Sarah Dickenson’s talk will explore the Crimea, it history and identity.

The Crimea, considered by Euripedes to lie “beyond Europe’s land/and Europe’s sea” in “the alien wilderness of Asia”, has long defined the edge of European culture. It has represented a border land for many cultures, both European and Asian, including Greek, Turkish, Tatar, Genoese and Russian. Crimea’s supposed exoticism became evident in European travel writings after 1783, when Catherine II (“The Great”) conquered the Crimea and opened it to European travel. Many intrepid Europeans, in recounting their journeys, underline the Crimea’s “Otherness” or difference from a European or Russian norm.

The travelers’ emphasis on the Crimean Otherness — in terms of both geography (landscape, climate) and population (especially Islamic Tatars) — helped to demonstrate that Russia was essentially a European power. This talk will focus instead on traveler’s often problematic perceptions of concrete encounters with the Crimean Other. As we know, constructions of the Other are based in part on our ideas of ourselves, but also on our ideas of what sorts of qualities or attributes bear note, and on the ways in which we register and evaluate difference. With this in mind, we will examine the encounters with Crimean exoticism described by two Western women: the first (British) visited the Crimea in 1786, on the eve of Catherine’s own trip to her newly acquired lands, and the second (Russian) in 1852-1853, on the eve of the Crimean War. Our specific focus will be these women’s descriptions of their private meetings with Islamic Tatar women.