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The Sultan of New York: Entertainment, Politics, and U.S.-Ottoman Relations (1818-1895)
This paper will look at the life and work of a man named Christopher Oscanyan who, with the help of American missionaries, moved to New York City from Istanbul in the 1830s. An Armenian Christian, he became well-known across the country as “the Oriental Lecturer” and “the Turk.” In this capacity, he used a range of popular American media and entertainment to try to "correct erroneous impressions" of the “Turks" and encourage “mutual diplomatic relations” between his two countries. Through his efforts, he sought not only to create a “friendly” relationship between the United States and Ottoman Turkey based on mutual understanding between equal nations, but also to promote paths to political reform for the Ottoman Armenian community. Using unstudied primary sources including newspaper articles, photographs, and advertisements, this paper will try to answer the following: how successful was Christopher Oscanyan, and what do his successes and failures -- his life story -- tell us about U.S.-Ottoman relations at this time? As we will see, in showing us a nineteenth-century Ottoman American perspective, Oscanyan's story makes clear that while American audiences had access to alternative narratives about the Middle East, they generally preferred to stick to the stereotypes with which they were already familiar.
Geographic Area
Ottoman Empire
Sub Area