Accidental Orientalists: Modern Italian Travelers in Ottoman Lands

Barbara Spackman
Berkeley Book Chats
Wednesday, Dec 5, 2018 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall
United States

Barbara Spackman (Italian Studies and Comparative Literature) examines narratives by Italians who, through historical accident, found themselves in Ottoman Egypt and Anatolia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and who wrote about their experiences. Among them are a young woman who learned Arabic, conversed with the inhabitants of an Ottoman-Egyptian harem, and wrote a memoir in Italian; a young man who converted to Islam, passed as Albanian, and published his memoir in English; and a princess living in exile who wrote in French to propose social reforms in the Ottoman Empire. Accidental Orientalists (Liverpool, 2017) shows its authors’ accounts throwing into question the imagined East-West divide, as Spackman reflects on the practices of cultural cross-dressing, conversion to Islam, and passing and posing as Muslim on the part of Italians — who were themselves often the object of orientalization within Europe.

Spackman is joined by Francine Masiello (Comparative Literature and Spanish & Portuguese). After a brief discussion of the book, they open the floor for discussion.