In the light of recent scholarship, Istanbul appears as the cosmopolitan setting of a variegated diplomatic milieu including the members of ambassadorial households and families, Ottoman officials and dignitaries as well as informal and more or less obscure diplomatic clients and go-betweens. The diverse social networks linking those agents constituted an urban middle ground (Dursteler), maybe even a world of intimacy (Ghobrial), where political information could flow on different social scales. These networks converged around the ambassadors who remained at the symbolical as well as the political centre of Ottoman-European diplomacy.
This largely accepted general picture still lacks clear contours, though, especially when it comes to the question of how confidence and trust were built in a cross-confessional setting. While ‘friendship’ is a frequently used concept in diplomatic sources, its actual social meaning is far from clear and possibly varies according to social status. In my talk, I will examine practices of transcultural/cross-confessional friendship as they were described by French diplomats in the late 17th century. Friendship will be understood in terms of gift-exchange (in a broad sense, including the exchange of material goods and commodities as well as symbolical goods and social prestige), and special attention will be paid to the urban sites and the social occasions where these exchanges took place.
Speaker: Prof Christine Vogel (Universität Vechta)