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Jitka Malečková: Traveling Outside the Colonial Framework. Czech Travelers to Istanbul, 1860s-1923

April 1, 2020
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Cezayir Building, Hayriye Cad. 12, Galatasaray, Beyoğlu, 34425 İstanbul

Held in the handsome Cezayyir palazzo behind Galatasaray Lycée, the European Travelers to Istanbul & Anatolia in the Long 19th Century is a series of talks coordinated by Swedish Research Institute, the National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens, and the Orient-Institut Istanbul.

Jitka Malečková, teaches Middle Eastern history at the Charles University’s Faculty of Arts in Prague. Her research focuses on the 19th- and early 20th-century Ottoman Empire and Central and Eastern Europe, gender and nationalism. With Petr Kučera, she authored a book on Ottoman travelers to Europe and to the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, “From Istanbul to the End of the World: Ottoman Travel Writings from the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries” (ZIstanbulu až na konec světa: Osmanské cestopisy zpřelomu 19. a 20.století, 2019). She has written numerous articles on political violence, gender and national identity and on relations between Europe and the Middle East. Although by the 19th century the Czech lands had no direct contact with the Ottoman Empire Czechs were not so remote from the Ottoman Empire as to pay no attention to it at all. The 19th century witnessed a rise in Czech travels to various parts of the world, and from the 1860s an increasing number of Czechs were describing their travels to the Ottoman Empire and particularly to Istanbul. Their travelogues were eclectic and were influenced by earlier Czech and foreign travelers, French exotic novels, and even the tales from One Thousand and One Nights. What distinguished the Czech travel accounts from their British counterparts was the absence of an “imperial” background – the lack of more pragmatic direct interests in the Ottoman Empire (leaving aside the Balkans). Malečková explores what interested the Czechs who visited late-Ottoman Istanbul. While in most cases they did not stay in the Ottoman territories long enough to gain insights into important issues in the turn-of-the-century Ottoman Empire, their travelogues focus on things and people that were expected to amuse Czech readers and contain intriguing information.

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