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Ottomanisation as Europeanisation: Polish-Lithuanian Costume and the Search for a Classical Past

Fri, March 23, 11:00am to 12:30pm, Harrah's Hotel, 2nd Level - Vieux Carré Salon I


Established in 1569, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was forged in part through co-optation of classical philology and chorography. Drawing on authorities such as Ptolemy, Polish-Lithuanian elites associated their country with the European Sarmatia of classical geographers, a liminal place located between the worlds of Europe and Asia. Simultaneously with this appropriation of classical nomenclature, Polish-Lithuanian elites espoused Ottomanesque costume as a signifier of their alleged Sarmatian heritage. Rather than the ‘Orientalisation’ of Polish-Lithuanian material culture, this paper argues that the early modern belief in the Commonwealth’s historical identity as European Sarmatia was by no means a self-Orientalising manoeuvre. Rooted in the culture of humanism, this new philological historicism was more accurately a Polish-Lithuanian variation of pan-European interest in the classical past. This paper thus demonstrates that the Ottomanisation of Polish-Lithuanian costume might be considered as a search for the country’s classical past that points beyond the dichotomy of Orient and Occident.


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