimages, diplomatic missions, and to trade, conduct research or educate themselves. Records of these experiences offer an excellent source to scrutinize perceptions of otherness. By analyzing this, one has to face several challenges: what people perceived as ‘other‘ is always an expression of relationships. It varied individually and in connection with the socio-cultural background of each person. There is no binary distinction between ‘other‘ and ‘own‘, but a transition zone with a multiverse of variations. Additionally, most of the travelogues were (co-)dependent upon each other and/or different kinds of media. What was perceived as ‘other’ created and solidified power relationships as well as stereotypes. Current research has emphasized the mutual influence of perceptions of otherness and transformation processes connected to politics, media and society. Again, a strong influence of the socio-cultural background can be observed. In the German-speaking-world, the conquest of Constantinople (1453) and the failed siege of Vienna (1683) were decisive events, while the conquest of Granada (1492) played an important role in Spain, and the Battle of Mohács (1526) and the Peace of Eisenburg (1664) had a lasting influence in Hungary. From the 18th century onward, the increasingly differientiated and critically considered notion of ‘Orientalism‘ (Edward W. Said) as well as a simultaneously prospering ‘Orientmania‘ seem to be tangible on a more transcutlural level.
These source and topic-inherent circumstances make comparative analysis more challenging, reflected, for example, in the fact that previous research on ‘otherness‘ usually focused on individual or a few selected travelogues or similar media (types). Therefore, possibilities and limits of comparative studies will be explored in the course of the workshop. To enhance the discussion, a focus in terms of geography, types of media and time is established. We invite you to discuss perceptions of the ‘Orient‘ (especially the Ottoman and Persian Empires) in travelogues from the 16th to the 19th centuries. To obtain a comprehensive understanding, the travellers will originate in as many as possible different cultures. Among others, non-European perspectives are particularly welcome, especially on travels within the Orient. The papers of the workshop will cover, but are not limited to, the following topics.