What We Are Reading Today: The Album of the World Emperor by Emine Fetvacı

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Updated 12 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Album of the World Emperor by Emine Fetvacı

The Album of the World Emperor examines an extraordinary piece of art: An album of paintings, drawings, calligraphy, and European prints compiled for Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I (1603–17) by his courtier Kalender Paşa (d. 1616). 

In this detailed study of one of the most important works of 17th-century Ottoman art, Emine Fetvacı uses the album to explore questions of style, iconography, foreign inspiration, and the very meaning of the visual arts in the Islamic world, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

The album’s 32 folios feature artworks that range from intricate paper cutouts to the earliest examples of Islamic genre painting, and contents as eclectic as Persian and Persian-influenced calligraphy, studies of men and women of different ethnicities and backgrounds, depictions of popular entertainment and urban life, and European prints depicting Christ on the cross that in turn served as models for apocalyptic Ottoman paintings. Through the album, Fetvacı sheds light on imperial ideals as well as relationships between court life and popular culture.


What We Are Reading Today: Empires of Vice by Diana S. Kim

Updated 20 February 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Empires of Vice by Diana S. Kim

During the late 19th century, opium was integral to European colonial rule in Southeast Asia. 

The taxation of opium was a major source of revenue for British and French colonizers, who also derived moral authority from imposing a tax on a peculiar vice of their non-European subjects. 

Yet between the 1890s and the 1940s, colonial states began to ban opium, upsetting the very foundations of overseas rule — how did this happen? Empires of Vice traces the history of this dramatic reversal, revealing the colonial legacies that set the stage for the region’s drug problems today, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Diana Kim challenges the conventional wisdom about opium prohibition — that it came about because doctors awoke to the dangers of drug addiction or that it was a response to moral crusaders — uncovering a more complex story deep within the colonial bureaucracy. 

Drawing on a wealth of archival evidence across Southeast Asia and Europe, she shows how prohibition was made possible by the pivotal contributions of seemingly weak bureaucratic officials.