# Posted 5:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
SPEAKS FOR ITSELF: What follows is the text of the "Petition to Protest the advertising of OUEAS's [Oxford University European Affairs Soceity's] "Ottoman Ball": Questioning the Ethics of Representation"
The Oxford University European Affairs Society's "Ottoman Ball" is only a few days away, and has been widely advertised through posters and email announcements across the university. The event has been billed as a showcase of "the once glorious Ottoman Empire," and aims to "reflect the best of this culture, and the role of modern Turkey as a bridge between European thought and Islamic art, music and philosophy".
However, instead of promoting respectfully and representing fully the breadth of the Ottoman Empire or of the cultures and societies associated with it, the OUEAS's posters depict a debaucherous harem scene, with numerous nude women lounging around, dancing, and playing music - an image that recapitulates the best of European stereotypes of its created 'Orient.' In fact, the image is not far from the cover painting on Edward Said's renowned book, "Orientalism," which critiques this very construction of the Near East in the European imagination.
Not only are the image and the advertising of the ball in general offensive to many of Turkish, Arab, and Persian backgrounds, and to other historically -aware and culturally-sensitive students, but they are arguably just plainly inaccurate. It is very difficult to see how such stereotypical depictions reflect "the best of" the region's multiple and complex histories, philosophies and cultures, and it is reductionistic of the OUEAS to suggest that they do.
An additional and entirely separate concern is the representation of womenin the publicity campaign. It is indisputable that the institution of theharem epitomizes the objectification of women and their use as objects ofsexual pleasure. The historical accuracy of the harem as it is portrayed here is very much a contested issue, and to use a harem scene to publicize a ball purporting to "reflect the best of" a culture, is problematic at best; it serves to glorify this representation of blatant sexual exploitation. Alternatively, if the organization claims to be against such derogatory depiction of women, the use of these images in their publicity campaign is hypocritical.
We seek to voice our disagreement with the OUEAS's posters and blurbs and ask for an apology for its insensitive and inaccurate advertising. Now in particular, at a time when many are seeking to forge genuine bridges between societies and cultures that have been long linked, such unquestioned reinforcement of stereotypes does little to further coexistence and cooperation; there needs to be a deeper and more accurate ethic of representation.
The official host of the OUEAS Ball is the Turkish Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Please note that interested parties can sign the petition online
. If you follow the link in the upper left hand corner of the signature page, you can purchase a lovely ottoman
for only $129.99 (shipping included).
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