Wednesday, September 3, 2014

East and West through the Ages

Karl Sturm created this vastly improved version of one of our first maps for a collection of maps about the Middle East that appeared in the Atlantic recently. While I would hope that this map challenges the notion of there being some kind of consistent and meaningful divide between East and West throughout history, I also think it helps call into question the particularly strange claim, made in Orientalism, that Western stereotypes or prejudices about the East have somehow remained consistent despite these changes from the 4th century bc up through today. Unless I'm fundamentally misunderstanding something, which is always a possibility, it seems inexplicable that a work which took the fundamental connection between knowledge and power as its starting point would nonetheless argue that European views of the Ottoman Empire were basically the same in the 16th century, when the Ottomans were terrorizing Europe, as they were in the 19th century, when they really weren't. Much less suggest that these had anything to do with Greek stereotypes about Persians.