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BOOK REVIEWS (3© Rethinking Orientalism: Women, Travel and the Ottoman Harem Reina Lewis. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004, 297 pp. $29.95 paper. Reviewed by Sarah G. Moment Atis, University of Wisconsin-Madison This ambitious, meticulously wrought study examines "evidence of Ottoman women's social and cultural agency to intervene on a number of fronts in discussions about the value and limits of Orientalism as a discourse and as a theoretical paradigm" (3). It focuses on "a series of little-known or neglected English-language publications about segregated life by Ottoman women from the beginning of the twentieth century," which, the author asserts, "reveal a gendered counter-discourse that challenges Occidental stereotypes" (1). The author intends Rethinking to be "understood as an intervention into postcolonial historiography and theory, using the Ottoman study as a corrective to the narrowness of what postcolonial studies (often taking the South Asian experience as paradigmatic) regards as the colonial and the postcolonial" (4). Thus, the book is meant to operate "at the conjunction oftwo fields-introducing to postcolonial studies the specificities ofthe late Ottoman situation (which only briefly after the First World War involved direct European colonial rule) and bringing to the reading ofOttoman sources the critical perspectives ofpostcolonial and gender theory" (5). There is no question that Rethinking succeeds in breaking important new ground in working toward this goal. It draws on the author's highly specialized expertise in JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES Vol 1, No. 3 (Fall 2005). C 2005 BOOK REVIEWS œ 117 cultural studies and postcolonial feminist theory while standing as a testament to the strength ofrecent works published in English by specialists in Turkish history and women's studies upon which the author depends. Rethinking also attests to the scholarly generosity ofspirit ofthe researchers in the field of Ottoman and Turkish studies with whom the author consulted over the years. Nevertheless, the inability to read Ottoman and modern Turkish sources and the superficial level of knowledge of Ottoman and Turkish cultural traditions constitute a drawback to which might be attributed the false chords that mar an otherwise remarkably solid piece ofwork. The period sources incorporated into the theoretical arguments of the book include A Turkish Woman's European Impressions (1913), an epistolary narrative consisting ofletters from Zeyneb Hanoum to British journalist and photographer Grace Ellison, who edited and provided an introduction as well as photographs for the book. Zeyneb Hanoum is introduced by Grace Ellison as the Zeyneb Hanoum, one ofthe three veiled "disenchanted" women who figure in Pierre Loti's immensely popular novel Les Désenchantées (1906). The book edited by Ellison includes a single letter from another ofPierre Loti's heroines, Zeyneb's sister Melek Hanoum. Also included is An Englishwoman in a Turkish Harem (1915), an account by Grace Ellison of her visit in a privileged Ottoman household with close connections to palace elites and government officials. The book is based on Ellison's correspondence for the Daily Telegraph, which gave permission for the reproduction ofthe material that had appeared in its pages. Another source in the book is Haremlik (1909), A Child ofthe Orient (1914), and The Unveiled Ladies ofStamboul (1923) by Demetra Vaka (Mrs. Kenneth Brown), a Greek Ottoman who earned her way in life as a journalist and author, having "emigrated to the United States in 1895 as the governess and companion to the children of the Turkish consul to New York, who was also a Greek" (24). The book also includes Memoirs ofHalide Edib (1926) and The Turkish Ordeal, Being the Further Memoirs ofHalide Edib (1928). Halide Edib (Adivar) was a leading women's rights advocate, prolific novelist, prominent participant in Young Turk cultural politics, nurse and education administrator during the Balkan Wars and World War I, and an actor ofsufficient importance in the national resistance movement and Turkish War of Independence to have been sentenced to death in absentia along with Mustafa Kemal 118 œ JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES (Atatürk) by the sultan-caliph's government during the allied occupation of Istanbul. While she wrote most of her works in Turkish, Halide Edib authored two additional nonfiction publications in English, Turkey Faces West (1930), based...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9579
Print ISSN
1552-5864
Pages
pp. 116-122
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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