Accepted Paper:

Between the Abstraction of Miniatures and the Literalism of Photography: Amateur Erotica in Early Twentieth-Century Turkey  
Irvin Cemil Schick

Paper short abstract:

Amateur erotica in Ottoman script with hand-drawn illustrations produced during the late Empire and the early Republic stand between stylised miniatures and literalist modern pornography. I will present two sets of Turkish amateur erotica from the early twentieth century and place them in context.

Paper long abstract:

Ottoman visual culture has produced a fair amount of sexually explicit material, particularly during the eighteenth century. The erotic miniatures painted in this period owe more to Islamicate visual traditions than to European influences, but these latter become increasingly apparent during the nineteenth century, especially in lithographic illustrations to erotic works. Such images display a distinct effort to localise and vernacularise, and are better described as the fruit of acculturation rather than pure imitation. Publishing enjoyed an upsurge following the restoration of constitutional monarchy in 1908, and both texts and illustrations published during this period heavily borrowed from European, particularly French sources. By the 1950s and 60s, the visual language of republican Turkish erotica had become less complex and more literal, particularly with the proliferation of photography and film.

An interesting corpus of "home-made" or "amateur" erotica was produced, in Ottoman script and with hand-drawn illustrations, during the waning years of the Empire and the early Republic. These stand between the stylised and stilted language of miniature painting and the orgy of visibility and ritualised literalism that characterises contemporary pornography in its photographic and filmic expressions. Their storylines are generally vernacular, while their images range from culturally specific to clinically universalised. Much of this production tends to be ephemeral, as their producers' heirs hasten to destroy any signs of their parents' and grandparents' naughty behavior. I will present two stashes of Turkish amateur erotica from the first decades of the twentieth century and attempt to situate them in context.

Panel P049
Beauty and the Beast: photography, the body and sexual discourse in the Middle East and Central Eurasia