A Plethora of Feathers: The changing notion of the Ottoman as Other in Viennese performance culture

McCargar, Alexander L. B.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, depictions of non-European and othered characters flourished on European stages and throughout festival culture. One type of othered character in particular, the Ottoman, had a unique place within the performance culture of Vienna. This thesis traces the changing visual depiction of the Ottoman in Viennese festival and performance culture from the time of the second Ottoman siege (1683) to the end of the 18th century. Shifting representations of the Ottoman reflect shifting notions of the Other in Viennese society and Europe at large. By understanding that the definition of the Other was never stable, often shaped by social prejudices and molded for political gain, we begin to realize that the assumptions, polarities and categories surrounding the term are also often rooted in falsities. Through the analysis of images made for performances and festivities, mainly stage and costume designs, but also processions and celebrations, this thesis will focus on three main aspects: the sources of inspiration for European artists depicting the Ottoman, the role of actual Ottoman objects and materials, and the shifting perception of the Ottoman from “exotic other” to European peer. Ultimately, this research intends to inform discussions of otherness, as questions of race and representation, especially in the arts, have recently come into the limelight with an urgency they have hardly seen before.