Kathryn Taylor

  • Fellowship year:2016-2017
  • University: University of Pennsylvania
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Early Modern Europe
  • Dissertation Title: Orbis and Urbis: Ethnographic Thought in Early Modern Venice
  • As cross-cultural contact has moved to the core of scholarly debates regarding the early modern period, pre-modern ethnographic writing has recieved renewed attention in recent years. This dissertation expands the geographical and analytical framework for understanding the origins of ethnographic thought by focusing on the production and circulation of ethnographic knowledge in a major hub of information and communication in the early modern world: the Venetian Republic of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. While recent scholarship has emphasized the role of European imperial projects in the development of ethnography, the Venetian case suggests a more complicated set of origins. Venice was the center of a Mediterranean empire, but its colonies did not serve as laboratories for the production of ethnographic knowledge. Instead, men connected to the world of Venetian diplomacy played a much more significant role in the development of ethnography. Through the examination of diplomatic writings, printed and manuscript ethnographic literature, and court records, I show how an interest in the habits, rituals, and ways of life came to occupy a central role in how Venetians sought to apprehend other peoples. Ultimately, Venetians ethnographic writing served as the basis for defining religious and cultural difference in new ways.