Social Life & Customs
The Orient encompasses a vast geographic region. There is no dominant culture, and each country has its own unique traditions, customs, and history. Although there are common themes throughout the literature, the Cultural Imaginings collection contains accounts of various countries, regions, and time periods, written by a variety of authors from different backgrounds.
Many of the European writers tend to describe the Arab and Muslim people of the region as backward, or worse. In much of the literature, there is a sense that the Ottomans -- and Muslims in general -- have corrupted and squandered the glory of the old Roman Empire. Many of these accounts are also influenced by the colonialist rhetoric of the time and the belief that Europeans were innately superior to their Arab counterparts.
However, much of the literature also touches on the tremendous potential of the region. While parts of the Orient were, have been, and remain poor, the people are strong, resilient, and eager for change. There is a sense of optimism in much of the writings here, and many of the Western authors wrote about the East in the hopes of engendering compassion and cooperation.
The following page showcases a representative sample of the texts that deal with social life and customs: