Orientals and Orientalists
Reade, Julian, Antiquity
WENDY M.K. SHAW. Possessors and possessed: museums, archaeology, and the visualization of history in the late Ottoman empire, xi+270 pages, 45 figures. 2003. Berkeley (CA): University of California Press; 0-520-23335-2 hardback $60 & 40 [pounds sterling].
FREDERICK N. BOHRER. Orientalism and visual culture: imagining Mesopotarmia in Nineteenth-Century Europe. xiv+384 pages, 79 figures. 2003. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 0-521-80657-7 hardback 65 [pounds sterling] & US$90.
LESLEY ADKINS. Empires of the plain: Henry Rawlinson and the lost languages of Babylon. xxiii+424 pages, 29 figures, 3 maps. 2003. London: Harper Collins; 0-00-712899-1 hardback 20 [pounds sterling].
During the nineteenth century, when theories of sovereignty defined much of eastern Europe and the Middle East as belonging to the Ottoman sultan, the ancient cultures of these areas were being studied and sometimes enthusiastically collected by scholars and other visitors from western Europe. The three books considered here deal, from entirely different angles, with aspects of this process and the questions it raised.
Wendy Shaw addresses herself to two sets of readers, 'those familiar with Ottoman history and ... museum studies' (p. 1). There is a broader potential readership, as she relies heavily on archives and publications written in Ottoman Turkish. These sources, underused because few people can cope with them, offer alternative views on how members of the Ottoman elite regarded the past of their country and the activities of foreigners, which are matters known mainly from western records. Many non-western societies have experienced comparable outside interest in their past, and contemporary expressions of local opinion are scarce. It would have been helpful in this case to compare the views of all the communities of Istanbul, which would require an equal familiarity with other languages and scripts.
Shaw's presentation and interpretations are grouped around the evolution of the Ottoman state museums and the successively stricter Antiquities Laws of 1874, 1884 and 1906. The date when a museum was founded is arguable. After …
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Publication information: Article title: Orientals and Orientalists. Contributors: Reade, Julian - Author. Journal title: Antiquity. Volume: 78. Issue: 299 Publication date: March 2004. Page number: 213+. © 2008 Antiquity Publications, Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.
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