Cultural encounters seem to have become a daily routine in our globalized world. They can shake our certainties, question our feeling of identity and and operate changes in our self-perception. Therefore they evoke mixed feelings: excitement, interest, but also anxiety. However, cultural encounters are not a modern phenomenon, but part of human history ranging from Antiquity through the Early Modern period up to Modernity. This course will explore selected examples for Early Modern encounters; it will embed them into the history of European expansion (ca. 1500-1800) as well as in the culture of Early Modern Europe. We will tackle this topic on several levels:
We will discuss the characteristics of the selected Early Modern encounters in different world regions (Sir Thomas Roe, English Ambassador at the Indian Mughal Court, John Smith and Pocahontas in Virginia, and Captain Cook’s Death in Hawaii, Jean Léry and Michel de Montaigne on Canibalism in South America, the Abbé de Raynal on the East and West Indies, the baron de Montesquieu on encounters between Persians and Europeans, Denis Diderot on Tahiti, François-René de Chateabriand on the Orient and North America et al.). The concept of cultural encounter implies both different practices of comparisons and forms of knowledge production (anthropology, ethnography, natural history, etc.) as well as differences between the specific contexts of the encounter (trading & settling, exploring, diplomacy and court ceremonial, etc.), between the configurations of power relations in these different contexts, and the people involved (noble diplomats, Indian chiefs, poor mercenaries and rich merchants, erudite scholars and unlettered sailors, etc.). We will look for both differences and shared patterns in these different contexts and thus use historic encounters as a laboratory for up-to-date questions. Moreover, we will use the individual cases to explore different conceptual, theoretical and methodological tools that help us understand and interpret an encounter.