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IMPERIAL DISCOURSE AND THE ORIENT: THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE IN BRITISH TRAVEL ACCOUNTS OF THE VICTORIAN ERA

Abstract

Author(s): Mehmet Mert SUNAR

From the first half of the nineteenth century onwards, a considerable body of literature on the Ottoman Empire started to emerge in the West. In parallel to the intensified relations between the Ottoman State and the West through various channels such as trade, diplomacy and warfare during this period, traveling to the ‘Orient’ became an attractive experience in search of adventure and new job opportunities for Europeans. Among those, some recorded their personal experiences of the Orient in the form of travel accounts and journals, which more or less reflected the prevalent mode of discourse in the genre of travel literature at the time. Although majority of these travel accounts were in harmony with existing norms of Orientalist literature, there were also tensions emerging from the conflict between actual experiences and a priori held assumptions within the texts. Still, it can be argued that individual experiences often failed to change the general norms and the conceptual grip constituted by the dominant Orientalist genre.

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