Purity: The Emergence of a Cultural Code in Early Modern Europe

Peter Burschel




The article draws upon the reading of “Western” travelogues from the Ottoman Empire that describe cultural contacts in the early modern era more or less openly in terms of purity and impurity. What does this reading observation mean? It means: whosoever explores concepts of purity and impurity explores an exclusive pattern of meaningfully interpreting the world that serves to convey ambiguity into unambiguity. A pattern that I would like to call a cultural code. The hypothesis of this article is: purity as a cultural code is an invention of the (European) early modern era. Or, expressed slightly differently: it is only in the early modern era that purity becomes the “white ribbon“ that points order in the “right“ direction. The following fields of inquiry will play a special role here: the victory march of the principle of ethical purity since the late Middle Ages; genesis and raising the profile of confessional cultures; and, not least, naturalization and biologization of lineage.


Purity; cultural code; travelogues; Ottoman Empire; early modern era




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