Contact Zones/Ignoring Zones: How to Frame Knowledge Exchanges Between Early Modern Venice and the Ottoman Empire
Speaker: Valentina Pugliano (University of Cambridge)
Respondent: Kate Fleet (Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies, University of Cambridge)
While we can count on a growing body of scholarship to shed light on the cultural contacts between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire in the realm of art, architecture, and book production in the long early modern period, the picture is far less clear when it comes to which of their practices of medicine and science met across the Mediterranean and Levant, and how. A privileged view into this world, I argue, can be gleaned by examining the Levantine condotte mediche, a uniquely Venetian medical infrastructure in Mamluk and Ottoman lands. Lasting for over three centuries, this saw physicians, surgeons and apothecaries from Italy and the Near East serve the Venetian consulates in Istanbul, Syria and Egypt. These medical servants are notable not only for extending their care to the local Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities, while often acting as political informers to the Republic, but also for using their experience in the Levant to nurture their interest in antiquarianism, natural history and Islamic medicine. In this group are familiar figures to historians of science and medicine like the ‘Arabist’ Andrea Alpago (1450-1522), translator of Avicenna, and the naturalist Prospero Alpino (1553-1617). After introducing this network, in this talk I discuss how the forms of sociability it fostered, including the conviviality and diplomatic transactions occurring in the fondaco (funduq/khan) where the consulates were based, became one of the key means by which knowledge was produced and mobilized between Venetians and Ottomans in this context.
Open to all. No registration required
Part of the Global Science Research Group seminar series