Eastern Resonances 1: Ottoman Empire and Persia, 16th-18th centuries

Contrary to 'the echo' or 'the trace', which both imply an enduring, but fading prolongation of a presence, 'resonance' suggests not only a continuation, but a reinforcement of a sound or image, provoked by a reflection on another surface. Taking from Stephen Greenblatt's definition of 'resonance' as 'the power of the object displayed to reach out beyond its formal boundaries to a larger world, to evoke in the viewer the complex, dynamic cultural forces from which it has emerged' ('Resonance and Wonder', in Learning to Curse, p. 170), this conference aims at studying the moves, shifts, transformations and translations through which the idea of the East resonated in Europe in general, and Britain in particular, from the early modern period to the romantic age.

Calling into question the adversarial nature of Orientalism as defined by Edward Said, our conference will address the deterritorializations and reterritorializations (to borrow the concepts developed by Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Odipus) through which the East reshaped itself in the West through its many reflections and reverberations. Our focus will not just be on what was lost and what was gained along the routes of such recuperations, but we also wish to chart in greater detail the routes themselves, the people who crossed them and the motivations underpinning these attempts at reaching, understanding and picturing the East.

The first of our series of two conferences on 'Eastern Resonances', to be held at the University of Montpellier 3 (30 May-1 June 2013), will focus on the Ottoman empire and Persia, while the focus of the second, to be held at the University of Paris Diderot - Paris 7 (5-7 Dec. 2013), will be on India and the Far East. These geographical frames have been chosen mostly for practical reasons, but in keeping with the subject of 'resonances', contributions which would cross these boundaries or challenge them will also be welcome.

Suggested areas of reflection for the first conference could include:
  1. Texts and their circulation/translation: What were the Arabic, Persian and Turkish texts which resonated in the West in this period? Through what channels did manuscripts and books travel? Why and how did they reach Britain in adapted or translated forms?
  2. Places and their memories: What did travellers look back to in historical and cultural terms as they embarked on their journeys to the East? What images did they bring back with them from their eastern encounters? How did these reverberate as literary and artistic artefacts at the receiving end of the journey?
  3. Actors and intermediaries: Who went East or West, and why did they? Who were their interlocutors or mediators there? Why and how were 'contact zones' created? On what terms was trust granted and collaborative research carried on?
For 'Eastern Resonances 1: Ottoman empire and Persia', a title for the proposed paper should be sent by April 15, 2012 and short proposals in English (250 words) with a brief biographical statement by May 15, 2012 to the conference organisers:
Papers should be 30 minutes in length and may be presented either in French or English. We intend to publish a selected number of papers from the two conferences in a volume of essays on the topic of 'Eastern Resonances'.