The Progress of Creation: Considered with Reference to the Present Condition of the Earth

Smith, Elder & Company
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Publisher
Smith, Elder & Company
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Published on
Dec 31, 1838
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Pages
285
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Language
English
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Until now, the notion of a cross-cultural dialogue has not figured in the analysis of harem paintings, largely because the Western fantasy of the harem has been seen as the archetype for Western appropriation of the Orient. In Intimate Outsiders, the art historian Mary Roberts brings to light a body of harem imagery that was created through a dynamic process of cultural exchange. Roberts focuses on images produced by nineteenth-century European artists and writers who were granted access to harems in the urban centers of Istanbul and Cairo. As invited guests, these Europeans were “intimate outsiders” within the women’s quarters of elite Ottoman households. At the same time, elite Ottoman women were offered intimate access to European culture through their contact with these foreign travelers.

Roberts draws on a range of sources, including paintings, photographs, and travelogues discovered in archives in Britain, Turkey, Egypt, and Denmark. She rethinks the influential harem works of the realist painter John Frederick Lewis, a British artist living in Cairo during the 1840s, whose works were granted an authoritative status by his British public despite the actual limits of his insider knowledge. Unlike Lewis, British women were able to visit Ottoman harems, and from the mid-nineteenth century on they did so in droves. Writing about their experiences in published travelogues, they undermined the idea that harems were the subject only of male fantasies. The elite Ottoman women who orchestrated these visits often challenged their guests’ misapprehensions about harem life, and a number of them exercised power as patrons, commissioning portraits from European artists. Their roles as art patrons defy the Western idea of the harem woman as passive odalisque.

Throughout his career, French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu sought to interrogate what he described as the 'social unconscious', the means by which power is held and transmitted across generations. Bourdieu's work has been hugely influential in disciplines across the social sciences and humanities for decades, yet Schirato and Roberts argue that few scholars are using his work to its full potential.

Bourdieu's work is so wide-ranging that commentary tends to focus on specific theoretical concepts he developed or his books on particular fields of inquiry. However he continued to develop these concepts in his work across his whole career, and much of the richness of his thinking is lost if this isn't taken into account.

Drawing on recently released lectures, Schirato and Roberts offer a systematic account of Bourdieu's full body of work, from his early research in Algiers to his last lectures in Paris. They show how Bourdieu continued to develop his concepts of habitus, field, capital, power and socio-cultural reproduction well into his later years. They also offer a nuanced reading of Bourdieu's thinking about education, class, language, knowledge and culture beyond the individual books Bourdieu published on these topics.

This critical introduction to Bourdieu is essential reading for all Bourdieu scholars, and for researchers and thinkers using Bourdieu's work in their own social and cultural analysis.

'A terrific book, which sets out a comprehensive overview of Bourdieu's oeuvre in a way that no other text I know has done' - Professor John Frow, University of Sydney
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