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E. Natalie Rothman

Translating Empire: Ottomans, Venetians, and Dragomans in Early Modern Istanbul

E. Natalie Rothman, University of Toronto


This paper explores the dynamics and mechanics of the “translation of empire” as articulated in Venetian-Ottoman diplomatic relations in the seventeenth century. Focusing on dragomans, or diplomatic interpreters who worked in the service of the Venetian consulate in Istanbul, the paper aims to specify the modalities of knowledge production unique to this professional group. Specifically, it seeks to define “the dragomans’ perspective”—a set of distancing mechanisms and claims to intimate knowledge of the Ottomans—as it emerges from the institutional frameworks and social milieus they engaged. By situating their evolving translation practices in relation to dragomans’ biographical and professional trajectories, the paper underscores the role of this trans-imperial cadre in refracting and commensurating Ottoman and Italianate socio-political forms and conceptions of history, and assesses dragomans’ enduring impact on the Ottomanist discourse of a nascent Republic of Letters.

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