On the Way into the Unknown? Comparative Perspectives on the ‘Orient’ in (Early) Modern Travelogues

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International Conference, Thu, 28.11.–Sat, 30.11.2019

Place: Institute for Modern and Contemporary Historical Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Hollandstraße 11–13, 1st floor, 1020 Vienna.

Contact:

MMag. Dr. Doris Gruber
Institute for Modern and Contemporary Historical Research
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Hollandstraße 11–13, 1st floor, 1020 Vienna, Austria
T: +43 1 51581-7329
doris.gruber(at)oeaw.ac.at

Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Arno Strohmeyer
University of Salzburg
Rudolfskai 22, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
arno.strohmeyer(at)oeaw.ac.at

The conference reflects upon the highly topical question of perceptions of ‘otherness’ and focuses on (Early) Modern Travelogues on the ‘Orient’. The ‘Orient’ (especially the Ottoman and Persian Empires) was a popular travel destination during this 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 transcultural level.

The projects ‘Travelogues: Perceptions of the Other 1500–1876 – A Computerized Analysis’ (FWF-project: I 3795-G28) and ‘The Mediality of Diplomatic Communication. Habsburg Envoys in Constantinople in theMid-17th Century’ (FWF-project: P30091, University of Salzburg) invite you to discuss perceptions ‘otherness’ in travelogues on the ‘Orient’ from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The international and interdisciplinary conference will explore possibilities and limits of comparative analysis and pose the questions of how perceptions of otherness were shaped and what this tells us today about the solidification and change of powerrelationships, stereotypes and prejudices.

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