Rothman, “Brokering Empire”

A fascinating looking study of the relationship between the late Venetian Republic and the Ottoman Empire — Brokering Empire: Trans-Imperial Subjects Between Venice and Istanbul (Cornell University Press 2011), by E. Natalie Rothman (University of Toronto).  The publisher’s description follows.

In Brokering Empire, E. Natalie Rothman explores the intersecting worlds of those who regularly traversed the early modern Venetian-Ottoman frontier, including colonial migrants, redeemed slaves, merchants, commercial brokers, religious converts, and diplomatic interpreters. In their sustained interactions across linguistic, religious, and political lines these trans-imperial subjects helped to shape shifting imperial and cultural boundaries, including the emerging distinction between Europe and the Levant.

Rothman argues that the period from 1570 to 1670 witnessed a gradual transformation in how Ottoman difference was conceived within Venetian institutions. Thanks in part to the activities of trans-imperial subjects, an early emphasis on juridical and commercial criteria gave way to conceptions of difference based on religion and language. Rothman begins her story in Venice’s bustling marketplaces, where commercial brokers often defied the state’s efforts both to tax foreign merchants and define Venetian citizenship. The story continues in a Venetian charitable institution where converts from Islam and Judaism and their Catholic Venetian patrons negotiated their mutual transformation. The story ends with Venice’s diplomatic interpreters, the dragomans, who not only produced and disseminated knowledge about the Ottomans but also created dense networks of kinship and patronage across imperial boundaries. Rothman’s new conceptual and empirical framework sheds light on institutional practices for managing juridical, religious, and ethnolinguistic difference in the Mediterranean and beyond.

Not In My Backyard

When the Occupy Wall Street protesters camped this fall in Zuccotti Park, a privately-owned space a block away from Trinity Church (Episcopal) in lower Manhattan, the church provided the protesters with substantial logistical and moral support: meeting space, bathrooms, electricity, food, blankets, pastoral care. The protesters were drawing attention to an important subject, economic inequality, and Trinity believed they had a moral right to be in Zuccotti Park, even though the park’s owners, Brookfield Properties, said the park could not safely accommodate them and wanted them to go. Now that the police have evicted them, the protesters wish to camp in Duarte Square,  a nearby park owned by Trinity Church itself. The church, however, refuses – on the ground that Duarte Square cannot safely accommodate them. This has led to complaints from other churches that Trinity is being hypocritical and unchristian, but Trinity has its supporters, too, including most of the Episcopal hierarchy, who say other churches shouldn’t throw stones. “It’s cheap grace,” one Episcopal leader complained to the New York Times. “It’s great to defend the rights of protesters in someone else’s backyard.” A point on which the owners of Zuccotti Park also had occasion to reflect.