Reviewed: ‘The City’s Pleasures: Istanbul in the Eighteenth Century’

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on March 6, 2011

From The Art Bulletin 93 (March 2010): 101-04.

Shirine Hamadeh, The City’s Pleasures: Istanbul in the Eighteenth Century (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007), 368 pages, ISBN: 9780295986678, $60.

Reviewed alongside Cigdem Kafescioglu’s Constantinopolis/Istanbul: Cultural Encounter, Imperial Vision, and the Construction of the Ottoman Capital (2009) and Murat Gül’s The Emergence of Modern Istanbul: Transformation and Modernisation of a City (2009).

Reviewed by Robert S. Nelson, Yale University.

. . . Hamadeh defines the character of a period through its buildings. Especially noteworthy is her use of poetry and building inscriptions. And, like Kafescioglu, she discusses vision, power, and the location of buildings . . . . she relies on the concept of ‘pleasure’ in the title and, behind it, a more fundamental notion of public space, adapted from Jürgen Habermas and others, that did not exist in the earlier centuries. Istanbul in the eighteenth century resembles John Brewer’s view of London from the late seventeenth century, in which ‘high culture moved out of the narrow confines of the court and into diverse spaces’ [The Pleasures of the Imagination, p. 3]. Finally, while her book is firmly ensconced in Turkish studies, the author also situates it laterally in early modern studies and critiques Westernization theories of
Ottoman architecture, that is, the notion that it follows at a
distance fashions set elsewhere. . .