What We Are Reading Today: Ottoman Baroque by Ünver Rüstem

Updated 16 October 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Ottoman Baroque by Ünver Rüstem

  • Ünver Rüstem reclaims the label “Ottoman Baroque” as a productive framework for exploring the connectedness of Istanbul’s 18th-century buildings to other traditions of the period

With its idiosyncratic yet unmistakable adaptation of European Baroque models, the 18th-century architecture of Istanbul has frequently been dismissed by modern observers as inauthentic and derivative, a view reflecting broader unease with notions of Western influence on Islamic cultures. 

In Ottoman Baroque — the first English-language book on the topic — Ünver Rüstem provides a compelling reassessment of this building style and shows how between 1740 and 1800 the Ottomans consciously co-opted European forms to craft a new, politically charged, and globally resonant image for their empire’s capital.

Rüstem reclaims the label “Ottoman Baroque” as a productive framework for exploring the connectedness of Istanbul’s 18th-century buildings to other traditions of the period. Using a wealth of primary sources, he demonstrates that this architecture was in its own day lauded by Ottomans and foreigners alike for its fresh, cosmopolitan effect. Purposefully and creatively assimilated, the style’s cross-cultural borrowings were combined with Byzantine references that asserted the Ottomans’ entitlement to the Classical artistic heritage of Europe. 

Such aesthetic rebranding was part of a larger endeavor to reaffirm the empire’s power at a time of intensified East-West contact, taking its boldest shape in a series of imperial mosques built across the city as landmarks of a state-sponsored idiom.

Copiously illustrated and drawing on previously unpublished documents, Ottoman Baroque breaks new ground in our understanding of Islamic visual culture in the modern era and offers a persuasive counterpoint to Eurocentric accounts of global art history.

 


What We Are Reading Today: The Chief by Joan Biskupic

Updated 59 min 55 sec ago
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What We Are Reading Today: The Chief by Joan Biskupic

  • The Chief reveals the making of a justice and the drama on America’s highest court

This is an incisive biography of the US Supreme Court’s enigmatic chief justice, taking us inside the momentous legal decisions of his tenure so far. 

In The Chief, award-winning journalist Joan Biskupic contends that Chief Justice Roberts is torn between two, often divergent, priorities: To carry out a conservative agenda, and to protect the Supreme Court’s image and his place in history. 

Biskupic shows how Roberts’s dual commitments have fostered distrust among his colleagues, with major consequences for the law. Trenchant and authoritative, The Chief reveals the making of a justice and the drama on America’s highest court. 

“Given the court’s current composition, anyone who does not want the law to lurch to the right in civil rights, abortion and other areas has to hope Roberts will hold it close to its current course — either based on actual beliefs, or to protect the Supreme Court as an institution,” said Adam Cohen in a review published in The New York Times.

Biskupic has covered the Supreme Court since 1989.