Between pragmatism and prejudice: European representations of the Ottoman-Safavid conflict (ca. 1500-1650)

full name / name of organization: 
Julia Schleck & Kaya Sahin / EMIT Society @ RSA

Early Modern Image and Text Society
RSA 2013
Organizers: Kaya Sahin (University of Indiana Bloomington) & Julia Schleck (University of Nebraska Lincoln)
Deadline: May 10, 2012

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries religious and confessional identity was at the center of political rivalry in the whole Eurasian continent. The Protestant-Catholic divide in Europe paralleled the Sunni-Shiite/Ottoman-Safavid conflict in the Middle East. The conflict between the two Islamicate empires was witnessed and commented upon by European travelers, merchants, diplomats, and polemicists. Because they came from societies that were heavily influenced by religious conflict, these authors were particularly receptive to the religious dimension of the Ottoman-Safavid rivalry. However, their observations have usually been discredited by scholars of early modern Islam on the assumption that their biases made a genuine understanding of an intra-Muslim religious conflict impossible. Western scholars have made similar arguments, or have themselves been too unfamiliar with the history of the region and the religious debates involved to venture an assessment of their subjects' accounts of Islamicate lands. In this panel, we propose to place early modern European reports on the Ottoman/Safavid conflict center stage, and to reassess their place in the region's history. We seek papers treating:

a. various aspects of the Ottoman/Safavid/Sunni-Shiite conflict that are not covered by local sources;
b. the plurality of voices and representations found in the European sources, both visual and textual;
c. the interface between pragmatism and prejudice and the particular forms of knowing that emerged as a result.

Deadline for submissions, 10 May 2011. For consideration, please send via email an abstract (no longer than 150 words), keywords, and a CV (no longer than 1 page), to and After being selected, every presenter will have to be a member of the RSA ( and EMIT ( for 2012 and 2013 in order to be able to participate.