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"Correspondence is equal to half a meeting": The Composition and Comprehension of Letters in Eighteenth-century Islamic Eurasia

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This article details the social and cultural mechanisms by which correspondence in Arabic- and Latin-script languages was written, understood and preserved in mid-eighteenth-century Islamic Eurasia. Aside from two major differences in letter-writing culture, which were embodied in the choice of script, the resident communities of Islamic Eurasia approached correspondence in a similar fashion. Perhaps surprisingly, there is no correlation between these practices and the author's ethnicity or nationality. This is strong evidence for the autonomy and universality of custom in a region on the cusp of massive changes in its relationship to Europe. Cette contribution détaille les mécanismes sociaux et culturels par lesquels la correspondance en langues et caractères arabes et latins fut rédigée, comprise et préservée en Eurasie Islamique au milieu du dix-huitième siècle. À l'exception de deux différences clés dans les pratiques épistolaires – exprimées dans le choix de l'écriture utilisée – les communautés de l'Eurasie Islamique abordèrent la correspondance d'une manière semblable. Qu'il n'y ait aucune corrélation entre ces pratiques et l'ethnicité ou la nationalité de l'auteur surprend; mais c'est une preuve notable de l'autonomie et de l'universalité des coutumes dans une région qui parvenait à l'apogée de transformations majeures dans ses relations avec l'Europe.

Affiliations: 1: Yale University


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