Dear Colleagues and Students,
On Wednesday, May 22, Dr. Neveser Köker (Arizona State University) will give the following talk, as part of the Center for Turkish Literature Speaker Series.
The talk will be in English and take place in A-130 at 17.00
« Translation and the Politics of Cosmopolitan Nativeness: On Ignatius Mouradgea d’Ohsson’s Tableau Général de l’Empire Ottoman »
Both the lives and work of dragomans like Ignatius Mouradgea d’Ohsson, the Ottoman-Armenian Catholic dragoman of the Swedish Embassy in Istanbul whose life ended while he was in exile in Paris, offer us a window into the articulation of political belonging in the shifting landscape of the late eighteenth century. Within the span of two decades, d’Ohsson was transformed from an Ottoman Armenian Catholic dragoman who was legally a Swedish subject, to the Swedish ambassador in his city of birth, then into a scholar of the Ottoman Empire accused of being a “bon français” (a supporter of the French Revolution) despite his royalist commitments. Working with an Ottoman court that was not yet ready to recognize the newly minted French Republic, d’Ohsson was unable to convince his connections at the Sublime Porte and his patrons in Stockholm of his loyalties.
In this talk, Köker interweaves d’Ohsson’s biography with close readings of his Tableau Général de l’Empire Ottoman to examine the ways in which history, language and culture become intertwined in transnational imperial subjects’ reclamation of their own nativeness. Specifically, she argues that translation places the familiarity of self and the foreignness of other onto a spectrum of understanding. The two ends of this spectrum are untranslatability and universal comprehension. The latter suspends the foreign/native binary, whereas the former transforms it into a dichotomy. In this sense, translation offers a zealous yet pragmatic cosmopolitan framework for belonging that strives for cross-cultural exchange and understanding despite the knowledge that some meaning will be lost, some words will remain untranslatable, and the relationship with one’s native language will be changed forever.
A native of Ankara and a graduate of Galatasaray University and the University of Chicago, Neveser Köker received a PhD in Political Science from the University of Michigan in 2017 and is currently a Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett Honors College, Arizona State University. Dr. Köker is a political theorist whose research and teaching interests are in modern political thought, feminist theory, Islamic political thought, comparative political theory, French colonial history, and Middle Eastern studies. Her current research examines political membership and belonging through the rich history of transnational interaction and exchange between Europe and the Middle East. Her book manuscript with the current working title, Traveling Affinities: Politics of Belonging Beyond East and West, studies eighteenth and nineteenth century French and Ottoman writings and archival documents that defy easy geopolitical narratives, either of long-standing confrontation between “East” and “West” or of cosmopolitan coexistence in “contact zones.”