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Friedrich Rosen

Orientalist scholarship and international politics

Theilhaber, Amir

The German lacuna in Edward Said’s 'Orientalism' has produced varied studies of German cultural and academic Orientalisms. So far the domains of German politics and scholarship have not been conflated to probe the central power/knowledge nexus of Said’s argument. Seeking to fill this gap, the diplomatic career and scholarly-literary productions of the centrally placed Friedrich Rosen serve as a focal point to investigate how politics influenced knowledge generated about the “Orient” and charts the roles knowledge played in political decision-making regarding extra-European regions. This is pursued through analyses of Germans in British imperialist contexts, cultures of lowly diplomatic encounters in Middle Eastern cities, Persian poetry in translation, prestigious Orientalist congresses in northern climes, leveraging knowledge in high-stakes diplomatic encounters, and the making of Germany’s Islam policy up to the Great War. Politics drew on bodies of knowledge and could promote or hinder scholarship. Yet, scholars never systemically followed empire in its tracks but sought their own paths to cognition. On their own terms or influenced by “Oriental” savants they aligned with politics or challenged claims to conquest and rule.