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Post-thesis update

June 17, 2012

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I find it surprising and sometimes a little unbelievable that I turned in my thesis and graduated six weeks ago.  In that time I managed to start my graduate program with a study tour to Germany and Poland to visit various Holocaust, World War II, and communist occupied sites.  I also spent a good deal of money on German and Polish cuisine (my idea of a souvenir), managed to gain a few pounds, bought a few things here and there, and returned home to the gym awaiting me and my lovely acquired five pounds of pierogies and salami pudge.  It could have been worse.  It could have.

My thesis ended up being 68 pages and a piece of work I was ultimately very happy with.  When it got down to the wire, the pressure hit hard and I felt my editing skills fall to the way side a little.  In general, it was a 98% piece of art and I am extremely proud of my college for having put together such a stellar program that gives its students a chance to essentially write at a Masters level.  The final title was “The Battle of Vienna 1683: Proto-Orientalist Entanglement Between Two Empires”.  If that doesn’t sound intelligent, I don’t know what does.

You might be wondering or asking the person next to you, what does that mean?  I’ll tell you.  It means you need focus your attention up and away from the ground.  That’s how I like to look at it.  A battle is fought on the earth, with names, dates, and facts kept in the concrete.  I like to shift my attention upwards, so to speak, at the clouds.  I imagine history as something conceptual– everything starts from something that preceded it.  Before Said’s iconic research on the orientalist movement, there had to be something that kickstart the way people were thinking.  I defined that as proto-orientalism.  I consider this word my own, and when my thesis gets published YOU BETTER CITE MY THESIS IF YOU PLAN ON USING THE WORD PROTO-ORIENTALISM BECAUSE YOU AIN’T GONNA FIND THAT ANYWHERE ELSE.  But really.  It’s my concept, and all the writing I did was based off my own brain.  The works I used came from primary sources and secondary sources, but they all focused on concepts and movements in history (as well as some of that factual stuff).  It was through these works that I realized the documents I was reading were revealing to me the very thing that eventually led orientalists to treat their subject as they did.  Got it?  I sure hope so (getting sweaty palms trying to remember all this stuff as I write it so many weeks later).

I’m including a quote that I absolutely love– not because I agree with what it says (I don’t agree with any of it actually), but because it encapsulates perfectly what I thought proto-orientalism came to be:

If the superstition, vanity and ill foundation of the Mahometan Religion seem fabulous, as a Dream, or the fancies of a distracted and wild Brain, thank God that thou wert born a Christian, and within the Pale of an Holy and an Orthodox Church.  If the Tyranny, Oppression and Cruelty of that State, wherein Reason stands in no competition with the Pride and Lust of an unreasonable Minister, seem strange to thy Liberty and Happiness, thank God that you art born in a Countrey the most free and just in all the World.♦

Here’s my own reasoning that’s somewhere in my thesis (and if you try to use this oh boy you better believe I’ll come after you): “Here (in quotes) he implied that Islam was a whirlwind of heretical scripture and a fantasy of moral conduct, far inferior to that of Christianity.  And above all, he encapsulated the Western sentiment that it was better to live in the West where they were free, than to live in the chaos of the East.  As we shall see, the negative implications of Ottoman influence on the Habsburgs, Christianity, and the West mirror the socio-religious norms of the Ottomans, Islam, and the East.  The opinions formed by European Christians prior to the start of the nineteenth century are what ignite the subsequent Orientalist study of the East; that the lifestyles, religious practices, and laws signify inferiority to those in the West.”

I just laughed out loud, I can’t believe I wrote that.  Curious Historian, you can give yourself a pat on the back tonight.

♦ Paul Rycaut, The History of the Present State of the Ottoman Empire, Containing The Maxims of the Turkish Polity, the most Material Points of the Mahometan Religious, their Sects and Heresies, their Convents and Religous Votaries. Their Military Discipline, with an Exact Computation of their Forces both by Sea and Land (London: Unknown publisher, 1686), xiii. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015073729850

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