Translation and Transfer

SPP 1981 Transottomanica: Osteuropäisch-osmanisch-persische Mobilitätsdynamiken; Albrecht Fuess, Centrum für Nah- und Mittelost-Studien, Marburg
Marburg und digital
Vom - Bis
07.10.2021 - 08.10.2021
Url der Konferenzwebsite
Necati Alkan, Turkologie, Universität Bamberg

The burgeoning field of translation studies has shown that diverse processes of translation are key to understanding transcultural contacts and exchange. From such a vantage point, the conference focused on the historical entanglements between Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire and Persia from the early modern period to the 20th century. The thematical focus was on translations in a narrow sense and other concrete processes of linguistic transfers in these areas. It was the aim of the conference to bring together international scholars who examine historical exchange between different parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East through the lens of translations.

The first two panels were dedicated to the appropriation and dissemination of knowledge in the Ottoman world and beyond through the three languages Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Turkish. Ottoman culture built on translating between these languages. The individual papers addressed this issue from different angles, each analysing a typical source including e.g. Persian-Turkish dictionaries by ANI SARGSYAN (Hamburg) and courtly advice literature by PHILIP BOCKHOLT (Leipzig). As HÜLYA ÇELIK (Bochum) and NIL PALABIYIK (Manchester) showed, also the first Orientalists of early modern Europe started their studies from these languages producing a number of dictionaries and grammars.

The third panel concentrated on transfer of knowledge through individual translators active in the Ottoman Empire, the Arab world, Persia, Central and Eastern Europe. They could be involved in state affairs such as the military officer Osman Agha who brokered Ottoman-Habsburg relations at the beginning of the 18th century as presented by GÜL ŞEN (Bonn). A very different type of translator was the polyglot German author Michael Kosmeli who travelled and worked in East Europe and the Middle East on his own account, as DIRK SANGMEISTER (Erfurt) showed. All speakers showed how these translators acquired, used and disseminated their knowledge and so aimed at enriching their respective cultures through encyclopaedias, textbooks, and periodicals.

Panel 4 dealt with spiritual translations in the Ottoman Empire and Persia, addressing different dimensions of cross-cultural practices. Most typical this concerned Sufi literature that was translated from Persian into Ottoman. Another interesting case, that of a gospel translated from Georgian into Persian, was highlighted by HASMIK KIRAKOSYAN (Jerevan). As key feature of spiritual translations, the discussion turned not only around the practical dimension of translation as a craft, but also identified a complex and diverse process of mediation, adaptation, and transmission of knowledge in the Transottoman context.

The following panels explored translations in three special regional settings. Panel 5 focused the exchange between Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire and Persia. Similar to other contexts, translations occurred in concrete social interaction, but also on a more intellectual level. European armies that waged war in the multi-linguistic Ottoman environment found communication with the enemy and the local population challenging, as ANDREAS HELMEDACH (Bochum) demonstrated for the Venetian army in the 18th century. YUSUF KARABIÇAK (Mainz) showed that the translation of new political concepts was at stake when Ottoman diplomats had to translate the events of the French Revolution to the statesmen at home.

Panel 6 turned to the Western Balkans as a zone of translations with a focus on the transition to the post-Ottoman era in the region. MUNIR DRKIĆ (Sarajevo) examined how Sufi poetry in Bosnia was translated to the South Slavic language and how it was adapted to the cultural context of the Yugoslav state. In a similar way, Ottoman legal concepts such as waqf (pious foundation) had to be adapted to the context of the Serbian state, as JELENA RADOVANOVIĆ (Göttingen) showed.

With numerous examples of translation practices, panel 7 demonstrated the close contacts between Poland-Lithuania and the Ottoman Empire in the early modern age. STEFAN ROHDEWALD (Leipzig) explained the transfer and translation of reformative antitrinitarian texts in printed books in Ottoman Wallachia and Aleppo as well as in manuscripts of Muslim Tatars in Poland-Lithuania. ALEXANDR OSIPIAN (Berlin) analysed the close connection between commerce and diplomacy. Because of their linguistic skills, Armenian merchants were successful on both fields. JEKATERINA MERKULJEVA (Warsaw) presented the case of a school of translators who were hosted by a Polish nobleman and produced diplomatic as well as literary translations from the Ottoman Turkish.

The last panel addressed the modern era and its challenges to translation issues. OR PITUSI (Jerusalem) analysed how the translations of Tolstoy’s Russian writings defined Islamic modernism in the Ottoman-Arab regions. The discourse spurred by these translations reverberated in Arab, Islamic, and Eastern spheres addressing questions of modernity, Enlightenment, and anti-colonial struggle.

The regular conference programme was rounded off by a keynote lecture by REGINA TOEPFER (Würzburg), spokesperson of SPP 2130 Early Modern Translation Cultures who offered an overview of translation and cultural contacts from an early modern historical perspective. The conference closed with a round-table discussion hosted by Ludwig Paul (Hamburg) with Sonja Brentjes (Berlin), Johann Strauss (Strasbourg) and Barbara Henning (Mainz) summarising results of the conference.

In conclusion, the conference offered an overview and many pertinent examples of the importance of translations in the transcultural exchange between Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Judging from the contributions, there is a well-established research field on book translations, most notably of literary and religious texts. However, there is also ample evidence of other translational practices that tie in with the wider societal entanglements and mobilities in between the focus areas. As the discussions revealed, it will be the task of further research to examine these practices in detail and take into account languages that are less well known as a start or end point of translations.

Conference overview:

Panel I: Elsine-i selāse Revisited: Appropriation and Dissemination of Knowledge in the Ottoman World and Beyond (1500–1700) – Part 1

Hülya Çelik (Bochum): Court librarian Sebastian Tengnagel’s collection of and work with Arabic, Persian and Turkish dictionaries

Nil Palabıyık (Manchester): The Persian and Turkish dictionaries of the Leiden Orientalist Anton Deusing (1612–1666)

Ani Sargsyan (Hamburg): Three in one: The Persian-Turkish dictionaries and appropriation of knowledge of the “three languages” (elsine-i s̱elās̱e) in the Ottoman Empire in the 15th–16th centuries

Panel II: Elsine-i selāse Revisited: Appropriation and Dissemination of Knowledge in the Ottoman World and Beyond (1500–1700) – Part 2

Philip Bockholt (Leipzig): Translating concepts of princely conduct within the Ottoman Empire and beyond: The Hümāyūnnāme as a case in point

Aslihan Gürbüzel (Montreal): Translations from Turkish to Ottoman Turkish: Elsine-i selāse and Ottoman imperial ideology

Panel III: Transfer through Translators

Gül Şen (Bonn): News from the border: The interpreter Osman Agha and cultural brokering between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans

Ayshe Dalyan (Nikosia): Was Ahteri a traveller?

Dirk Sangmeister (Erfurt): The travelling translator: Michael Kosmeli's transfer of verses and prose

Martin Rohde (Halle/Salle): Ahatanhel Kryms‘kyi and his translations between the Ottoman, Habsburg and Russian Empires

Panel IV: Spiritual Translations

Tobias Sick (Leipzig): On Ottoman translations of Persian Sufi literature: the Transottoman dimension of ʿAṭṭār’s Pandnāma

Hasmik Kirakosyan (Jerevan): Persian scriptural translations in the cross-cultural practices: A case study of a Persian Gospel from the early 18th century

Eliza Tasbihi (Montreal): Translation and transformation: Windows into Rūmī’s poetry and Mevlevī commentators

Keynote lecture

Regina Toepfer (Würzburg): Functions of translation in the Early Modern period

Panel V: Transottoman Western Europe

Yusuf Ziya Karabıçak (Mainz): Translating the French Revolution: A diplomatic history

Andreas Helmedach (Bochum): A polyglot army in polyglot lands: Translation and transfer in the Venetian army in the first Morea war, 1684–1699

Roman Seidel (Berlin): Transmitting, translating and transforming enlightenment literature: Mīrzā Āqā Khān Kermānī, his Persian adaptation of Bernardin de Saint Pierre and Fénélon in the Ottoman intellectual context

Panel VI: Translations in the Western Balkans

Munir Drkić (Sarajevo): From a poet of divine love to a winebibber: The transfer of Hafez Shirazi’s poetry in the Western Balkans

Jelena Radovanović (Göttingen): The mosque’s property: Translating waqf legislation in nineteenth-century Serbia

Ana Sekulic (Pittsburgh, PA): The mysteries of an Ottoman Gospel of Matthew in the Bosnian Catholic monastery

Panel VII: Translation and Transfer between the Ottoman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Alexandr Osipian (Berlin): Translation and transfer of diplomatic and commercial documents between the Middle East and Poland-Lithuania: The Mediating role of the Armenian merchant network

Jekaterina Merkuljeva (Warsaw): How Berezhany became a center for Turkish translations in the beginning of the 18th century

Stefan Rohdewald (Leipzig): Cantemir, Müteferrika and Polish-Lithuanian Tatars: Translation/Language exchange in texts by Orthodox and Muslim scholars around 1700

Panel VIII: Translations and Meanings in Modern Times

Or Pitusi (Jerusalem): Tolstoy in the Ottoman-Arab Middle East: Islamic modernism, eastern enlightenment, and the Arab cultural revival

Ali Kalirad (Tehran): The myth of “Kaveh” and the spirit of revolution: A study on intracommunal intellectual exchanges in the modern Turco-Persian world


Sonja Brentjes (Berlin), Johann Strauss (Strasbourg), Barbara Henning (Mainz); host: Ludwig Paul (Hamburg)