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Event Detail Information
Event Detail Information
"Islam in Europe" Lecture Series: Ottomanism, Orientalism and Neo-Orientalism: The Image of the Ottoman Turks and Islam in the Western Discourse from the Late Renaissance to the Post-9/11 Era
Beyazit Akman, Department of English, Illinois State University
Lucy Ellis Lounge: Room 1080, Foreign Languages Building, 707 S. Mathews, Urbana (map)
ABSTRACT: In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Norway, Qur’an burnings and following protests in Afghanistan, amidst the discussions of “Islamic radicalization” in the United States, as a result of liberation movements in the Middle East, and following the tenth anniversary of September 11 attacks, the discourse on Islam has once again dominated discussions among the global intelligentsia in the post-9/11 era. What is mostly ignored in these discussions, however, is the grave error of equating the rhetoric of the “clash” of civilizations with previous eras and to superimpose the East-West binary on the rest of the history. In his scholarship, Akman points out major paradigm shifts in the wide historical breadth of Orientalism; the representation of Middle Eastern cultures in the Western discourse by defining and discussing three distinct cultural epistemes that he calls as Ottomanism and Neo-Orientalism in addition to Said’s seminal Orientalism. By looking at a variety of different genres ranging from cigarette packs to diplomatic correspondences to contemporary novel, Akman demonstrates the significance of having a more nuanced approach to the inter-religious conflicts or dialogue. In the post-9/11 era, when the discussions about the clash of civilizations (as put forth by Huntington and Lewis) reinforce misleading binaries between cultures and religions, Akman’s study of the history of conceptualization of Ottoman Empire, one of the most influential Islamic empires in Europe is highly critical for a healthy re-assessment of issues of co-existence and peace beyond the language of propaganda and misinformation. Talking about the image of “the Turk” in British culture, after all, means talking about many other significant and timely concepts: the place of Islam in “Christian Europe,” the multicultural dialogue between Christians and non-Christians, the history of east-west relations and the issue of the Other in literary and popular imagination.
SPEAKER BIO: Beyazit Akman is a Ph.D. candidate in English literature and culture at Illinois State University. He did his M.A. as a Fulbright Scholar from Turkey. In his doctorate scholarship he focuses on (mis)representations of Islam in the Western discourse from late Renaissance to the post-9/11 era. His publications include “Travel Knowledge and Orientalism,” “Shakespeare and the Turk,” “Defoe's Turkish Spy,” and “Orientalism on Cigarette Packs” in peer-reviewed journals, and more than fifty book reviews and opinion columns in Turkish national dailies. He presented papers and organized panels at more than a dozen national and international conferences, including MLA, M/MLA and the ASECS. His 700-page historical novel, The Conquest (in Turkish) about Christian-Muslim relations during the Ottoman Empire has become a national bestseller, selling about 50 thousand copies and is being translated into other languages including English, Arabic, Greek, Croatian, Bulgarian, and Serbian. He was invited as a speaker to international book fairs in Frankfurt and Istanbul. Most recently, he was awarded the prestigious Smithsonian Baird Society Fellowship in Washington, D.C. and he studied archival materials on the representation of the Ottomans and Islam in the Western discourse. At ISU, he designed and taught courses on British Literature and Islam, Orientalism, and Post-9/11 fiction. His dissertation “British Literature and the Turk Before 1800: Representations of the Ottomans and Islam from Late Renaissance to the Post-9/11 Era” challenges the binaries of representation of the Turkish identity as it was constructed and transformed through the ages and genres. He is currently working on Global Literatures and Islam, a collection of articles, forthcoming in late 2012 and on his second historical novel on the Ottoman Empire, due this year.