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SOF Fellow Youssef Ben Ismail featured in conversation at Columbia's European Institute

Fellows, SOF Fellows

February 10, 2022

Pier Mattia Tommasino (Columbia University) in conversation with Natalie Rothman (University of Toronto) and Youssef Ben Ismail (Columbia University, SOF/HCH) on the occasion of the publication of Natalie Rothman’s book:

The Dragoman Renaissance: Diplomatic Interpreters and the Routes of Orientalism. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2021

In this book, Natalie Rothman traces how Istanbul-based diplomatic translator-interpreters, known as the dragomans, systematically engaged Ottoman elites in the study of the Ottoman Empire—eventually coalescing in the discipline of Orientalism—throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Rothman challenges Eurocentric assumptions still pervasive in Renaissance studies by showing the centrality of Ottoman imperial culture to the articulation of European knowledge about the Ottomans. To do so, she draws on a dazzling array of new material from a variety of archives.

By studying the sustained interactions between dragomans and Ottoman courtiers in this period, Rothman disrupts common ideas about a singular moment of cultural encounter, as well as about a docile and static Orient, simply acted upon by extraneous imperial powers. The Dragoman Renaissance creatively uncovers how dragomans mediated Ottoman ethno-linguistic, political, and religious categories to European diplomats and scholars. Further, it shows how dragomans did not simply circulate fixed knowledge. Rather, their engagement of Ottoman imperial modes of inquiry and social reproduction shaped the discipline of Orientalism for centuries to come.

Open Access version of the book at

Dragoman Renaissance Research Platform at

Event registration here.